Missing Air Drop in Lion

More than a few users of Apple’s newest os, Lion, have been perplexed when trying to fire up Airdrop for the first time.

Apparently Airdrop is only supported by selected airport cards; specifically the Broadcom chips.

Most older macbook’s (2008, 2009) models use a perfectly good Airport card based on the Atheros microprocessor.

For whatever reason, Apple has decided only new unibody MacBooks can enjoy the fun that is Air Drop.

The fix? Non existent! While technically speaking, air drop is simply a graphical improvement of the public shared folder that has been around since Leopard; and should be independent of hardware.

The feature I am referring to is the openly shared folder in Home/Public/Dropbox (where people on the same network can send you files if you have file sharing turned on).

This dropbox, not to be confused with the online service called dropbox, is at the core the same principle as Air Drop, though not as simple or intuitive to use.

If you ask me, Air Drop has always existed in OS X. Lion Simply makes it simpler and more attractive to use. Why only certain hardware supports this sweet new interface for sharing files is beyond me.

What are your thoughts? Is there some behind the scenes magic that only Broadcom chips support? Or is apple throwing their customers with older hardware under the bus?



The awesome program lion tweaks now has the option to enable airdrop on older hardware. Give it a try.




About spuder
spuder is a "super computer" support engineer by day, and tinkerer / hobbyist by night.

2 Responses to Missing Air Drop in Lion

  1. Michael Thomas says:

    The Altheros/Broadcom disconnect seemed reasonable; however, my 2007 Mac Pro has Broadcom BCM43xx 1.0 ( firmware, which seems to suggest that its AirPort Extreme card uses a Broadcom chip. Air Drop is dropped from my Mac Pro. Apple support Article: HT4783 says that Air Drop is first supported on Early 2009 Mac Pros with AirPort Extreme cards. I had been looking forward to using Air Drop between my Mac Pro and my newer MacBooks. I wonder if an firmware update would be possible?

    • spuder says:

      The airport cards are electronically the same as wireless cards in your everyday dell or hp laptops. Though they are custom designed with apple in mind. I have successfully put an old airport express card into a windows laptop and used the bootcamp driver. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t buy a newer card off ebay and swap them out.

      I found one for about $30 however it did not say how old it was other than it supported N networks.

      I am curious to know if the previous generation white or black MacBooks support Airdrop, seeing how I have easy access the broken ones at work.

      Apple occasionally releases firmware updates, so all hope isn’t lost for an eventual fix; but it is more likely that they want to push their customers to newer hardware.

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