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Tried transferring 4gb file yesterday and seems to be taking such a long time. Anyone knows the transfer speed?

It may help to say that I'm using last year's AirPort Extreme.

EDIT: Two years later, I wonder: what about in 802.11ac? If the laptops supports 802.11ac but the router does not, what will the speed be?

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    It's not clear how the bandwidth of AirDrop is allocated or if the presence of a WiFi connection will change the throughput. Looks like it's time to test and watch the disk usage to indirectly measure the throughput :-) I'll post when I have some numbers.
    – bmike
    Aug 1, 2011 at 3:07
  • The speeds are so far limited by the write speed of the receiving hard drive. So it's really fast. Things slow down when you move out of range and other macs step in to assist in a mesh fashion to move the files.
    – bmike
    Aug 11, 2011 at 20:10
  • So is copying through AirDrop will be as fast as say copying through external hard drive on FireWire/USB? Aug 12, 2011 at 13:48

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AirDrop works outside of whatever WiFi networks are around and doesn't need a base station. It is like a mesh network where all the devices just talk between each other. If nothing else is "sharing" the road - you get the full speed. The further away you are or the more interference, the slower it gets. AirDrop will work by passing the data from Mac to Mac so it will get the file there (although slower) if it has to jump once or twice along the way.

That being said, for two close machines, the transfer speed should be the max wireless speed between your two machines. Hard drives are almost always faster reading and writing than WiFi speeds, so the radio link is generally the slowest.

However, all of that is just theoretical. You can check your actual speed by opening Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor

Click the Network tab on the bottom and you should see stats about how fast the data is being sent and received. Detach from WiFi base stations to let AirDrop get all the hardware if you want the fastest transfers - leave it on if you need internet while dropping that large file.

Network Statistics in Activity Monitor

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  • Have you tried this with AirDrop on, but no WiFi joined? A netstat would be interesting in that case to see how the mac OS sees the airdrop connection on the network stack.
    – bmike
    Aug 1, 2011 at 3:08
  • What do you want to see from the Netstat report? I can post a gist if you are interested.
    – Nate Bird
    Aug 1, 2011 at 11:54
  • can you post the data received/sent /sec? Will this be affected if I measure it while browsing the internet or doing other tasks? Aug 1, 2011 at 14:39
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    AirDrop will only use a peer-to-peer connection, if you are connected to an access point it can slow the transfer dramatically. The best way is to run an ethernet cable between the 2 devices. Doing this I can get a transfer speed of ~12MBps.
    – Raymond
    Jun 5, 2013 at 1:09
  • A gigabyte network interface has a bandwidth of around 100 megabytes per second. Hence for non-SSD drives the bottleneck is the disk (and file system overhead). Aug 5, 2013 at 21:46
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Just tested the theory of faster AirDrop speeds between computers in different networks and it is true. The difference in speeds were from 1MB/s to approx. 5MB/s. So 500% increase. I saw a transfer of 8.58 GB go from an expected 2,5 hours to about 33 minutes.

When you transfer files be on different networks or on none at all.

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I have been noticing varying speeds between my laptops (Macbook Pro 13' 2010 and Macbook Pro 13' 2011). Sometimes the speed is quite fast, and sometimes it is awfully slow.

I suspect that if the two computer are connected on the same wireless network, the speed is slow (as the files travel through my contemptible router).

On the other hand, if the Macbooks Pro are not connected on the same network, the transfer seems to be way faster.

I have not thoroughly tested this so we would need confirmation.

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I just tested with a friend's MacBook Pro and mine. Found it to be around 30x faster. If you connect to the network, it sends data through the router. So disconnect both computers from all networks and see for yourself.

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2023 update.

On Monterrey 12.6.1 (M1 Studio Max) and iOS 17.0.3 (iPhone 14 Pro) the AirDrop speed difference is substantial if the devices are not connected to a router at the time of the AirDrop. I get about 28 MB/sec when my wifi network is connected (5G, fast) and 90 MB/sec when I disconnect both phone and Mac from the network.

The easy way to batch transfer files is not via the camera apps themselves but via the Files app. In the Files app one can select as many items as one wishes (from one folder) and send them all at once.

Do not try to line up two or more AirDrop batches together. It seems to slow the whole process down and even make it fail.

The three times faster AirDrop speeds make transferring huge ProRes video files a whole lot faster than even Lightning (30 MB/sec). Lightning via iMazing is perhaps a little bit simpler (just plug in the phone and choose the folder and transfer files to the folder of one's choice, no need to turn on all WiFi and Bluetooth and disconnect from the existing wifi networks).


More testing – AirDrop is unreliable and fails unpredictably. Failure usually require rebooting the iPhone to start working again. AirDrop seems to work more reliably with single large files or multiple small files. Multiple large files seem to be an issue. If I end up with some really huge video files I might send them individually via AirDrop to get a head start on transfer but the bulk of transfer will be done via Lightning and iMazing.

For really big sets, I might have to leaver the phone to transfer overnight (I have the 1TB version). 500 GB over 30MB/sec Lightning connection is 2h37m of transfer.

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