What to do if Bluetooth headphones are not showing on a Mac

4 min read

We all love Bluetooth until it stops working. There's nothing more annoying than when you can't connect Bluetooth headphones to your Mac. Luckily there are plenty of troubleshooting tips to help solve the troublesome blues. 

If you're having problems connecting, syncing, or finding your headphones, keep reading, we've got all the troubleshooting tips you need.

Connect your Bluetooth headphones to your Mac 

Let's start with the basics. Ensure your headphones are fully charged or have fresh batteries and switch them into discoverable mode, then:

System Preferences - Bluetooth

  1. Select the Apple Menu > System Settings > Bluetooth.

  2. To turn Bluetooth on, switch the toggle.

  3. Wait for your headphones to appear in the list on the right-hand side, then press Connect. 

Simple! But if your headphones don't show up on the list, keep reading.

Bluetooth headphones not showing up on Mac

So you've tried to connect your headphones, and they're not showing up in the list. Here's how to troubleshoot:

1. Turn Bluetooth off and on

  • Use the steps above to open the Bluetooth settings.

  • Turn your Bluetooth off and on again.

  • Connect to your device.

2. Restart your MacBook

If you still can't connect your Bluetooth headphones to Mac, it's time for a quick restart, here's how:

  1. Select the Apple menu > Restart.

  2. Reopen your Bluetooth settings using the instructions above.

  3. Turn your Bluetooth on, and search for your headphones on the list.

Still no joy? Keep reading.

3. Remove other Bluetooth devices

If restarting your Mac hasn't helped, it could be that you have too many Bluetooth devices connected, which can cause connection issues. So let's disconnect some and try again. Here's how:

Forget device

  • Select the Apple Menu > System Settings > Bluetooth.

  • From the list, select a device and click the i icon.

  • Then click Forget Device and confirm.

  • Repeat for all your devices, and finally, restart your Mac.

After you've removed all of your devices and restarted your Mac, make sure your headphones are in discoverable mode and try to connect again.

Tip: Did you know that 7 Bluetooth devices are considered the maximum? But It's common to encounter issues if you exceed 3 — some devices require more data than others.

4. Reset the Bluetooth module

If you've tested all of the above troubleshooting tips, and you still can't connect Bluetooth headphones to your Mac, it's time to reset the Bluetooth module. Here's how:

  1. Open Terminal from the Applications/Utilities folder or via the Spotlight search.

  2. Type in this command: sudo pkill bluetoothd and press Return.

  3. Type your admin password if prompted. 

  4. Restart your Mac and check if your headphones reconnect. 

5. Search for interfering apps & remove them

It sounds like a strange troubleshoot tip, but occasionally apps can corrupt your Bluetooth settings on your Mac. So, if your Bluetooth headphones are still not showing up on your Mac, or you can't connect them, it's worth removing any recently downloaded apps and testing your headphones again. Here's how:

Mac Applications folder

  • Open a Finder window.

  • Select Applications.

  • Search through and find the app you want to remove, then press Command-Delete.

  • Empty your Trash and try to connect your headphones again.

The problem with removing apps using this method is that even though you've sent the items to Trash, they aren't fully gone. Apps leave behind traces of junk, including hidden and broken files. Even though you can't see them anymore, the app’s fragments still hang around, causing issues. This is why I use the Uninstaller module from CleanMyMac X to safely and completely remove apps, including all their pesky hard-to-spot leftovers; here's how:

  1. Open the CleanMyMac X app — download the free version here.

  2. Select Uninstaller from the left sidebar.

  3. Press View All Applications.

  4. From the list, select the app you want to remove and press Uninstall.

It's honestly that simple.

6. Check your system for updates

So if you've reached this section of the article and you still can't connect Bluetooth headphones to your Mac, it's time to check that your Mac is up-to-date. It sounds obvious to say, but keeping your Mac updated helps to keep it working smoothly, so here's how to check:

System Preferences - Software Update

Select the Apple Menu > System Settings > General > Software Update.

If there is an update, follow the on-screen instructions. When your update is installed, try restarting your Mac and connecting your headphones again.

While we're talking about keeping your Mac running smoothly, it's also worth considering removing some system junk. 

A cluttered hard drive with all kinds of broken system files and user trash can cause your Bluetooth connectivity to suffer. CleanMyMac X can quickly clean up your hard drive removing incomplete downloads, outdated cache, and other junk files that may slow down your Mac. 

CleanMyMac X - System junk scan complete

  1. Open CleanMyMac X.

  2. Select System Junk from the left sidebar.

  3. Press Scan, then when the scan is finished, click Clean.

Hopefully, your headphones are now connected, and you're enjoying your latest Spotify playlist. 

However, If you still can't connect Bluetooth headphones to Mac after all of the above tips, then it's likely an issue with your headphones.

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