Skip to Content
© Ilia Burdun | Dreamstime
Tech tips

15 ways to fix Bluetooth pairing problems

Bluetooth is great for rocking out in the car or talking hands-free, but sometimes getting it working makes you want to pull your hair out. There can be pairing problems, obscure error codes or completely unhelpful flashing lights — and that can be very frustrating.

Plus, security is always an issue. Tap or click here to learn how a critical Bluetooth flaw can expose your phone to malware – and how to fix it.

When you’re encountering pairing issues with your Bluetooth devices, don’t give in to the frustration. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you pair those frustrating devices.

1. Make sure both devices are on

This may seem like an obvious step, but between power-saving modes and sleep modes, a device that should be turned on may actually have the power off — a simple mistake that can bring serious frustration.

Make sure everything is turned on and ready to connect, not trapped in sleep or power saver mode.

2. Make sure both devices have and support Bluetooth

Start with the very basics: Make sure both of the devices you want to use have and support Bluetooth technology. Just because a headset is wireless or a stereo is new doesn’t mean it has Bluetooth built-in.

Look for the Bluetooth logo: a stylized B in an oval. Make sure it’s on both of the devices you’re trying to connect.

3. Make sure your devices are compatible with each other

Now that we know both devices have Bluetooth technology, we need to check to be sure both of them support the same version of Bluetooth.

Bluetooth is supposed to be backward compatible, so an older headset should work with something like a new phone; however, there’s also a newer protocol called Bluetooth Smart that works with things like fitness bands.

Bluetooth Smart may not sync up with older devices. Check your manuals or device information screens to ensure both devices support the same protocols.

4. Check the manufacturer websites

Sometimes manufacturers know about an issue and have a workaround or fix posted on their website. If you’re having trouble with your Bluetooth devices, check the webpage for each company to see if there’s a known issue, fix or way to get around the problem.

5. Make sure both devices have Bluetooth turned on

Turning Bluetooth off can save power, so lots of people keep it off if they’re not syncing their phones to their cars or working hands-free. Check in the settings for both devices and make sure Bluetooth is turned on and ready to connect.

You may also like: Major Bluetooth flaw exposes millions of Apple, Google and Samsung devices to attack

Also, make sure the devices are using the same profile. Bluetooth devices have several different protocols they use to communicate.

A mouse might have a profile called “Human Interface Device” since it’s intended for a person to work with, while a camera would have an entirely different profile. Mismatched profiles can cause connection errors. Check both devices to see if they’re speaking the same language.

6. Reboot both devices just to be sure

It’s time for the magic words. Have you tried turning it off and on again? OK, it’s the worst part of any support call, but rebooting does clear up many errors and problems. It gives you and your devices a fresh, blank canvas to sync up.

7. Make sure both devices have a good charge

Bluetooth uses radio frequencies to broadcast information, which means it needs a fair amount of power to send a signal. A weak battery or phone losing its charge may not have the electrical “oomph” needed to make sure signals get where they need to go. Make sure everything is at least 50% charged.

8. Make sure airplane/power-saving modes are turned off

Airplane mode and power saving mode may turn off some functions of the device. Airplane mode will shut down radio frequency broadcasting parts, including Bluetooth.

Power-saving functions can turn off various things on your device, including Bluetooth. It’s easy to overlook, but it can also keep your devices from working.

9. Get away from potential sources of interference

Bluetooth uses radio frequencies to communicate between devices. Unfortunately, other things also use radio frequencies to talk to each other.

Get your devices away from potential sources of interference like wireless routers, microwaves, poorly shielded electronics cables and even garage door openers, then see if you’re able to pair them up.

10. Delete the device you’re trying to pair and restart discovery

Sometimes the discovery process doesn’t work right. The best way to handle these instances is to “forget” the devices you’re trying to pair, then take things a step further by restarting them, then try to pair again.

11. Check for updates

If your devices won’t pair, make sure their operating systems are up to date.

Once everything is updated, try to pair again. Sometimes a simple software update can enable functionality or solve a bug that’s causing Bluetooth problems.

12. Go deeper and check for updated drivers and firmware

Updated software drivers and firmware are usually for power users or techies who know what they’re doing, so they may not be pushed out as often as a phone’s software update is. That said, many people forget to look for updates.

RELATED: Critical Bluetooth flaw exposes your phone to malware — here’s how to patch it

Don’t be one of those people. Driver and firmware updates can fix obscure problems, including issues that prevent Bluetooth devices from connecting. Visit the website for your device’s manufacturer and see if there’s a download for updated drivers or firmware.

13. Make sure both devices are close together

Bluetooth is wireless, but that doesn’t mean you can stand on one side of the house to try to connect. Bluetooth ranges are relatively short, so make sure your devices are as close as possible.

They don’t need to be touching, but the least you could do is keep them a few inches apart when they’re trying to pair.

14. Ensure both devices are compatible

Sometimes devices aren’t compatible. This means no matter what troubleshooting steps you take, there’s no way your headset will pair with that speaker. The best way to see if they’re compatible is to refer to their manuals.

If you already threw out the manuals, don’t worry. Tap or click here to find them.

15. Clear stored settings on your device(s)

If things are still snarled, try deleting any saved settings on your device. Sometimes files can get corrupted and deleting those files can help. It’s important to note that sometimes things just don’t work like it should, but a fresh start can be the magic cure.

Stop robocalls for good with Kim’s new eBook

Robocalls interrupt us constantly and scam Americans out of millions of dollars every year. Learn Kim's best tricks for stopping annoying robocalls in this handy guide.

Get the eBook