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15 ways to fix Bluetooth pairing problems

15 ways to fix Bluetooth pairing problems
Maksim Prochan | Dreamstime.com Dreamstime.com

Bluetooth is great for rocking out in the car or talking hands-free, but sometimes getting it working feels like pulling blue teeth. There can be pairing problems, obscure error codes, or completely unhelpful flashing lights and that can be very frustrating. Get your Bluetooth devices up and running with these top tips.

1. Make sure both devices are on

Just about any sync will fail if one of the devices is off. It seems 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. Make sure everything is turned on and ready to connect, not trapped in sleep or power save.

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

Now that we know both devices have Bluetooth technology, we need to check and be sure both of them support the same version of Bluetooth. Bluetooth is supposed to be backwards 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 and make sure both devices support the same protocols.

4. Check the manufacturer websites

Sometimes, manufacturers will 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 and see if there's a known issue, fix, or way to get around the problem posted in their technical support section.

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 phone to their car or working hands-free. Check in the settings for both devices and make sure Bluetooth is turned on and ready to connect. Make sure the devices are using the same profile Bluetooth devices have several different protocols that 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 and be sure both devices are speaking the same language.

bluetooth ear

6. Reboot both devices just to be sure

It’s time for the magic words. Have you tried rebooting? 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. Check and be sure everything has a good charge.

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—RF—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, and 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. Delete the settings for the device you’re trying to pair, then restart the discovery process. Make sure all software updates are installed for both devices. Sometimes manufacturers mess things up and devices need a little extra software tweaking before they can work together.

bluetooth clock

11. Check for updates

Check and be sure your phone, laptop, or whatever you’re trying to pair has the latest updates and upgrades from the manufacturer installed, then try the pairing 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 that know what they're doing, so they may not be pushed out the way a software update is. That said, many times they can fix an obscure problem that's preventing 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 it’s also relatively short range. Make sure your devices are as close as possible, though they don’t need to be touching, otherwise signals may not get where they need to go.

14. Get away from other sources of interference like USB ports

OK, you moved away from the router, the microwave, and all that stuff. But sometimes even a USB port can cause interference with Bluetooth pairing if you're trying to pair with a laptop or car stereo with USB ports. You may need to move the device away from the USB port while staying within range to get around this potential interference.

15. Clear any stored settings on your device(s)

If things are still snarled, try deleting any saved settings on your device. Sometimes that file can get corrupted or sometimes it just won’t work like it should and a fresh start can get things going.

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