AirDrop is the perfect way to quickly share files between iPhones, iPads and Mac, utilising a combination of Bluetooth LE and point-to-point Wi-Fi to provide a service that’s both fast and secure. While most people only use AirDrop to send the occasional photo, you can send much more, from Apple Maps locations to contacts, notes and even app-specific files. 

Here, we explain how to make the most of AirDrop whether you’re on iPhone, iPad or Mac.  

How to turn on (and off) AirDrop on an iPhone or iPad

AirDrop has two options when it comes to connectivity - you can limit AirDrop functionality to your contacts, or allow anyone nearby to share files with you. Admittedly, the latter is easier, as for Contacts to work you’ll both have to be logged in to iCloud and be in each other's contacts, but choosing Everyone means random people on the bus could send you prank AirDrops - be it a funny meme or something more sinister. 

The good news is that AirDrop is easy to turn on and off, and changing the connectivity option is a breeze too. 

  1. Access your iPhone or iPad’s Control Center. If you’ve got an iPhone with Touch ID, swipe up from the bottom of your display, while Face ID-enabled iPhone and iPad owners can access Control Center by swiping down from the right-hand corner of the display. 
  2. Long press the Wi-Fi icon. 
  3. Tap AirDrop.
  4. Tap Contacts Only or Everyone to enable AirDrop.
  5. If you want to turn off AirDrop, head back to the same menu and tap Receiving Off. 

How to share files via AirDrop on iPhone or iPad

While most people tend to use AirDrop when sharing photos or videos from the Photos app, you can actually share files from any iOS app that features the Share sheet. This includes app-specific files, allowing you to share a Pixelmator file to another iPhone or iPad with Pixelmator installed and have that file accessible in the app, although standard photos and videos will be transferred to the Photos app by default.

  1. Select the file you’d like to share between devices. This can be in the Photos app, or just about anywhere else with a Share function. 
  2. Tap the Share button - it looks like a box with an arrow pointing upwards. 
  3. Tap AirDrop.
  4. Tap the device you’d like to share the file with.

Your file should then be sent - if you’re sharing files between your own devices, you don’t have to accept anything, but if you’re receiving files from someone else you’ll have to accept the file before the transfer is initiated. 

How to disable AirDrop

If you want to do more than simply turn off AirDrop - for example, on your child’s device - then you can use Apple’s built-in Restrictions to completely disable AirDrop functionality. 

  1. Head to the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Scroll down and tap Screen Time.
  3. Tap Turn on Screen Time. If it’s your first time using the functionality, hit Continue and select This is my iPhone when prompted. 
  4. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps.
  5. Toggle the AirDrop switch off - green represents on, grey represents off. 

If you want to unrestrict the tech at any point in future, simply repeat the above steps to re-enable AirDrop. 

How to turn on (and off) AirDrop on Mac

AirDrop isn’t specific to iPhones and iPads - you can also use the tech to send files to nearby Mac users, negating the need to hook the device up via Lightning cable and access them via iTunes as you would have a few years ago. It’s a feature you’ll need to enable if you’ve never used it before:

  1. Open Finder on your Mac.
  2. Select AirDrop from the left-hand column.
  3. Click ‘Allow me to be discovered by No One’ and select Contacts Only or Everyone depending on your needs. The same Contacts restrictions apply on Mac as on iPhone and iPad. 

If you want to adjust sharing settings or completely disable AirDrop on your Mac, simply follow the above steps and select No One from the AirDrop dropdown menu. 

How to share files via AirDrop on Mac

Unlike with the iPhone and iPad, there are multiple ways to use AirDrop on your Mac, and we’ll take you through each right here. 

Drag-and-drop

The easiest way to share files on Mac using AirDrop is to use the simple drag-and-drop method.

  1. Open Finder on your Mac.
  2. Locate the file(s) that you’d like to share.
  3. Drag the file(s) over the AirDrop menu in the left-hand column. 
  4. Hover over the icon until the standard Finder window changes to the AirDrop window.
  5. Drag and drop the files onto the photo of the person/device you’d like to share your files with. 

Your files should then be transferred wirelessly, with a blue indicator ring showing the progress of the transfer. It’ll be near-instant if it’s just a photo or two, but it’ll take longer sharing larger 4K videos.  

Context menu

If dragging-and-dropping isn’t for you, it’s just as easy to share files via AirDrop using the good ol’ right-click. 

  1. Open Finder on your Mac.
  2. Find the file(s) you’d like to share.
  3. Right-click the file and hover over Share.
  4. Select AirDrop from the sub-menu.
  5. Click the picture of the person or device you want to share the file(s) with. 

Share sheet

If that wasn’t enough, you can also use the built-in Share sheet to share files from Finder along with other Mac apps like Safari. 

  1. Click the Share button - it looks like a square with an arrow pointing up. 
  2. Click AirDrop.
  3. Click on the picture of the person or device you want to share with. 

You’re now an AirDrop Pro! Go forth and wirelessly share files with the world… or your friends, whatever’s easier. For more Mac tips, take a look at how to screen record on Mac.