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AirDrop logo.svg
AirDrop in macOS.png
AirDrop on macOS.
Developer(s)Apple Inc.
Initial releaseJuly 20, 2011; 9 years ago (2011-07-20)
Operating systemiOS 7 and later
OS X 10.7 Lion and later
PlatformiPhone 5 and later
iPad (4th generation) and later
iPad Mini (1st generation) and later
iPod Touch (5th generation) and later
MacBook Pro
MacBook Air
iMac Pro
Mac Mini
iPad Pro (1st generation) and later
TypeUtility software
LicenseBundled proprietary software
WebsiteAirDrop on iOS
AirDrop on macOS

AirDrop is a proprietary ad hoc service in Apple Inc.'s iOS and macOS operating systems, introduced in Mac OS X Lion (Mac OS X 10.7) and iOS 7,[1] which can transfer files among supported Macintosh computers and iOS devices by means of close-range wireless communication.[1]

Prior to OS X Yosemite (OS X 10.10), and under OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks (OS X 10.7–10.9, respectively) the AirDrop protocol in macOS was different from the AirDrop protocol of iOS, and the two were therefore not interoperable.[2] OS X Yosemite and later support the iOS AirDrop protocol, which is used for transfers between a Mac and an iOS device as well as between two 2012 or newer Mac computers, and which uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.[3][4] Legacy mode for the old AirDrop protocol (which only uses Wi-Fi) between a 2012 or older Mac computer (or a computer running OS X Lion through OS X Mavericks) and another Mac computer was also available until macOS Mojave.[4][5]

There is no restriction on the size of the file which AirDrop can transfer.



On iOS 7 and later, AirDrop can be accessed by either tapping on Settings > General > AirDrop,[6] or via the Control Center.[7] Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are automatically switched on when AirDrop is enabled as they are both utilized.[7]

Options for controlling AirDrop discovery by other devices include:[7]

  • No one can see device (AirDrop disabled)
  • Only contacts can see device
  • Everyone can see device.

In iOS 7 or later, if an application implements AirDrop support, it is available through the share button. AirDrop is subject to a number of restrictions on iOS, such as the inability to share music or videos from the native apps.[8]


On Macs running OS X 10.7 and greater, AirDrop is available in the Finder window sidebar.[9] On Macs running OS X 10.8.1 or later, it can also be accessed through the menu option Go → AirDrop or by pressing ⇧ Shift+⌘ Cmd+R.[10]

Wi-Fi must be turned on in order for AirDrop to recognize the other device. The other device must also have AirDrop selected in a Finder window sidebar to be able to transfer files. Furthermore, files are not automatically accepted; the receiving user must accept the transfer.[9] This is done to improve security and privacy.[9]

System limitations[edit]

Transfer between two iOS devices[edit]

Running iOS 7 or later:[7]

AirDrop can be enabled unofficially on iPad (3rd generation). Although not supported by default, AirDrop can be enabled by jailbreaking the device and installing "AirDrop Enabler 7.0+" from Cydia. This procedure is not supported or recommended by Apple, as engaging in jailbreaking can cause software instability, and introduce viruses.[11]

Transfer between two Mac computers[edit]

Running Mac OS X Lion (10.7) or later:[4]

Transfer between a Mac and an iOS device[edit]

To transfer files between a Mac and an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, the following minimum requirements have to be met:[12] All iOS devices with AirDrop are supported with iOS 8 or later:[7]

Running OS X Yosemite (10.10) or later:[4]

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have to be turned on for both Mac and iOS devices. (Both devices are not required to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.)

Security and privacy[edit]

AirDrop uses TLS encryption over a direct Apple-created peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection for transferring files.[13] The Wi-Fi radios of the source and target devices communicate directly without using an Internet connection or Wi-Fi Access Point.[13]

The technical details of AirDrop and the proprietary peer-to-peer Wi-Fi protocol called Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL) have been reverse engineered[14] and the resulting open source implementations published as OWL[15] and OpenDrop.[16]

There have been numerous reported cases where iOS device users with AirDrop privacy set to "Everyone" have received unwanted files from nearby strangers; the phenomenon has been termed "cyber-flashing."[17][18][19] Users have the full ability to control their AirDrop settings and limit who can send them files, with options for "Everyone", "Contacts Only", or "Off". iOS 13 no longer shows Thumbnails on the prompt when receiving images sent by strangers.

During the initial handshake devices exchange full SHA-256 hashes of users' phone numbers and email addresses, which might be used by attackers to infer the phone numbers and in some cases email addresses themselves.[20]

See also[edit]

  • Nearby Share, a similar technology for Android smart phones
  • Bonjour, the service discovery protocol employed
  • Shoutr, a free P2P multi-user solution for sharing files among multiple people (Wi-Fi)
  • Wi-Fi Direct, a similar technology
  • Zapya, a free file transfer solution over Wi-Fi


  1. ^ a b Nations, Daniel. "What Is AirDrop? How Does It Work?". Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  2. ^ Etherington, Darrell (September 17, 2013). "Apple iOS 7 Review: A Major Makeover That Delivers, But Takes Some Getting Used To". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Jason (June 23, 2014). "iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Preview: AirDrop finally works across iOS and Mac". iPhone Hacks. iPhone Hacks. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "Use AirDrop to send content from your Mac". Apple Inc. September 30, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  5. ^ "Can not connect my 2 macs with AirDrop - Apple Community". Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  6. ^ "Two Easy Ways to Access AirDrop in iOS 11". iDrop News. December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Share content with AirDrop from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch". Apple Inc. July 23, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  8. ^ "AnyDrop enables you to Send/Receive any file including Music using AirDrop - iOS Hacker". iOS Hacker. iOS Hacker. March 24, 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  9. ^ a b c Rawlinson, Nik (September 29, 2011). "How to use OS X Lion AirDrop - CNET". CNET. CNET. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  10. ^ "OS X Automation Workshop: Sharing Content Locally". Mac OS X Automation. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  11. ^ "AirDrop Port Explaination [sic]". Thuchapol. December 27, 2013. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  12. ^ "OS X Yosemite: supported devices for Handoff, Instant Hotspot, Phone Calling, SMS, and AirDrop". Apple. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  13. ^ a b "iOS Security - iOS 11" (PDF). Apple. January 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  14. ^ Milan Stute; Sashank Narain; Alex Mariotto; Alexander Heinrich; David Kreitschmann; Guevara Noubir; Matthias Hollick (2019). A Billion Open Interfaces for Eve and Mallory: MitM, DoS, and Tracking Attacks on iOS and macOS Through Apple Wireless Direct Link. 28th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security '19).
  15. ^ Milan Stute. "OWL: An open Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL) implementation written in C". GitHub. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  16. ^ Milan Stute; Alexander Heinrich. "OpenDrop: An open Apple AirDrop implementation written in Python". GitHub. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  17. ^ Sarah Bell (August 13, 2015). "Police investigate 'first cyber-flashing' case". BBC News.
  18. ^ Licea, Melkorka (August 12, 2017). "AirDropping penis pics is the latest horrifying subway trend". New York Post. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  19. ^ Harris, Harry (September 1, 2018). "Oakland-Maui flight: Pepper spray emergency follows disturbing photo". East Bay Times. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  20. ^ Goodin, Dan (April 24, 2021). "Apple's AirDrop leaks users' PII, and there's not much they can do about it". Ars Technica. Retrieved April 24, 2021.

External links[edit]