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A Complete Guide to Universal Clipboard in macOS High Sierra

Are you familiar with Universal Clipboard? It’s a feature of Apple’s Continuity initiative, making it possible to copy text, photos and videos from one Mac to paste them to another. With the release of macOS High Sierra, Apple added the ability to copy and paste complete files from one Mac to another, providing Mac users with a quick alternative to AirDrop. In this guide, we’ll tell you all you need to know in order to use Universal Clipboard for fast and easy file transfers between Macs.

1) Do Your Macs Support Universal Clipboard?
Not all Macs running macOS High Sierra can take advantage of Universal Clipboard. The Continuity features of macOS require Bluetooth LE, and of course the Mac you’re trying to use Universal Clipboard on must be able to run macOS High Sierra. That limits the Macs that support Universal Clipboard to the following:

  • iMac (2012 or newer)
  • MacBook (early 2015 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (2012 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 or newer)
  • Mac mini (2012 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (late 2013)

2) Sign Into iCloud On Both Macs
When Universal Clipboard sends files and other content between devices, it uses iCloud to handle the security and move the files. Both Macs must be logged into the same iCloud account in order for this to work; you and a co-worker can’t use Universal Clipboard to pass files back and forth, and in a case like that you’d revert to AirDrop. To ensure that both Macs are logged into the same iCloud account:

1. Launch System Preferences on both Macs

2. Click on the iCloud icon

Make sure that both Macs are signed into the same iCloud account
(Make sure that both Macs are signed into the same iCloud account.)

In the left sidebar of the iCloud pane you’ll see the name and email account associated with the iCloud account you’re logged into (see screenshot above). Be sure both Macs are signed into the same account. If not, click on the Sign Out button, then sign in with the correct account.

3) Make Sure Both Macs Have Bluetooth Turned On
1. Click the Bluetooth icon in the Menu bar of both Macs. It’s located in the upper right region of the Mac screen, and is usually situated right next to the Wi-Fi icon (see screenshot below).

Making sure Bluetooth is turned on
(Making sure Bluetooth is turned on.)

2. If Bluetooth is indeed turned on, you’ll see that the first line of the Bluetooth menu item says “Bluetooth: On”. If it isn’t currently turned on, the second line will say “Turn Bluetooth On”, allowing you to enable Bluetooth with a simple click.

4) Make Sure Both Macs Are On The Same Wi-Fi Network
1. Click the Wi-Fi icon in the Menu bar of both Macs. It’s usually right next to the Bluetooth icon, so if you’ve completed the step above, you know where to look (see screenshot below).

Checking the name of the Wi-Fi network and ensuring Wi-Fi is turned on
(Checking the name of the Wi-Fi network and ensuring Wi-Fi is turned on.)

2. Look for a check mark next to the name of one of the Wi-Fi networks. That’s the network that your Mac is currently using. Repeat the same check on the other Mac. If the two networks are different, change one of the Macs so that they’re both using the same Wi-Fi network.

5) Copy and Paste Your Files
These easy setup steps make it possible to use Continuity between your Macs. All you need to do is copy a file (or files) on one Mac, then go to the other Mac and paste.

  • On one of the Macs, select the file or files you wish to send to the other Mac.
  • Press Command ( ⌘ ) + C to copy the selected files. Alternatively, right-click the selected files and select Copy from the pop-up menu.
  • On the other Mac, select the location you want to paste the files into by clicking on the desktop or opening a folder.
  • Press Command ( ⌘ ) + V to paste the selected files, or select Paste from the Finder menu.

That’s all it takes to use Universal Clipboard between two Macs. It’s most useful if you’re trying to set up two Macs, say a desktop and a MacBook, with the same documents and want an easy way to transfer them between the computers.

Get more macOS tricks and guides at the Rocket Yard Tech Tips section!

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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  • I really don’t understand why this has been offered. I certainly don’t want to share an account in order to do this. I know two married couples who try to share one Apple ID and it makes for a mess with things like mail. I agree with ‘a’…a solution to a non-problem. AirDrop is still the answer in this household.

    I think this is the basis for the COLLABORATION thing with something like PAGES. Once again, I don’t want to share an account to permit this to be done.

    I recognize that this is a challenge to program for Apple, but until they figure out a secure way to do it I’ll just keep on with tried and proven methods of software markups sent and returned via mail or iMessage.

  • Why bounce files thru god knows where instead of simply allowing file sharing between the two computers?

    Another solution to a non problem that merely makes computing more complicated & conditions people to store their data on a hackable platform. & further ties people to the Apple brand.

  • I currently have a late 2011 MacBook Pro. Is there a Bluetooth dongle I can get, which will work natively with macOS High Sierra, which will give me the Bluetooth 4.x LE required for Universal Clipboard? If so, from where can it be obtained?