How to Enable Bluetooth Without a Keyboard or Mouse on Mac

Jul 16, 2016 - 58 Comments

Enabling Bluetooth on Mac without a keyboard or mouse

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where Bluetooth needs to be enabled on a Mac, but you don’t have a mouse or keyboard handy? This can pose a conundrum; in order to re-enable Bluetooth, you must use a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard… That may sound a little silly, but it’s a situation which can arise if you use a Bluetooth keyboard or Bluetooth mouse, and if Bluetooth gets disabled somehow. Since most desktop Mac usage scenarios utilize Bluetooth hardware, it’s not as rare as it may sound, and it can be challenging to enable the Bluetooth service and thus regain access to input devices on the Mac.

We’re going to show you how to tackle that situation in Mac OS, so that you can enable Bluetooth even if you can’t connect a Bluetooth mouse or Bluetooth keyboard to the computer to do so.

Keep in mind this is not a general Bluetooth troubleshooting guide, it’s aimed specifically at users who find the Bluetooth service to be disabled and they are therefore unable to use a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse on their Mac. If you need general Bluetooth troubleshooting steps, start with replacing the batteries of the devices, reset the Bluetooth hardware on Mac, and some other tips for resolving Bluetooth Not Available errors.

Also, remember that the latest Apple Magic Mouse 2 and Apple Wireless Keyboard 2 models both have a USB lightning port on them, which means they can be plugged in directly to the Mac to get around such a problem.

Enable Bluetooth on Mac Without Mouse/Keyboard with Siri

Before anything else, if you have Hey Siri enabled on the Mac, there’s a super simple solution; you can say “Hey Siri, turn on Bluetooth”.

Bluetooth immediately turns on, and the mouse and/or keyboard should connect to the Mac momentarily.

Of course not everyone has Hey Siri enabled, so proceed with the other tips if so.

How to Enable Bluetooth on Mac Without a Mouse in Mac OS X

This demonstrates how to enable Bluetooth if you only can connect a keyboard to a Mac. This is common if your Mac uses a Bluetooth mouse or trackpad and somehow Bluetooth is disabled, where it can be extra challenging to get the service turned on again. Fortunately as long as you have a keyboard handy (USB or otherwise), plug it in and you can enable Bluetooth with just that keyboard by following these instructions:

  1. Connect a USB keyboard to the Mac (or use the built-in keyboard on a MacBook laptop)
  2. Hit Command+Spacebar to bring up Spotlight, then type in “Bluetooth File Exchange” and hit the Return key
  3. Search for Bluetooth app to enable the service

  4. This launches the Bluetooth File Exchange app, which will immediately recognize that Bluetooth is turned off, simply hit the “Return” key again to choose the “Turn Bluetooth On” button
  5. Enable Bluetooth with keyboard only

  6. Once Bluetooth is enabled, quit out of Bluetooth File Exchange app

You can also navigate to and through the Bluetooth settings with just the keyboard, but that’s quite a bit more complex than simply searching for the app which triggers the service enabler directly.

How to Enable Bluetooth Without a Keyboard in Mac OS X

Enabling Bluetooth when you don’t have a USB keyboard is easy since you can just use any USB Mouse or USB trackpad as usual to enable the service with the cursor:

  • Pull down the Bluetooth menu item in Mac OS X and choose “Turn Bluetooth On”

Enable Bluetooth from menu

Simple, right?

If the Bluetooth menu item is also disabled, simply go to the  Apple menu, choose System Preferences, Bluetooth, and turn the Bluetooth service on from there with the mouse.

Once Bluetooth has been enabled with the mouse, you can connect the Bluetooth keyboard as usual, along with any other devices.

How to Enable Bluetooth Without a Keyboard or Mouse in Mac OS X

This is a trickier situation, which is usually encountered if there is no USB keyboard or USB mouse available, and both the mouse and keyboard are Bluetooth instead. It’s usually iMac, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro users who encounter this experience, in which case the following steps are necessary:

  1. First thing first, be sure the Bluetooth keyboard and Bluetooth mouse have sufficient battery power and are turned on
  2. Disconnect all physical devices from the Mac, including any peripherals and anything except the power cable
  3. Reboot the Mac (or boot the Mac if it was shut down) using the physical hardware button located on the machine (it’s usually on the back on modern Macs)
  4. This will trigger the Bluetooth setup wizard and detect the Bluetooth devices and enable the service automatically, assuming they are within range and sufficiently charged

Enabling Bluetooth on Mac without a keyboard or mouse

If for some reason the bluetooth setup wizard doesn’t trigger and the Mac boots up again with Bluetooth disabled, you’ll probably want to get your hands on either a USB mouse or USB keyboard and refer to the methods outlined above to enable Bluetooth with either just a mouse, or just a keyboard.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. Harry Callihan says:

    None of these solutions worked for me. Just couldn’t turn on bluetooth until I said, Hey Siri. Turn on bluetooth”.

  2. Sooz says:

    Thank you so much! x

  3. Chris says:

    Very helpful! The mention of the usb lightning ports saved me! Thanks!

  4. zoe crosse says:

    Thank you so much

  5. Tim says:

    Literally saved my night. If you have a Bluetooth keyboard with a lightning connector, this works to tether the keyboard as well in case anyone else runs into the same problem.

  6. Olivia says:

    thank you

  7. RaulNunez says:

    THANK YOU! Thank you!

    I was about to trash my Mac-mini until I came up with your page. Clear & well explained.

    The best support is the one that saves you $$$

    THANK YOU!!!

  8. Erica says:

    I was battling for two days with a frozen keyboard, frozen mouse and screen. Spent hours trying so many routes

  9. Christine says:

    Any suggestions for Mac Catalina OS? The recommendation noted for Mack OS X does not work. I accidentally turned my Bluetooth off, and at the recommendation of another post from another website, hard shut off the computer. When the login page came up I could not do anything more than select sleep, restart or, shut down. I can’t get to my user profile to login.

  10. Yoli says:

    THANK YOU!!!! Rebooting the machine worked. YAY!!!

  11. Looman Stingo says:

    Life saver. Apple Support was no help until I found this article. Only comment is that on later models use FnF1 to turn on Spotlight.

  12. Fred says:

    What a freaking lifesaver!!! Thanks for that post.

  13. James says:

    Yes rebooting the iMac automatically enables the Bluetooth when nothing is connected

  14. David Monreal says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is so awesome. I dug around my garage trying to find a USB keyboard to no avail. I was ready to drive to my office and borrow my work one when I decided to google an answer! Like others said, you’re a lifesaver. In this case my daughter’s life because she shut it off because my younger daughter was messing with her while she played Roblox. Never thought about needing a password when I work it up from sleep eight hours later!

  15. Sophie says:

    It worked!
    Thanks so much for your advice :-)

  16. Tery says:

    Hi! I tried the first solution, to open the bluetooth file exchange, and the window comes up asking to turn on bluetooth hardware, and I press yes, to turn it on, but when the next window comes up, it says that the bluetooth enabler is still off. How can I resolve this?

  17. Gjg says:

    “how to enable Bluetooth without a mouse or keyboard”

    Step 1: Plug in a keyboard.


    • Weezon says:

      That is correct. You can enable Bluetooth without a keyboard, or without a mouse.

      You will need one or the other. Though if it is an iMac you can reboot the iMac and it should enable it automatically without either.

  18. Big T says:

    WELL DONE!!! Great and easy advise that worked!!! Thanks so much!!!

  19. Gumby says:

    Awesome tutorial, worked. Thanks!!!!

  20. Helen says:

    I would hug you if I could. I’ve spent 45 + minutes trying to figure this out. Please, keep doing what you’re doing.

    • Paul says:

      I’m so glad this helped you Helen, thanks for the kind words! I’ve had to enable Bluetooth without a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad, connected to the Mac before, and so I figured it was good knowledge to share!

  21. Roland says:

    Thanks this article saved my life! 😁

  22. Ann says:

    Big Fat THANK YOU!!❤️

  23. Faith says:

    Thank you!! You just rescued me.

  24. Antonia says:


  25. Patricia says:

    Thank you!!!

  26. Nikki C says:

    BLESS YOU!!! This trick just saved my bacon!! Thank you.

  27. Carri says:

    Worked perfectly after rebooting

  28. Robert Fowles says:

    My iMac boots up and I’m presented with my log in screen. Neither mouse nor keyboard connect. I don’t have access to a wired keyboard. What do I do to connect???

  29. Michelle Runnerstrom says:

    Thanks for your advice!!!

  30. João Gomes says:

    Also, if Bluetooth works but your mouse starts acting up, you can press Ctrl+F8 (or Fn+Ctrl+F8, in case you’re using a MacBook or an external compact keyboard) to access the menu extras and force it to reconnect. Always comes in super handy. ;)

  31. Jack Kessler says:

    I got shut out because iMac didn’t recognize keyboard so I could not log in. I tried various online solutions which all contained the circular idiocy of telling me to do things I could only do if I could log in.

    Finally I just guessed and turned off the power strip, counted to 5, and then tried again. Voila.

  32. Shane says:

    This is how I turned on Bluetooth without a mouse::

    – Hit Command-Space to open Spotlight on the Mac, it’s the search engine

    – Type “Bluetooth File Exchange” and when the app is found hit the RETURN key to to launch the app

    – When Bluetooth File Exchange launches it will ask to enable Bluetooth if it’s off, hit the RETURN / ENTER key to enable Bluetooth

    At this point Bluetooth should turn on and the Mac trackpad or mouse should be found.

    * IF the mouse or trackpad is not detected for some reason, you can then open the ‘Bluetooth’ System Preferences by hitting Command-Space and then typing ‘Bluetooth’, opening the system preference pane as needed

  33. Peter says:

    Thanks, it is SO easy when you have the information, so hard when you don’t. Thanks

  34. Annie says:

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I was going nuts!

  35. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much. This was super helpful. I wasn’t paying attention, and I turned off the bluetooth on my 2011 Mac. Both my trackpad and keyboard are bluebooth operated, so this was perfect. I was actually considering buying a usb mouse.. All I did was reboot, and once it turned on, I waiting a few seconds then the bluebooth connectivity notification popped up!

  36. Albena says:

    This just saved my night. Who would have thought? Thank you?!

  37. Bill says:

    When I change the batteries in my Bluetooth mouse and turn the mouse on again, my iMac does not “see” the mouse. How can I get the computer to connect to the mouse without rebooting the iMac?

    • TJ says:

      Open Bluetooth preference panel and re-pair the device.

      Mine connect immediately when I swap out batteries and turn the device on, assuming Bluetooth is enabled on the Mac anyway.

  38. Charles says:

    It is not Command+spacebar… but CONTROL+SPACEBAR

  39. Robert says:

    This is exactly why I would never use a wireless keyboard or mouse, plus you need to keep buying batteries, it’s a waste of money.

    • Anne says:

      A wired mouse also performs better in certain programs that require fine control. I tried non wired but after problems (not related to Bluetooth) I returned to wired.

      On my iPad, I use Bluetooth for a speaker. I’ve never had Bluetooth shut down on the iPad.

    • TJ says:

      I agree with your statement in large but I use rechargeable double-A batteries and the Bluetooth keyboard works well.

      There is also a great solar powered rechargeable Bluetooth keyboard too from Logitech

  40. Floyd Tolar says:

    When I followed your instructions, all that happened was my Documents folder opened.

  41. Sebby says:

    I don’t disable Bluetooth, and it works perfectly, except when I need the recovery mode. Then I need a USB keyboard because no matter what I try, I can’t get the firmware to recognise Bluetooth keypresses on startup, even though it’s supposed to.

    Any ideas?

    Really, I only use Bluetooth for the form factor of the keyboard/trackpad. I run Yosemite, so I’m using the older ones. If the newer ones could run on Yosemite, then it’d be awesome, since I have Lightning cables close to hand, whereas fetching a USB keyboard actually requires that I, like, get up off the chair and find it, returning it to the cabinet once I’ve done whatever it is. :)

    • Dan Uff says:

      Bluetooth cannot work in recovery mode, because recovery mode doesn’t boot any drivers, which Bluetooth has to be enabled in order to work.

      • Sebby says:

        Yup, it does work. Your device pairings are in the NVRAM.

        Or at least it’s supposed to work, according to Apple. A bit of googling finds people very frustrated that it doesn’t actually work the way Apple says it does, until they learn from elsewhere–as I just have–that one must wait until after the Bluetooth hardware is properly initialised before hammering the keyboard sequence. I’m blind, so I don’t see lights on my devices indicating they’re paired, but wait about 500 ms after the startup chime, and then press your key sequence.

        It worked for me. First try. :)

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