Finding, Installing, and Using Bluetooth Devices

Bluetooth is a wireless communication standard used by many devices, including computers, keyboards, mouse devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones, printers, and so on. Mac OS X is designed to be Bluetooth capable so your Mac can communicate with Bluetooth devices, such as to synchronize your iCal calendar on your Mac with the calendar on your Palm PDA.

Preparing for Bluetooth

Two elements are required for Bluetooth.

One is the software component, which is installed as part of Mac OS X version 10.3.

The other is the transmitter and receiver that sends and receives Bluetooth signals. Some Mac models have this device built in. For those models, you don't need anything else. For models without this, however, you need to obtain and install a Bluetooth USB adapter. This device connects to a USB port and enables a Mac to send and receive Bluetooth signals.



You can learn more about Bluetooth on the Mac at

Bluetooth communication is set up between two devices?a single device can be communicating with more than one other Bluetooth device at the same time. Each device with which your Mac communicates over Bluetooth must be configured separately so your Mac recognizes that device and that device recognizes your Mac.

Two steps are involved in setting up Bluetooth. First, you configure Bluetooth for your Mac using the Bluetooth pane of the System Preferences application. Then you configure your Mac to work with each Bluetooth device you want to use.

Configuring Bluetooth on Your Mac

When your Mac recognizes that is has the capability to communicate via Bluetooth, the Bluetooth pane appears in the System Preferences application (see Figure 22.11). You use this to configure the general aspects of Bluetooth on your Mac and to see the list of devices your Mac recognizes.

Figure 22.11. Use the Bluetooth pane of the System Preferences application to control general aspects of Bluetooth on your Mac.


You use the Settings tab to configure your Mac's Bluetooth configuration. It includes the following controls:


In most cases, the default settings will work for you. You should try to configure a Bluetooth device before you adjust your Mac's Bluetooth settings. If it doesn't work properly, come back to these controls to make adjustments.

  • On/Off? Use the button at the top of the pane to turn Bluetooth services on or off.

  • Discoverable? This makes your Mac "discoverable" by other devices because your Mac transmits signals that other devices can detect. If you don't want this, you can uncheck the check box. For example, if you work in a area in which there are many Bluetooth devices, you might want to hide your Mac so other devices won't be able to detect it. You can still connect to your configured Bluetooth devices when this box is unchecked; your Mac just won't be capable of being detected by other devices.

  • Authentication? If you check the Require Authentication and Use Encryption check boxes, your Mac uses encrypted signals to communicate. You might want to use this option if you operate in an area in which there are other Bluetooth devices.

  • Non-conforming Phones? If you use an older Bluetooth-capable cell phone, checking this box should provide better results.

  • Wake? If you check the "Allow Bluetooth devices to wake this computer" check box and your Mac is sleeping, Bluetooth devices can wake it up when they need to communicate with it.

  • Setup Assistant? The Bluetooth Setup Assistant helps you connect to and configure devices. If you check the "Open Bluetooth Setup Assistant at startup when no input device is present" box, the assistant launches if no devices are configured on your Mac when it starts up.

  • Bluetooth menu? Check the "Show Bluetooth status in the menu bar" check box to add the Bluetooth menu to the menu bar.

Many Bluetooth interactions involve the transfer of files between the devices. You can configure how these transfers occur by using the File Exchange tab (see Figure 22.12).

Figure 22.12. Use the File Exchange tab to configure file transfers over Bluetooth.


In the Bluetooth File Exchange section, you can choose how your Mac accepts files from other devices and where those files are stored.

In the Bluetooth File Transfer section, you can enable other devices to browse your Mac. If you enable this, you can choose the specific folder other devices will be able to see.

On the Devices tab, you can see the devices that are currently configured on your Mac. You can also remove those devices and set up a new device.

Installing a New Bluetooth Device

Before you can communicate with a Bluetooth device, that device must be configured on your Mac. And because Bluetooth devices are paired, your Mac must also be configured on the Bluetooth device with which you are communicating. After you have establish a pair, your Mac can communicate with its partner, and vice versa.

To set up a new device, you use the Bluetooth Setup Assistant. The general steps to do this are the following:

  1. Open the Bluetooth Setup Assistant by either clicking the Set Up New Device button on the Devices tab of the Bluetooth pane of the System Preferences application or selecting Set Up Bluetooth Device on the Bluetooth menu. The Bluetooth Setup Assistant opens (see Figure 22.13).

    Figure 22.13. The Bluetooth Setup Assistant walks you through the steps required to set up a Bluetooth device.


  2. Click Continue.

  3. Select the type of Bluetooth device you want to set up, such as Mouse, Keyboard, Mobile Phone, or Other Device, and click Continue. Your Mac searches for available Bluetooth devices.


    The Bluetooth device you are configuring must be discoverable for your Mac to be capable of finding it, just as your Mac must be discoverable for other devices to be capable of finding your Mac.

  4. Select the device you want to configure and click Continue.

  5. Follow the onscreen instructions to configure the device. When the process is complete, the devices can communicate.


When Bluetooth devices are connected as a trusted pair, the same passkey is required on each device for those devices to communicate.

Working with Bluetooth Devices

After you have configured a Bluetooth device to work with your Mac, you use the device's applications or controls to communicate with your Mac or use a Mac application to work with the device.

For example, one of the most useful Bluetooth devices is a Palm PDA. You can use the iSync application to synchronize the PDA's calendar and contact list with your iCal calendar and Address Book so that you have the same information available on both devices. Because you can communicate wirelessly, you don't need to bother connecting any wires or even putting the PDA into a cradle to synchronize. You can also transfer files between the two devices, such as to install applications on the Palm.

To learn how to use iSync, see "Synchronizing with iSync," p. 689.

Although synchronizing a PDA wirelessly is one of the most useful Bluetooth-enabled tasks, it isn't the only one. Consider the following examples:

  • Using wireless keyboards and mouse devices

  • Printing wirelessly

  • Connecting to the Internet through a Bluetooth modem

  • Communicating with other Bluetooth-equipped Macs to share files

  • Transferring photos wirelessly from a Bluetooth digital camera

  • Keeping your contact list on a Bluetooth cell phone in synch with your Address Book

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life