Bluetooth Connection Problems? Try These 6 Fixes for macOS

Mac Bluetooth Connection Problems

Bluetooth is a quick and convenient way to transfer files between your Mac and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. That is why it can be frustrating when Bluetooth doesn’t work on your machine. This tutorial will run through all the fixes for trying to fix Bluetooth connection problems in macOS.

1. Is Bluetooth enabled on both devices?

There’s a chance you may have accidentally disabled Bluetooth on either your Mac or the target device(s). It may sound obvious, but it’s always worth double-checking that Bluetooth really is enabled!

On macOS

If you added the Bluetooth icon to your Mac’s menu bar, then a quick glance will tell you whether it’s enabled.

If the Bluetooth icon is greyed out, then Bluetooth isn’t enabled, which explains why it wasn’t working! To enable your Mac’s Bluetooth, click the grey icon and select “Turn Bluetooth On.”

Double-check that Bluetooth is enabled on your Mac.

If the Bluetooth icon isn’t displayed as part of your Mac’s menu bar, then:

  • Click the Apple logo in the upper-left corner of the screen.
  • Navigate to “System Preferences… -> Bluetooth.”
  • If you see a “Bluetooth: Off” message, then it means Bluetooth is currently disabled. To enable Bluetooth, give the “Turn Bluetooth On” button a click.

While you’re in the “System Preferences… -> Bluetooth” menu, you may want to add the Bluetooth icon to your Mac’s menu bar by selecting “Show Bluetooth in menu bar.”

On the target device

If the target device is a peripheral such as a mouse or keyboard, then try flipping it over and checking for a switch or a button that enables Bluetooth. If the device is a smartphone or computer, you should check the device’s settings to make sure the Bluetooth is turned on.

2. Does your peripheral have power?

For peripherals like computer mice and keyboards, it isn’t always so obvious when it is running out of power. Your Mac cannot connect to a device that’s turned off, so check that the peripheral has power!

Many peripherals have LEDs that indicate when the device is switched on. If these LEDs aren’t illuminated as expected, this may indicate that the device isn’t switched on, so try toggling its “on/off” switch. If the device is battery-powered, check that the batteries haven’t come loose or try inserting a new set of batteries.

Some peripherals may also enter power-saving mode when they’ve been inactive for an extended period of time. If you suspect your peripheral may have fallen asleep, try interacting with it. For example, press a few keys on your Bluetooth-enabled keyboard. Once the device wakes up, it should be ready to connect to your Mac over Bluetooth.

Does your peripheral have enough power?

Just because a peripheral has some battery power doesn’t mean it has enough juice to maintain a Bluetooth connection. Some devices disable Bluetooth automatically when their battery drops below a certain level.

If you suspect your peripheral may be running low on battery, try connecting it to a power outlet, insert new batteries, or put its batteries on charge.

3. Is there some outstanding setup?

If you’re trying to connect a device for the very first time, there is always a pairing process you need to perform:

1. Select the Apple logo in your Mac’s menu bar.

2. Select “System Preferences.”

3. Choose the preference pane that corresponds to the peripheral you’re having issues with, such as Keyboard or Mouse. This pane should contain some settings that you can use to connect the peripheral to your Mac, such as “Set Up Bluetooth Keyboard … ”

You may need to complete some additional setup, to connect a Bluetooth device to your Mac.

Even if you previously connected this device to your Mac, you may need to repeat the setup process if you’ve recently updated macOS or performed any kind of factory reset.

4. Is your Bluetooth preference list corrupt?

If you’ve tried all the above fixes and macOS is still refusing to connect over Bluetooth, then your Bluetooth preference list may be to blame. The Bluetooth.plist file can become corrupted over time, so deleting Bluetooth.plist and letting macOS regenerate this file can resolve a host of Bluetooth-related issues.

To delete your Bluetooth preference list:

1. Navigate to “Applications -> Utilities” and launch the Terminal application.

You'll find macOS' Terminal application, in the "Apps > Utilities" folder.

2. Copy/paste the following command into the Terminal window:

sudo rm -R /Library/Preferences/

3. When prompted, enter your password.

4. Restart your Mac.

Your Mac will now recreate the Bluetooth preference list automatically.

5. Resetting NVRAM

Non-volatile random-access memory (NVRAM) is a small amount of memory where macOS stores the settings it needs to access quickly, including some settings related to Bluetooth. If these settings become corrupted, it can cause a range of technical issues, so resetting your NVRAM may resolve your Bluetooth connection problems.

Before we begin, just be aware that resetting NVRAM will also reset your system settings and preferences, so you may need to spend some time reapplying these settings following an NVRAM reset.

To reset NVRAM:

1. Shut down your Mac as normal.

2. Power up your Mac and immediately press Option + Command P + R. Keep holding these keys until your Mac restarts.

3. Release the keys.

You’ve now successfully reset your Mac’s NVRAM.

6. Reset the Bluetooth module

1. On your desktop, hold down the Shift + Option keys.

2. Click the Bluetooth icon in your Mac’s menu bar.

You can access macOS' "Debug" menu, using the “Shift+Option” keyboard shortcut.

3. Select Debug.

In the expanded Bluetooth Debug menu, you can access settings including resetting the Bluetooth module.

You’ll now have access to two debug settings to reset your Mac’s Bluetooth settings:

  • Reset the Bluetooth module: This will wipe all of the Bluetooth hardware module’s settings. Resetting the module will disconnect every device and peripheral that’s currently connected to your Mac via Bluetooth, so you’ll temporarily lose connection and may need to manually reconnect some or all of your devices following the module reset.
  • Factory reset all connected Apple devices: This will restore factory settings for all Apple-branded devices currently connected to your Mac.

Hopefully, one of the above solutions helped you fix the Bluetooth connection problems in macOS. If you are using a lot of Bluetooth devices, make sure you understand the security issues of Bluetooth and how to protect yourself.

Jessica Thornsby
Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Derbyshire, UK. When she isn’t obsessing over all things tech, she enjoys researching her family tree, and spending far too much time with her house rabbits.

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