Chances are you use at least one Bluetooth wireless peripheral with your Mac. Many people have a Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad paired with their desktop Mac; many also have wireless keyboards, speakers, phones, or other devices connected via wireless Bluetooth.
After all, Bluetooth is just handy, both for devices that are always connected to your Mac and those that you only use occasionally. But Bluetooth connectivity can also cause pull-your-hair issues when things stop working as expected.
Bluetooth connection problems
Most problems occur when a Bluetooth device paired with a Mac just stops working. It may show up as connected or it may not show up in the list of Bluetooth devices; either way, the device no longer seems to work.
Many of you have tried turning your Bluetooth device off and on, and although it may seem a bit silly, that’s a good place to start. But you have to go one step further and try turning the Bluetooth system on your Mac off and on again.
Turn it off and on again
- Launch System Preferences and select the Bluetooth preferences pane.
- Click the Disable Bluetooth button.
- Wait a few seconds, and then click the button again; it will have changed its text to say Turn on Bluetooth.
- By the way, to make it easier to access your Mac’s Bluetooth system, place a check mark in the Show Bluetooth in menu bar box.
- Go ahead and check if your Bluetooth device is already recognized and working.
So much for the easy fix, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try before moving on.
Bluetooth device repair
Most of you have tried to fix your Mac with the device or have tried to disassociate your Mac from the device. In any case, nothing changes and the two just don’t cooperate.
Some of you have mentioned that the problem started when you updated OS X, or when you changed the batteries in the peripheral. And for some of you, it happened for no apparent reason.
A possible solution to Bluetooth problems
Various things can cause Bluetooth problems, but the one I’m going to cover here is specific to two common connectivity issues experienced by many users:
- Bluetooth devices that never seem to be able to pair with your Mac.
- Bluetooth peripherals that have been successfully paired, but have stopped working (they may still appear in your list of paired devices).
In both cases, the cause is likely to be a corruption of the list of preferences used by your Mac to store Bluetooth devices and the current status of these devices (connected, not connected, paired successfully, not paired, etc.). The corruption prevents your Mac from updating the data within the file or properly reading the data from the file, which can cause the issues described above.
Fortunately, the fix is easy: remove the list of bad preferences. But before you start looking for preference files, make sure you have an up-to-date backup of your data.
How to remove the Bluetooth preferences list from your Mac
- Open a Finder window and go to /YourStartupDrive/Library/Preferences. You can press Command-Shift-G on your keyboard and type or paste /Library/Preferences into the resulting field . Hit the Enter key to go there directly.
- For most, this will be /Macintosh HD/Library/Preferences. If you have renamed the boot drive, the first part of the path above will be that name; for example, Casey/Library/Preferences.
You can also access this with /Library/Preferences, since the first slash implies the startup drive on a Macintosh.
- You may notice that the Library folder is part of the path; You may also have heard that the Library folder is hidden. This is true of the user’s Library folder, but the root drive’s Library folder has never been hidden, so you can access it without performing any special enchantments.
- Once you have the /YourStartupDrive/Library/Preferences folder open in Finder, scroll through the listings until you find the file named com.apple.Bluetooth.plist. This is your list of Bluetooth preferences and the file that has probably been causing the problems with your Bluetooth peripherals.
- Select the com.apple.Bluetooth.plist file and drag it to the desktop. This will create a copy of the existing file on your desktop; we do this to make sure we have a backup of the file we are about to delete.
- In the Finder window that is open to the /YourStartupDrive/Library/Preferences folder, right-click the com.apple.Bluetooth.plist file and select Move to Trash from the pop-up menu.
- You will be prompted for an administrator password to move the file to the trash. Enter the password and click OK.
- Close all applications that you have open.
- Restart your Mac.
Pair your Bluetooth devices with your Mac
- Once your Mac restarts, a new Bluetooth preferences file will be created. Since this is a new preferences file, you’ll need to re-pair your Bluetooth peripherals with your Mac. In all likelihood, the Bluetooth wizard will start on its own and guide you through the process. But if it doesn’t, you can start the process manually by doing the following:
- Make sure your Bluetooth peripheral has fresh batteries installed and the device is turned on.
- Start System Preferences by choosing System Preferences from the Apple menu or by clicking the Dock icon.
- Select the Bluetooth preferences panel.
- Your Bluetooth devices should be listed, with a pairing button next to each unpaired device. Click the Pair button to pair a device with your Mac.
- Repeat the pairing process for each Bluetooth device that needs to be associated with your Mac.