Bluetooth technology has been allowing our electronic devices to communicate with each other for 20 years now. Yet, Bluetooth connections between devices can still fail, or give you all kinds of issues when you’re trying to set them up. Here are some troubleshooting techniques to try when pairing Bluetooth-enabled devices gives you the blues.
Check your range
If you are experiencing trouble pairing two Bluetooth devices, you’ll first want to make sure that they are within a reasonable range of each other—about 30 feet or less should do the trick. And while Bluetooth signals can indeed travel through solid objects like walls and ceilings, these obstructions can also lessen their effective range.
Bluetooth antennas transmit data by sending and receiving radio waves to each other. To avoid interfering with other devices that transmit in the same section of the radio frequency and to cut down on battery usage, Bluetooth devices are low power. This means that Bluetooth signals can’t travel as far as higher-powered wifi signals or the output from commercial radio stations.
Reset both devices
The advice to turn something off and on again has become a bit of a joke in the tech world, but it may, in fact, help you to reestablish your Bluetooth connection. Try switching the Bluetooth function off and then on again on your transmitting device (computer, tablet, phone, etc.) and put the receiving device (keyboard, speaker, mouse, etc.) into pairing mode following the manufacturer’s instructions. This may encourage your device to make the connection again.
If that doesn’t do the trick, try shutting down both the transmitting device and the receiving device. Then turn the transmitting device back on, wait until it is fully rebooted and then turn on the receiving device and attempt to pair.
Make sure bluetooth is turned on
OK, we know this sounds almost as simple-minded as “turn it off then on again,” but sometimes, when devices enter low-power mode, like when your phone is running low on juice, the Bluetooth antenna may get turned off. Also, keep in mind that Bluetooth turns off when you turn on aeroplane mode.
And speaking of running low on juice, you’ll also want to make sure that the device you’re trying to pair with has a good charge so that its antenna is working at full power.
Check the pairing
Many Bluetooth devices, like speakers, will enter pairing mode automatically when they are turned on and will connect to the last device paired if it is range. While this is handy, it can also get a little frustrating if you say, want to stream audio to a Bluetooth speaker from your tablet but the speaker itself keeps automatically connecting to your phone.
To solve this, turn off Bluetooth on the transmitting device you don’t want to use and then re-pair your receiving device to the correct transmitting device. Alternatively, you can activate Bluetooth pairing mode on the receiving device (such as a long press of the Bluetooth or power button on a speaker) and then try to connect again.
Some Bluetooth devices will require that you type a pairing code or accept a pairing request on one of your devices. Many Bluetooth keyboards, for example, require that you type a specific code in order to pair them with a tablet or a computer. If pairing two devices seems like it’s taking too long, be sure to check the screen on your device to see if it’s asking for permission or a code to finish the pairing process.
Check for interference
Many other devices operate in the same low frequency range in which Bluetooth signals transmit. Baby monitors, cordless phones, microwave ovens, and even some lighting fixtures can send and receive signals in the same 2.4GHz radio frequency. If your Bluetooth connection is not working, try moving away from these objects.
Wifi signals in the 2.4GHz band can interfere with Bluetooth, so if you’re having trouble connecting, try switching off the wifi function on your transmitting device and attempt to pair again—or step into a different room that isn’t quite so full of other devices that are all jamming up the 2.4GHz band. You can also try connecting more devices to your router’s 5GHz network, if they’re compatible, or try changing the channel of your router’s 2.4GHz network.
The human body can also interfere with Bluetooth signals, as the transmissions have a hard time getting through the main ingredient in human beings: water. So if you are using a pair of wireless headphones and your signal keeps cutting out, be aware of the position of your body in relation to the transmitting device.
Delete the device
Once you’ve paired with a Bluetooth device on most computers, tablets and phones, your transmitting device will attempt to automatically connect when the receiving device is present. But if your devices are refusing to pair, a good idea is to delete the receiving device and start over.
You can do so by heading to your device’s Bluetooth settings, searching for the problematic receiving device and deleting it. Then, place the device back into pairing mode, have your other device scan for available Bluetooth connections and re-pair.
Check with the manufacturer
Sometimes, manufacturers of Bluetooth devices will post updates on their website about known Bluetooth pairing issues along with specific steps to fix them. Or they may post information that will tell you if there are known compatibility issues between devices so that you can at least stop feeling as though you’re doing something wrong as you attempt to make a pairing that simply might not work.
Additionally, some devices—such as Bose portable speakers or your car’s dashboard unit—will actually get software updates periodically, so it’s good to check and see if your device is in need of one. And with some computers—especially PCs—the Bluetooth antenna driver can go out of date, particularly with the installation of new operating systems. Follow the instructions for your particular machine to check and update your drivers if needed.
If you’re on a Mac
If you have a Mac computer and you’ve tried some of the steps above, but you still have trouble connecting, you might need to reset your computer’s Bluetooth module. To do so, hold down both the Shift and Option keys while simultaneously clicking on the Bluetooth symbol in your menu bar. (If it’s not there, find Bluetooth under System Preferences, and click the box next to Show Bluetooth in menu bar.)
After you’ve clicked the symbol, you’ll see an option for Debug. Hover your mouse over it, and click on “Reset the Bluetooth module.” Once completed, restart your Mac and attempt to repair your devices.
If you’re on a PC
In addition to making sure your Bluetooth drivers are current, PCs also allow you to run a Bluetooth troubleshooter. To activate it on Windows 10, select the Start button > Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot. Choose “Bluetooth” under “Find and fix other problems,” and run the program. The software will run you through steps that might resolve your issue.
Try other devices
If you’ve gone through all of the steps above but are still having trouble, your device might be faulty. To see if that’s the case, try different pairing combinations with different devices.
For example, if you have a Bluetooth speaker that won’t connect with a tablet, try pairing the speaker with device such as a phone or a computer. If it works, then you’ll know the issue has to do with your tablet. If the speaker refuses to pair with anything else, you’ll know that it is likely faulty and you should contact the manufacturer for an exchange or a refund.