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How to Transfer Files When AirDrop Doesn't Work

If you want to transfer an image or other file to someone on Apple devices nearby, AirDrop is usually the easiest way. However, sometimes it just stops working for no apparent reason. For such situations, here are the best alternatives.

AirDrop is a great feature for quickly and easily transferring files to another Apple device in your home or on another shared Wi-Fi network, or if you're on the go but the recipient is nearby. Starting with iOS 17.1 and macOS Sonoma, AirDrop recently gained the ability to continue transfers even if the parties have separated.

All participants must be signed in to iCloud, but starting with iOS 17.1, once a transfer has started successfully, recipients don't have to stay within Bluetooth range until the transfer completes. However, if this is not an option for you or your recipients, here are some tips for workarounds.

Troubleshooting AirDrop

If you're both using Apple devices but AirDrop isn't cooperating, it might be worth taking a minute to try troubleshooting AirDrop. Make sure you and the recipient have Bluetooth turned on, are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and are within 30 feet of each other.

If these conditions are met, try turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off and then back on on both devices. Then try the AirDrop transfer again. If it still doesn't work or isn't the right solution for the situation, let's look at other options to get the job done.

Transfer by email

If the files you want to send are not large , consider emailing a compressed attachment containing the files. You can easily create a folder in the Files app on your iPhone or iPad and move files into it to send.

If you are using a Mac, you can create the folder locally. Once you have the items you want in the folder, you can right-click or Control-click on the folder and choose the option to compress the folder.

On an iPhone or iPad, you need to long-press on a folder or file and select the Shrink option.

This creates a single ZIP file that can be opened on Apple, Android, and Windows devices. Compose an email to the recipient, attach the compressed file, and you're done.

Transfer via iCloud.com

Another quick option is to open the Files app on your computer. iPhone or iPad – called by the iCloud Drive application on Mac — and create a folder with the recipient's name and the items you want to transfer.

Once you've created a folder, you can right-click or Control-click, or long-press on your iPhone or iPad and select Share.

There you can add one or more “collaborators” who will have access to the contents of this folder, but not to your other iCloud items. This creates a URL for a link that you can send to the recipient via email or text message.

They can access the folder even if they're not on an iPhone or Mac. Once you've confirmed that the transfer has taken place, you can stop sharing the folder or remove members at any time.

Transferring through a third party cloud

Paid and limited free Third-party options can also be used if you want to move files to other devices wirelessly. Services like Box, Dropbox, Sync.com, WeTransfer, and many similar companies offer cloud storage that works similar to how iCloud sharing works.

Move the files you want to share to a folder in the cloud storage service of your choice. Use the tools provided by this service to create a link to this shared folder, and send a text message or email to recipients with the link and they can download what they need.

Transferring via USB drives

If the number or size of files is data, that you want to transfer are too large to easily email or put into iCloud or another service, sometimes a small USB drive or portable external SSD can do the trick. This works especially well if you want to transfer files from one computer to another rather than to mobile devices.

However, there are now USB flash drives with multiple connectors. For transferring data from your smartphone, a flash drive or portable SSD with USB-C and Lightning connectors will allow any modern smartphone or tablet to easily receive the items you want to send.

Copy the files you want to transfer to a flash drive, then attach it to the target device and copy them to the device. Flash drives and most portable SSDs are usually pre-formatted for Windows computers, making them readable on all platforms.

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