bluetooth animated gif

Bluetooth is just one of the wireless technologies that comes packed into your iOS devices and Macs. It’s used for short-distance data transmission and it’s super low on battery usage, making it a great option for third-party accessories like speakers, mice, headsets, and even the Apple Watch.

Unfortunately, Bluetooth on the Mac can sometimes be relatively flaky, and when problems occur, there are some troubleshooting steps you can take, which we will talk about in this tutorial.

Bluetooth and OS X, fighting like a married couple

Most of the time, the problems you’re going to have with Bluetooth and your Mac are going to involve third-party accessories and apps using Bluetooth to transmit data to and from devices. These problems typically involve connectivity problems, and they’re known even to plague Apple’s own mouse and keyboard accessories.

I’ve personally heard from app developer after app developer that I’ve worked with about what a nightmare it is to create apps based off of Apple’s Bluetooth system, and after hearing that, it’s not hard to understand why problems might occur.

Apple’s Bluetooth framework may be due for a much-needed overhaul, but until then, the best we can do is troubleshoot problems as they occur, and try to solve them so we can get back to using our beloved Bluetooth accessories and apps.

What you can do about it

There are various troubleshooting steps you can take to solve connectivity problems between your Mac and your Bluetooth accessories. Below, we’ll outline some of the best ways to tackle Bluetooth issues.

Method 1: Have you tried turning it off and on again?

have you tried turning it off and on again gif

Indeed this sounds like a broken record, but, have you tried turning it off and on again? You can turn your Bluetooth on and off very easily from the Bluetooth icon in your Mac’s Menu Bar. Simply click on it, and you’ll see an option to “Turn Bluetooth Off” or “Turn Bluetooth On” if it’s already off.

turn bluetooth off and on from mac menu bar

Once you’ve turned Bluetooth off and on again, see if connecting your Bluetooth accessories works. Sometimes a simple toggle of the Bluetooth radio is all you need.

If this doesn’t work, take the reboot to an extreme; try rebooting your Mac. Visit the  “Apple” menu in your Menu Bar and select the “Restart…” option to completely restart your computer.

reboot mac from the apple menu in the menu bar

After booting back up, try to connect your Bluetooth peripherals again and see if that didn’t solve the problem.

If this didn’t work either, try turning your Bluetooth devices themselves on and off and then try reconnecting them.

Method 2: Remove potentially corrupted files

Sometimes Bluetooth issues can arise when files become corrupted due to a system error. It’s not common for files to become corrupted, but sometimes when this happens, the only way to fix it is to delete those files and let OS X create some fresh new ones.

There are two files that can become corrupted and cause Bluetooth connectivity issues. Getting to them isn’t too difficult; just follow these steps:

Step 1: Open Finder on your Mac and click on the “Go” menu in Menu Bar, then click on “Go to Folder…”

finder go to folder mac menu bar

Step 2: In the Go to Folder window that opens up, type in or paste /Library/Preferences and then click on the blue “Go” button.

finder go to folder

Step 3: In the new Finder window that opens, locate the com.apple.Bluetooth.plist file, right click on it, and select “Move to Trash.”

bluetooth troubleshooting delete plist file

Step 4: Open the “Go” menu in the Menu Bar once again, and just like before, click on the “Go to Folder” option again.

Step 5: In the Go to Folder window, delete any text in the text field and type in or paste ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost into the text field and click on the blue “Go” button.

mac menu bar go to folder delete bluetooth plist

Step 6: When the Finder window opens, locate the com.apple.Bluetooth.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx file, right click on it, and select “Move to Trash.”

bluetooth troubleshooting delete plist file 2

Note: This file starts with com.apple.Bluetooth, and the rest of the file will have a random mix of numbers and letters, which is different for everybody. Don’t worry if the seemingly endless list of files looks intimidating – there’s should only be one com.apple.Bluetooth file here, so just find it and delete it.

Step 7: Now reboot your Mac and your operating system will automatically generate new Bluetooth files when you turn Bluetooth off and on again.

Method 3: Bluetooth, or USB, that is the question

Apple notes in a support document that Bluetooth devices may become unresponsive on a Mac at times. Sometimes, you can fix this problem by removing all USB devices that may be connected to the Mac, such as USB mice, USB keyboards, USB external hard drives, or USB flash drives, and then reboot the computer.

Wait two minutes, and then re-attach any of the USB accessories that you may have been using. Doing so may bring responsiveness back to your Bluetooth devices.

Method 4: Reset your Mac’s Bluetooth Module

If none of the above have worked, get ready to re-configure all of your Bluetooth accessories, because now you’re going to want to try resetting your Mac’s Bluetooth module.

To reset your Mac’s Bluetooth module, you’ll need to follow these steps:

Step 1: Hold down the Shift (⇧) key and the Option key and click on the Bluetooth menu in your Menu Bar on your Mac.

menu bar bluetooth menu mac reset bluetooth module

Step 2: Go to Debug > Remove all devices and click on it to disconnect from all paired Bluetooth devices.

Step 3: Now open the same menu once again and click on Debug > Reset the Bluetooth module to reset your Mac’s Bluetooth module.

Step 4: After resetting your Mac’s Bluetooth module, you can now attempt to re-pair all of your Bluetooth accessories and everything should work as expected.

Wrapping up

After all these steps, your Bluetooth devices should be working again. If they don’t, then it may be time to contact support, whether it’s AppleCare or support for the accessory itself.

Did these steps help you get your Bluetooth devices back up and running? Let us know in the comments below.

Top image via Jason Perez (Dribbble)

  • Alborz

    option+shift+click on BT icon was something I didn’t know. it’s gonna come in handy.

    • misterz

      Method 4 is great!

      My Apple Mouse has been misbehaving for about a year and a half, constantly losing the bluetooth connection. I eventually bought and switched over to a Magic Trackpad and haven’t missed the mouse one bit. After seeing this article I thought I would give it one more try. Methods 1-3 did not help, but Method 4 fixed it. Thanks iDB!

    • Anthony Bouchard

      I’m glad you learned something new from this post!

    • Same for me. Thanks.

    • We learn something new ever day. I wonder what else that works on.

  • confettifoot

    No, this didn’t help, alas. My Bluetooth has disappeared altogether, including from the preferences panel. I can’t pull down any options from the menubar pulldown except ‘create diagnostics on desktop’, which yielded nothing helpful to me – I don’t understand those long pages of techy stuff. Icon on menu bar shows a jagged line through it. I’ve done everything on this page, and everything suggested elsewhere, several times. I don’t at all think this is a hardware issue – it stopped working instantly with a Bluetooth Firmware update that downloaded automatically. Said download doesn’t show up in ‘recent updates’ at the Apple store. When I click on it I get a window saying my Bluetooth is up to date.
    It’s an old MacBook Pro w/Mavericks, (don’t want to upgrade at this point) and I know the genuses will just tell me I need a new logic board – they tend not to fool very much with anything that isn’t very easily fixed – others in forums with this problem have encountered that.
    This is 2 months later, you probably won’t see it, but if you have any other ideas let me know. I’ve had Macs since Mac 2 and I’ve done all of the obvious things and then some. Thanks.

    • confettifoot

      PS Sytem info says ‘no information found’. So I dunno. It was so precisely coincidental with that firmware download – which btw doesn’t even have a number attached to it, so can’t check it for reported problems. Sigh. NEED that Bluetooth.

    • try “resetting the pram” <– google it, it does a hardware reset, it detected my bluetooth on an old mac before.

    • penny

      I have the same problem, I followed the steps of Method 2 and Bluetooth disappeared completely from System Preferences. I also tried “resetting the pram” as suggested in other comment. The Debug doesn’t appeat in the menu bar neither. Nothing works. Is there anyone that had the same problem and found solution? Thank you.

  • Diana Korchien

    I have tried unsuccessfully to pair my iPad with my iMac, although other devices have paired perfectly. Whenever I start the process, my iPad always says in Bluetooth settings that it is not connected to my iMac. However, my IMac always says that the 2 devices are already paired, and asks me if I want to delete the pairing and do a new pairing. It then gives me a new number pairing code which ALWAYS matches the number displayed on the iPad. It then tells me I’ve been successful. But the display of paired devices never includes the iPad. Aaaargh!!!

  • X_Robert

    My Mac is with Windows 10 operating system. Actually, my bluetooth speaker worked great on my Window 8 Mac, however, it quit working after Windows 10 upgrade. My solution is to update the bluetooth driver with Driver Talent. I had no idea why this problem occurred and one of my friends reminded to scan my computer because he said a bad driver could result in a conflict… Finally, I resolved this problem. 🙂

  • AlDeejay Leqs KakaEmpire

    WOOOW…THIS HAS REALLY WORKED…THANK YOU.

  • Joyce Stillman-myers

    thank you . after fixing mouse i had to re pair macally keyboard, then all okay. Great!

  • Santhosh Kumar

    Thanks a ton!!!
    Method 2: Remove potentially corrupted files actually!!!
    I grin why did it take so long for me to look at your website.
    Thank you!!

  • Oscar Perez

    Awesome thanks, Method 2 fixed my problem, thanks for taking time to help others, that is well appreciated

  • Inspector Clouseau

    I got some Bose bluetooth headphones and they work fine with phone and iPad, but the MacBook sends occasional stuttering …. otherwise it works …. Why would there be this stuttering of the signal, even when setting very close to the source.

    • Is it the latest MBP you have these issues with? I’ve got the occasional shuttering with MBP touchar too :/

  • Incubator

    thank you so much !! in my case the last option was a winner, I´m using a 2011 Macbook pro.

  • My 2012 MBP lost its bluetooth connection to my Bose QC35s and I’ve been frustrated for the last couple of days as I wear them all day while I work. I had tried methods 1, 3 and 4 with no success then tried method 2 after finding this article and it worked! Thank you!

  • karensd

    Gawd love you…an hour of massive frustration, and my keyboard is finally connected again. #lifesaver Thanks!

  • Oluwatimileyi Oluleke

    Oh my goodness i dont know how to start thanking you for these forum all i can say is keep the good work you re the best my Bluetooth works perfectly again.

  • Martin Birmele

    I am actually quite annoyed from Apple and Bluetooth in Apple computers.

    I am using for my work a nice and portable 12″ MacBook with m7. I switched from a 13″ MacBook Pro to that machine and was from beginning happy with it. Even though I had two problems with the first two machines (1. was something loose inside, 2. was a huge part of the screen not working). However: I have now my third machine on warranty and everything works. Except Bluetooth:

    I use a MX Master. The Logitech Option Driver is up to date. MacOS is up to date. It works fine. But as soon as I connect my Bose QC35, the mouse starts to lag like hell. From one side to the other side of the screen within half a second. And without any other moving in between.

    The same case with other devices connected to the machine (for example a bluetooth keyboard).

    I did all 4 methods up there. Nothing improves. I was also in contact with other users of that machine – same problem. For Apple this is not a reason for a claim.

    Is someone able to help me?

    • Peter Douglas

      I have the exact same problem with my MX Master Mouse & BoseQC35’s and its maddening. I also use a bluetooth basic Dell keyboard. I’ve asked, Logitech, Bose and Apple and nobody has anything helpful for us. Logitech says that the MX Master ins’t compatible with MacOS Sierra, but as you know, the mouse works fine until you switch on your headphones, so that doesn’t really make much sense. I got so frustrated that i broke down and purchased a magic mouse 2 with the hope that the apple product would work at the same time as the QC35’s… and now it causes my keyboard to lag when i have all 3 devices going at once: magic mouse, QC35, and Dell BT keyboard. It is extremely annoying and disappointing. In a world moving towards wireless I’ll likely have more and more bluetooth devices like a wireless printer etc. For these $3,000 computers not to support 2-3 Bluetooth devices simultaneously is really unacceptable. I’m encouraged to see I’m not alone. Maybe they will cure via software. Please update me with any tips.

      • Martin Birmele

        It is simply a joke – whether it is the fault of Logitech, Apple or Bose.

        But from where do you have the information that the MX Master is not compatible with Sierra? On the German Logitech site they write “Mac OS X 10.10 or higher”

      • Peter Douglas

        Logitech’s customer support told me that personally over the phone. But it’s BS bc the mouse does work by itself without issue. Problems arise only when multiple BT devices are simultaneously connected.

  • edel

    I add an horrible, totally chopped sound, using a new headset phones on Sierra. The method 4 described did the job to bring back a normal sound. Thank’s a lot for the trick 🙂

  • Francis Fabian

    I don’t have Debug and it’s menu? Is it a Sierra thing?

  • Cyrus Fazel

    well now none of my devices work 🙁

  • Marc Kneepkens

    Thanks a lot. Restarting did the job!

  • HarrisonFordsCheerfulBrother

    Same question here.

  • Josh McGillis

    I had this problem with a brand new Mac Book Pro. I had a Microsoft designer keyboard and mouse that worked fine until I also paired a MPOW bluetooth headset. As soon as I paired the headset, the keyboard and mouse became intermittent. The debug option fixed it. Thanks for the article

  • Tentative Infidel

    Excellent article. Thank you very much.

  • Daniel Shaw

    Hi
    I bought a Phillips SD700 Bluetooth speaker. It pairs perfectly with my iphone 5S, but never with my Mac Laptop. I’m running El Capitan 10.11.6. I’m by no means a techwhizz. I followed all the instructions above andrebooted after each step, rebooted Bluetooth on the mac and the speaker and still nothing.

    Any more ideas? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you
    danda137@gmail.com

  • Tessa Cox

    I’m trying to pair a UE Roll with MacBook Pro running Sierra. UE roll pairs fine with iPhone 5. Been through everything I can think of including Steps 1-4 and still it won’t appear on the ‘discovered’ devices. I can see the Mac looking for it and press the Bluetooth button the speaker to make it discoverable but it doesn’t connect.

  • Pravin Pillay

    # 2 worked for my blue tooth speaker! MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015).

  • Myron Marvin

    Seems to have worked. Will know more after a day or two.

  • Andy

    THIS HELPED ME!!! >>> option+shift+click on BT icon was something I didn’t know of. (Before I only knew of Alt+click on BT)

  • Alex Jay Gillaspie

    Tried method 2. Solved my problems! My speaker would say its connected but no audio! Thanks to this post Im jammin again!

  • Toni Johnson-Sword

    Thank you for the helpful info! I was ready to toss my headset that I use for work! Thank you very much!

  • Tim Lee

    Method 4 worked for me on my iMac.
    Thank you ever so much !!!

  • nickjuntilla

    Why did you have me restart my mac before telling me about the method that doesn’t involve shutting down all my programs?

  • guyjean

    The resetting of the bluetooth module helped. Thank you very much for the article! Was starting to regret having bought my first bluetooth headphones and macbook.

  • Arjun Anand

    tried everything on the list and nothing 🙁 sound still playing through in-built speakers and not my bluetooth headsets (sony mdr xb650bt).. strangely this was working fine till some time ago..