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  1. Computer Skills
  2. Networking
Computers

How to Enable AirDrop on Ethernet Connected and Unsupported Macs

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AirDrop has been designed to be the quickest way to share files between two Macs, whether or not they are on the same network, even if there is no wi-fi network present. AirDrop creates an immediate, temporary, ad-hoc connection when the users of both Macs navigate to AirDrop in Finder.

This is great for MacBook users on a train or plane wanting to share a file quickly and easily. But what if you want to use AirDrop and Apple tells you that it is not supported on your Mac? Why won't AirDrop let you easily share files over an ethernet network in the office? It turns out, it is possible to enable AirDrop on some Macs that don't currently have it. Read on to see how.


Does my Mac Have AirDrop?

To determine whether your Mac is already AirDrop enabled, visit Finder and look for AirDrop in the sidebar or from the 'Go' menu item for Finder. Another way to find out is to launch AirDrop in Finder by pressing Shift, Command and R, together.

Locating AirDrop in Finder
How to check if your Mac has AirDrop enabled.

If you do not have AirDrop, fret not. It may just be possible to enable it on your Lion or Mountain Lion Mac.


Apple's Official AirDrop Requirements

According to Apple, if your Mac is the same as, or newer than, the models listed below, then it already supports AirDrop.

  • MacBook Pro (Late 2008 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 or newer)
  • iMac (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2009 with AirPort Extreme card, or Mid 2010)

If you have a Mac that is not listed above, don’t worry too much as it may just be possible to enable AirDrop on your officially unsupported Mac. For instance, I have successfully enabled AirDrop on my 2009 Mac Mini.

Note, in order for AirDrop to work, all Macs should be running OS X 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion. The good news is that you can also enable AirDrop on a Hackintosh that is running Lion or Mountain Lion!


How to Enable AirDrop

If you have a Mac that does not officially support AirDrop, or you wish to transfer files via an ethernet network, it is possible to enable AirDrop to do this.

Step 1: Enable AirDrop

Simply open a terminal window and enter the following command:

defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser BrowseAllInterfaces 1

If for any reason you wish to remove the AirDrop functionality, open a terminal window and enter the following command:

defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser BrowseAllInterfaces 0

Note, these commands are similar, the difference being 1 to enable and 0 to disable.

Tip: It may be necessary to run this command on all Macs on which you wish to enable AirDrop functionality.

Step 2: Restart Your Mac

It will be necessary to restart your Mac once you have entered the terminal command.


How to Use AirDrop

AirDrop is enabled by going to AirDrop in Finder on both Macs between which you wish to transfer files. When both Macs are connected via AirDrop, their names and profile pictures will be shown in the AirDrop pane of Finder.

Tip: Ensure that AirDrop in Finder is open on both Macs. This is required for an AirDrop connection to be established between Macs.

Using AirDrop to Send a File

To transfer a file, simply drag the document to the profile picture of the destination Mac and accept the confirmation dialogue box that pops up.

Using AirDrop to Send a File
Using AirDrop to send a file to another Mac (via ethernet to a 2009 Mac Mini in this example).

Using AirDrop to Receive a File

To receive a file, simply accept the confirmation dialogue box informing that another Mac wants to send you a file.

Using AirDrop to Receive a File
Using AirDrop to receive a file to another Mac (via ethernet from a 2009 Mac Mini in this example).

Another Way to Use AirDrop

Another way to share files using AirDrop is to look for the option in the 'Share' button on apps in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The 'Share' button is a small rectangle with an arrow coming out from the centre to the top right corner.

Using the Share button to AirDrop
Using the Share button, in Preview, to AirDrop a PDF to another Mac.

Remember, in order to successfully AirDrop a file from Preview (as shown above) the recipient Mac must have AirDrop open in Finder so that an AirDrop connection is established with your Mac.


Go AirDrop!

The USB drive is redundant with AirDrop, which really comes into its own for transferring files between Macs even when there is no wi-fi network present. By enabling AirDrop on “unsupported Macs,” you can enjoy an easier way of sharing documents with friends and colleagues.

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