Flick files to a nearby Mac with AirDrop

Flick files to a nearby Mac with AirDrop
Mac Tip #534, 02 May 2012

We’re a 2 Mac household, both using OS 10.7, Lion. Sometimes I want to share files with my partner, such as photos, movies, spreadsheets or other documents. Lion’s AirDrop makes this an easy drag and drop, as you’ll see in this Tip.

Thank you to the 33 amazing people who between them donated $1435 during April to help pay the costs for MacTips for 2012. That’s a big burden lifted off me, and allows me to focus on writing Tips instead of worrying about bills for the site.

Quick Start

  1. Open AirDrop on both Macs.
  2. Drop one or more files onto the icon for a recipient and click Send.
  3. As a recipient Save the file.

Want more detail? Read the full Tip below.

What you need to use AirDrop

To use AirDrop you need 2 or more Macs both using OS 10.7 Lion.

Make sure Wi-Fi is on.

Make sure Wi-Fi is on.

The Macs must be less than around 9 metres apart and must have Wi-Fi turned on, although they don’t need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network.

You also, of course, need one or more files you want to share with another person. I suggest you open a Finder window that contains the files, ready to send them to the recipient. Also open a second Finder window ready to show AirDrop.

Start up AirDrop

Start up AirDrop on both Macs:

  1. Switch to the Finder.
  2. Choose AirDrop from the Go menu Command (⌘) Shift (⇧) R. Or click the AirDrop item in the Sidebar of a Finder window. The AirDrop window opens and your Mac starts searching for other nearby Macs with AirDrop enabled.

When AirDrop finds other Macs with AirDrop enabled it displays their icons in the AirDrop window in the Finder.

Drop a file on an icon in AirDrop.

Drop a file on an icon in AirDrop.

Send files via AirDrop

To send a file to someone who appears in the AirDrop window just drag one or more files on top of their icon. An alert appears, asking Do you want to send “[filename]” to “[computer name]“?

Do you want to send the file to this person?

Do you want to send the file to this person?

Click the Send button to confirm your choice or Cancel if you’ve changed your mind.

The recipient must now accept the file.

Accept or decline an AirDrop file.

Accept or decline an AirDrop file. In this screenshot the same file was being sent back to me.

Accept an AirDrop file

On the recipient’s Mac an alert appears naming the file and offering 3 choices:

  • Save and Open
  • Decline
  • Save

If the recipient declines your file an alert advises you.

To accept the file click either Save and Open or Save. The file is saved in the Downloads folder.

If you chose Save and Open the file will open with the default application for that type of file.

Keep in mind someone may send you a file you’re unable to open if you don’t have appropriate software.

Close AirDrop

Once you’re finished with sharing files just close the AirDrop window.

Easy and quick

This is an extremely easy way to send files from one Mac to another, and is especially useful because it doesn’t require cables or an Internet connection. It does need both Macs to have already started up AirDrop though.

I’ve often visited clients and needed to exchange files with them. In the past we’ve had to find cables, mess around with settings, use thumb drives or even DVDs, or send files via the Internet.

Is it safe?

AirDrop’s so easy to use that Apple don’t say much about it, but they do say:

Once accepted, the fully encrypted file transfers directly to that person’s Downloads folder.

That suggests that a third party who manages to intercept the file en route will not be able to access its contents. This could be relevant in a cafe or at a conference, for example.

Let us know how this Tip helped you. To leave a comment if you’re reading this by email or RSS feed please visit the Tip at the MacTips website. There should be a link from the title.

Tags ,

Related posts

[wpzon keywords="pressure cooker" sindex="PCHardware" snode="1232597011" sort="salesrank" listing="8"]


  1. Brian said:

    I keep getting a message saying that the other computer has declined the transfer. I can’t find anywhere on Apple why this is happening.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Brian, the recipient of the file must accept it by clicking Save or Save and Open. I suspect that if they don’t actively accept it then after a while the Mac will just report that it was declined.

      • Brian said:

        No this is happening as soon as I drop it on the other computers icon. It has to do with the year of the Mac that I’m trying to transfer to, which in a spring 2007 MacBook Pro. I used the hack that said that it could be done, but it flakey at best. I’ll continue to use DropCopy Pro for transferring documents.

        • Miraz Jordan said:

          Ah, hacks I don’t deal with. I did spot somewhere in passing that some wi-fi cards may not allow this to work. I don’t know which ones though.

          Actually, I generally use a shared DropBox folder for such transfers where it’s to a regular recipient or supplier of files. I think this would be great for casual use though.

          • Brian said:

            Gave up on DropBox. It’s a waste of time IMOO.

            • Miraz Jordan said:

              Really? I couldn’t do my work without it. It gives me immediate access to my working files from my Mac, iPhone, iPad and via the web if I need to. It lets me easily share files with several other people, and lets me see older versions of documents on the rare occasion I need that. DropBox is one of my must-have things.

              I especially love that if I get a new or even different Mac all my working documents appear as soon as I install DropBox and enter my login details.

Comments are closed.