The Bluetooth standard has evolved steadily over time, and remains one of the most useful wireless developments over the past 15 years. Our wireless keyboards, headphones, smartphones, and technologies like AirPlay and AirDrop all rely on the ever-changing Bluetooth standard.
But things can and do go wrong: devices won’t pair, speakers won’t work, and files won’t be transferred. Here’s what to try when you have Bluetooth issues.
Notes: If your Mac becomes unresponsive in terms of Bluetooth connectivity, continue.
First: Check Your Device
Your device must be on, and it needs to have a battery. This may sound obvious, but it’s worth checking before you go all out to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist. If you haven’t paired this device before, make sure you did it right (and it’s visible to your Mac).
If you’re trying to get a Bluetooth speaker or other audio device to work, have paired it, and are wondering why you can’t hear anything then you should make sure it’s selected as your primary output below. System Preferences > Sound > Output. You can also click the Volume button in the menu bar and select your audio device there.
The same goes for Bluetooth headsets with microphones: go to tab Input and select your Bluetooth device there. Your Mac should remember your choices the next time you connect a wireless audio device.
Disable and Re-enable Bluetooth
For a faster version of restarting your entire Mac, go to System Preferences> Bluetooth and click Turn Off. You can also enable Bluetooth by clicking the menu bar icon – click Activate to try again. I found this useful for solving file transfer issues between Mac and iOS via AirDrop.
You can also try killing the Bluetooth process completely, although this isn’t as effective as killing other core Mac processes to fix the problem. open Terminal and enter sudo pkill blued followed by your admin password. This will kill and restart background processes, allowing you to try again.
Pair Your Device Again
If you’ve paired devices in the past, another option is to tell your Mac to forget them and start again. You can reveal all currently paired Bluetooth devices in System Preferences> Bluetooth. Find whatever is causing you the problem, select it, then click the “X” followed by Remove to get rid of it.
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You will now have to pair the devices again, most of which involves holding down the button until the light flashes.
Reboot, Erase, Reset
Reboot your Mac in Apple> Restart will fix almost every Bluetooth issue, especially those with a crash on the Bluetooth module and you’re having an unresponsive macOS. Similarly, unplugging all USB devices can help (according to Apple) so you might want to try that too.
You can also try reset Mac PRAM you, which can often be the cause of wireless connectivity issues.
“Bluetooth Not Available” error
macOS stores information about Bluetooth devices in two files on your hard drive, one that is private to you and the other that is used by all users on your Mac. Deleting these files is often recommended when users encounter Bluetooth problems, as it forces macOS to create new ones when your computer restarts.
Both files are PLIST files which are used throughout the operating system to store application data in XML format. To delete and recreate these files:
- Open Finder and click Go> Go to Folder from the menu bar.
- Type or paste /Library/Preferences.
- Locate the file named com.apple.Bluetooth.plist and drag it to the Trash.
- Click Go > Go to Folder again and type or paste ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost
- Locate the file starting with com.apple.Bluetooth followed by numbers and letters (finishing .plist) and drag it to the Trash.
- Disconnect all USB devices and shut down your computer.
- Turn off your Bluetooth device, and restart your Mac.
- Turn on Bluetooth on your device and try pairing again.
Nuke Your Bluetooth Module
As a last resort, you can try resetting your Bluetooth module to factory settings. This means you will lose all existing paired connections. If you’re still having issues after trying all of the above, it might be a small price to pay to get your device working again.
If you don’t get the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar, go to System Preferences> Bluetooth and check Show Bluetooth in menu bar. Now hold on Shift + Options and click the Bluetooth icon in the menubar. In the menu that appears, select Debug > Reset Bluetooth module. You can now try to re-pair your device.
Also, Option + Click often reveal more information and options in the context menu, while the shift key enables the debug menu. See what else you can do with the Mac’s options key.
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