Problem: You got yourself the latest in technology: a Bluetooth device! You’re also suffering from the latest in technological trauma: you have no idea how to get it to work with your Mac. You’ve tried making the device “discoverable” and tried “pairing” it with your Mac, but nothing’s working. What can you do?
Solution: Above all, make sure your Bluetooth device is “discoverable” and remove any radio interference around the device. Here are some troubleshooting steps to get you started. You should work on your Bluetooth device first, only moving to Mac troubleshooting if all else fails. If your Mac connects to some Bluetooth devices but not others, it’s unlikely that Mac OS X is the problem.
On Your Bluetooth Device
- Ensure that your device’s Bluetooth module is turned on, if it is possible to do so (phones and printers often let you select whether Bluetooth is on, whereas Bluetooth mice and keyboards do not).
- Once your device’s Bluetooth is on, make sure that it is “discoverable.” If you have a device that allows you to turn Bluetooth off, then the device also has a setting to make itself discoverable. Your computer can only locate a device while it is discoverable, and most devices only stay discoverable for a few minutes at a time. This is a security measure to ensure other computers do not try to connect to your device without permission. If you’re not sure how to make a device discoverable, you may actually have to pull the manual the device came with.
- Place the device as close to your computer as possible and move it away from wireless routers and cordless phones.
- If your Mac’s Bluetooth Setup Utility still does not see the device, turn your device off and then back on while the Bluetooth Setup Utility is actively scanning for devices. You may have to turn Bluetooth back on and make the device discoverable after turning it back on (if your device has this setting).
- The Bluetooth Setup Assistant has found one device so far — a wireless keyboard. It will continually scan for more devices until you attempt to connect to one.
On Your Mac
- Make sure you have a Bluetooth system preference (if you do not see one, then your Mac’s Bluetooth hardware may not be functioning, as the system preference only appears when Mac OS X can locate a Bluetooth module).
- Restart your computer. If this does not solve the problem, you can also delete the following files before restarting your computer: /Library/Preferences/com.apple.Bluetooth.plist; /Users/username/Library/Preferences/com.apple.Bluetooth.plist; /Users/username/Library/Preferences/com.apple.BluetoothAudio.plist. In /Users/username/Library/Preferences, there is also a folder called “ByHost.” Delete any files in that folder that have names beginning with com.apple.Bluetooth.
- Run Software Update to ensure that you have the latest version of Mac OS X, Bluetooth software, and Bluetooth firmware for your Mac.
- Temporarily turn off your AirPort adapter from the AirPort menu, even if you are not connected to an AirPort network. Most wireless networks run on the same 2.4 Ghz frequency as do Bluetooth connections.
- Move your computer away from items that can interfere with radio frequencies, such as microwaves, cordless phones, and other metal objects.
- When you are attempting to set up a new device using the Bluetooth Setup Assistant (available in the Bluetooth system preference by pressing the plus button), wait for the scan to complete before you select your device and click the “Continue” button. Mac OS X does a lengthy scan for Bluetooth devices, and the setup assistant may fail if the scan cannot complete. The scan is continuing as long as you see “Searching for Bluetooth devices” at the bottom of the window.
- Once your Mac recognizes a Bluetooth device, it may ask you to type the device’s passcode using your keyboard. If your Mac recognizes the passcode, it displays it on screen so that you can easily type it. If you or your device’s manufacturer has established a secret passcode on the device, the Bluetooth Setup Utility asks you to type this password but does not display on screen. Either way, you should type the passcode using the numerals at the top of your keyboard and press the Return key when finished, rather than using a numeric keypad (if you have one).
- Some Bluetooth devices (especially phones) require you to enter the same password on your Mac and your device. If that is the case, first enter a password (that you make up) on your Mac and then press Return to continue. Your Mac should prompt your phone to ask you to enter the same numeric password on it. You must do this rather quickly to finish the pairing process.
Did this guide work for you? How else have you been able to set up Bluetooth devices on your Mac? Do you have any tips to make the job easier? Let others know in the comments.