Hint: Enable AirDrop on older Macs

My work machine is one of the newer unibody MacbookPros and my main home machine is the previous model MacBookPro. I needed to move files between them and decided to try out AirDrop. For some reason I couldn’t find it on my older home laptop. Did I forget to enable a preference? Did I have security tight so it can’t work? I did some googling and found out that even thought both machines have Lion installed, AirDrop doesn’t work on some older machines. Further digging found a way to enable it and it even worked in my case.

from MacWorld Article “Enable AirDrop on Macs without supported wireless hardware

AirDrop is a handy way to share files between Macs. Unfortunately, it is only supported on newer models which have the hardware necessary to support a certain type of point-to-point WiFi connection. There is, however, a hidden setting to enable AirDrop on older Macs. Just type:

defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser BrowseAllInterfaces 1

into a Terminal window, hit enter, and relaunch the Finder.

Note that:

  • You must do this on both the sending and receiving macs, even if one of them already has the correct WiFi hardware (I think).
  • You will be able to see other macs on the same network, and they will be able to see your Mac (when AirDrop is open), even if they are not physically nearby. On a larger network with many Macs, this could potentially cause some confusion, although it shouldn’t be a real security issue. This may be why Apple decided not to enable this feature by default.
  • Both macs must be connected to the same network somehow (ethernet, existing WiFi network, etc.)

After restarting Finder, AirDrop appeared and I could transfer files from the old machine to the new machine. The old machine still didn’t appear visible on the new machine (I only did the steps above on my old machine), but I could have done it to get file transfers working both directions.