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Wireless input devices: Bluetooth frequently asked questions

Most Mac computers work with wireless input devices that use Bluetooth technology. Find answers to frequently asked questions about Bluetooth.

  1. What is Bluetooth?
  2. How do I find out if my Mac has Bluetooth?
  3. What do the icons on the Bluetooth menu bar mean?
  4. How does my Mac know which wireless devices to use?
  5. How do I add or remove a wireless device to or from my Mac environment ("pairing")?
  6. What is the difference between "paired" and "connected?"
  7. How long does it take to recognize a device when pairing a device using the Bluetooth Setup Assistant?
  8. How do I remove a device from the device list?
  9. After my computer starts up or wakes from sleep, when will the wireless devices become active?
  10. What is the quickest way to wake my computer up from sleep?
  11. What are commonly used Bluetooth terms and what do they mean?
  12. How many devices can be connected to a Bluetooth device simultaneously?
  13. Can other household devices interfere with the Bluetooth signal?
  14. When is the best time to press a startup key using a Bluetooth keyboard?


1. What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a technology that makes short-range wireless connections between devices (such as your Mac and your mouse or keyboard) at distances up to 10 meters (33 feet). For more information on Bluetooth, see the official Bluetooth website.

Your Bluetooth-enabled iPhone can act as a modem for your Mac through your wireless service provider. Learn more about creating a personal hotspot with your iPhone.

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2. How do I find out if my Mac has Bluetooth?

Most Mac computers come with Bluetooth technology built-in. To determine whether your computer supports Bluetooth do one of the following:

  • Look for the Bluetooth Icon in the menu bar. If the Bluetooth icon is present, your computer has Bluetooth.
  • Choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu and Bluetooth from the View menu. If the Bluetooth preferences lists options for enabling Bluetooth and making your device discoverable, Bluetooth is installed.
  • From the Apple () menu choose About this Mac, then click More Info. Select Bluetooth from the Hardware section. If the Hardware Setting section populated with information, your system has Bluetooth installed.
    System Profiler with Bluetooth information

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3. What do the icons on the Bluetooth menu bar mean?

The Bluetooth menu bar icon in the upper-right of your display provides information about the status of Bluetooth and any devices that are connected. Refer to the chart below for each icon's meaning.

Bluetooth on Bluetooth is on, but there are no devices connected to the Mac.
See the "Make sure the wireless mouse or keyboard is turned on" section of Troubleshooting wireless mouse and keyboard issues.
Bluetooth on with at least one device connected Bluetooth is on and at least one wireless device is connected.
See the "Make sure the wireless mouse or keyboard is turned on" section of Troubleshooting wireless mouse and keyboard issues.
Low battery in one device At least one wireless device has a low battery.
Click the Bluetooth icon to identify the affected device, then replace the batteries.
Bluetooth off Bluetooth is off.
Click the Bluetooth icon using a USB mouse and select "Turn Bluetooth On". Note: Mac OS X won’t allow Bluetooth to be turned off unless a USB mouse is connected.
Bluetooth not online Bluetooth unavailable.
Restart your Mac. If the Bluetooth status doesn’t change, disconnect all USB devices and restart your Mac again.

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4. How does my Mac know which wireless devices to use?

Bluetooth wireless devices are associated with your computer through a process called "pairing." After a wireless device is paired, authentication occurs automatically for future connections.

Many Mac computers that come with a wireless keyboard and mouse are pre-paired at the factory, so you don't need to pair the wireless mouse and keyboard. Turn on the mouse and keyboard and your Mac should automatically connect with these devices as the computer starts up.

To "pair" a Bluetooth device with your computer, see this article.

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5. How do I add or remove a wireless device to or from my Mac (pairing or unpairing)?

Use the Bluetooth Setup Assistant to set up your device to work with your computer by “pairing” the device with your computer:

  • Find the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar in the upper-right of your display.
  • Choose Set up Bluetooth Device from the Bluetooth status menu.

If the Bluetooth status menu isn’t visible in your menu bar, use these steps to open the Bluetooth Setup Assistant:

  • Choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu, then choose Bluetooth from the View menu.
  • Enable the "Show Bluetooth status in the menu bar" option.

Learn more about pairing your keyboard, mouse, or trackpad with your Mac.

After you pair a device with your computer, you should see the device listed in Bluetooth preferences.

Bluetooth preferences

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6. What is the difference between "paired" and "connected?"

Pairing is the creation and exchange of a passkey between two devices to establish a new relationship between them. This happens automatically when you pair a device. After you pair the devices, a passkey is stored and authentication occurs automatically during future connections. The passcode is usually needed only once during the initial setup of the wireless device. For many Mac computers the pairing process is completed at the factory, which eliminates this step.

"Connected" means that your Mac is communicating with a wireless device. Devices that are not within 10 meters (33 feet) or are turned off will display as 'Not Connected' in the Bluetooth preferences pane.

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7. How long does it take my computer to recognize a device while pairing a device with the Bluetooth Setup Assistant?

After you've selected which type of device you are looking for, it can take up to 30 seconds for all discoverable devices to appear on the list. If your wireless device does not appear on the list after 30 seconds, make sure that it has fresh batteries and it is turned on. You may need to turn the device off and back on to place the wireless device into discoverable mode. Most devices remain in discoverable mode only for approximately three minutes after they power on.

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8. How do I remove a device from the device list?

Using the Bluetooth preferences, select the device you want to remove to highlight it, then click the minus sign. It is recommended that you remove a device from this list while the device is connected.

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9. After my computer starts up or wakes from sleep, when will the wireless devices become active?

Wireless devices are usually available a few moments after the computer completes the startup process. After waking from sleep, Apple Magic Mouse and Apple Wireless Keyboard (2009) should be available right away. Other wireless devices can take up to 5 seconds to be recognized when waking from sleep. You may need to click a button on the wireless mouse once or twice to wake it up.

Some Bluetooth devices—such as audio headsets—may disconnect to conserve the devices battery power after no audio or data is present for a certain amount of time. In such cases, you may need to push a button on the device or headset to make it active again. Check the documentation that came with your device for more information.

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10. What is the quickest way to wake my computer up from sleep?

Clicking the mouse button is the fastest way to wake up your computer. To wake up the computer using the keyboard, press a key. In some circumstances, you may need to press the space bar on the keyboard to wake the computer.

If this does not wake the computer, you may need to allow wireless devices to wake up your computer:

  1. Open Bluetooth preferences (choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu, then Bluetooth from the View menu).
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. Enable the checkbox next to "Allow Bluetooth Devices to wake this computer". If this selection is grayed out, it is already enabled.

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11. What are common terms used Bluetooth and what do they mean?

See this brief glossary of Bluetooth terms.

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12. How many devices can be connected to a Bluetooth device simultaneously?

The official Bluetooth specifications state seven is the maximum number of Bluetooth devices that can be connected at once. However, three to four devices is a practical limit, depending on the types of devices and profiles are used. Some devices require more Bluetooth data, so they are more demanding than other devices. Data-intensive devices may reduce the total number of devices that can be active at the same time. If a Bluetooth device becomes slow to connect or does not perform reliably, reduce the total number of connected devices.

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13. Can other household devices interfere with a Bluetooth signal?

Bluetooth shares the 2.4 GHz ISM band with other household devices such as cordless telephones and wireless networks, as well as some baby monitors and microwave ovens. If you are experiencing issues that you suspect might be due to frequency congestion, refer to AirPort and Bluetooth: Potential sources of wireless interference for further information.

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14. When is the best time to press a startup key using a Bluetooth keyboard?

You can press startup keys during startup to perform functions like using the recovery partition or resetting NVRAM. For best results using a Bluetooth keyboard, wait until you hear the startup chime before pressing and holding any startup key sequences. For more information see:

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Last Modified: Aug 26, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Aug 26, 2014
  • Article: HT3887
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