Apple’s AirPods changed the game when they were introduced back in 2016; while the AirPods weren’t necessarily the first true wireless earbuds to hit the market, Apple’s buds were noticeably better than just about anything else you could buy. Four years later and the earbuds have gone from strength to strength with the introduction of features like Hey Siri and even active noise cancellation on the high-end AirPods Pro, making them the ideal accessory for your iPhone.

But what about your Mac? The good news is that you can use your AirPods with basically any Mac, but the bad news is that the process varies depending on the age of your machine. Don’t fret, we at Tech Advisor explain all you need to know about connecting AirPods to your Mac right here. 

AirPods should automatically pair with your Mac

As part of Apple’s “It Just Works” ethos, the AirPods should automatically pair with your Mac - although, like with most things Apple, there are stipulations.

You’ll need to be running a recent version of macOS on a Mac that supports Handoff, and it has to be linked to the same Apple ID as your iPhone. Oh, and you’ll have to have set up the AirPods with your iPhone beforehand - not that much of a dealbreaker considering most AirPods owners will also own an iPhone, but it’s still a pain if you haven’t got it to hand. 

If you meet the above criteria, you need only open your AirPods case, click the Volume Control icon in the menu bar of your Mac and select your AirPods as the output. Any currently-playing audio should then be transferred to your AirPods, ready for use.  

Manually connecting AirPods to Mac

While the automatic pairing of the AirPods is a great feature, it doesn’t always work - especially if you’re not running a recent version of macOS. So, what are Mac owners to do in that situation?

The first step is to open your AirPods case, making sure the individual AirPods are still in place. With the case open, press and hold the button on the rear of the case until the status light on the front flashes white. This indicates that the wireless earbuds are in Bluetooth pairing mode, and can be connected to any device in the same way as any other pair of Bluetooth-enabled earbuds.

On your Mac, click the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar (System Preferences > Bluetooth if the icon isn’t displayed) and find your AirPods in the list of available Bluetooth devices. Once located, simply click Connect to sync your AirPods with your Mac. 

From that point, any audio played through your Mac should be played via your AirPods and, as long as they support it, you’ll be able to use the “Hey Siri” voice command to activate Apple’s virtual assistant on your Mac. You’ve also got the option of using the active noise cancellation and passthrough modes if you’ve connected the upgraded AirPods Pro to your machine.

For other great headphone recommendations for use on Mac (or just about anything else) take a look at our selection of the best wireless headphones. And we've also covered the latest AirPods 3 news for those that want to find out what's coming in future.