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Bluetooth glossary of terms

Bluetooth wireless technology provides a reliable and secure wireless connection between two paired devices up to 33 feet apart. Learn more about the terms commonly used with Bluetooth devices.

Devices that commonly use Bluetooth include the Apple Wireless Keyboard, Apple Magic Mouse, Apple Magic Trackpad, iPhone, and wireless headsets used for hands-free communication and gaming. 

If you are having issues connecting an Apple Wireless Keyboard, Magic Mouse, or Magic Trackpad to your Mac, see Troubleshooting wireless mouse and keyboard issues for assistance.

Bluetooth terms

Authentication: The process of establishing a secure connection between two Bluetooth devices. During the authentication process, both devices are asked for a passkey. The same passkey must be entered or confirmed on both devices. Some devices, such as a mouse, create and authenticate their own passkeys, while devices like keyboards or mobile phones will prompt you to authenticate the passkey the first time they pair.

BluetoothA wireless protocol defining the exchange of data between compatible devices over short distances up to 33 feet. 

ConnectableA Bluetooth enabled device in range that will respond to another device and set up a connection.

Connected: A Bluetooth enabled device is within range and communicating over the Bluetooth wireless link. The Bluetooth preference pane shows a green dot indicating a successful connection.

DiscoverableWhen a Bluetooth enabled device is “discoverable,” other Bluetooth devices can detect, pair, or connect to it. An Apple wireless keyboard or mouse will flash its indicator light when it is in discovery mode. Apple devices will turn off discovery mode after approximately three minutes to save battery life. Mac computers are always discoverable, unless you disable discovery mode in the Bluetooth preference pane.

Discovery mode: See "discoverable".  To enter discoverable mode refer to the device's user guide for more information. An Apple wireless keyboard, mouse, or trackpad can be placed into discoverable mode by power on the device. If the Apple wireless device is not paired with another computer that is within range then the indicator light will flash to indicate it is in discovery mode. 

Device discovery: A process that allows one device to detect another device.

Name discoveryThe mechanism that requests and receives a device name.

Pairing: The process of creating a persistent link between two Bluetooth devices, which may involve the exchange of a passkey between two devices. This only occurs once; future connections between the devices are authenticated automatically. You can pair devices to your Mac from the Bluetooth System Preferences or by clicking the Bluetooth menu bar icon and choosing Set Up Bluetooth Device.

PasskeyThe authentication key used to establish a link between devices. A passkey is similar to a password, but the passkey is only used once: you enter the passkey once and won’t need to remember it. 

ProfileA Bluetooth service that may be provided or used by a Bluetooth device.  Such services can include file exchange, stereo audio, and tethering.

Tethering: The use of an Internet enabled smart phone linked via Bluetooth to a computer to provide Internet services to the computer.

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 additional information.

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 offline.
Restart your Mac. If the Bluetooth status doesn’t change, disconnect all USB devices and restart your Mac again.
Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.
Last Modified: Jun 16, 2011
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  • Last Modified: Jun 16, 2011
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