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How to Use Handoff on Mac to Pick Up Where You Left Off

Updated on Thursday, May 16, 2024

iBoysoft author Jenny Zeng

Written by

Jenny Zeng
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee


Copy across Devices: How to Handoff from iPhone to Mac?

Summary: This post tells you what Handoff on MacBook is and the steps to turn on and off Handoff. Besides, it shows you how to use Handoff on Mac with examples and explains how to copy across devices.

how to use Handoff on Mac

Have you ever wanted to start something on Mac and finish it on the go? If so, you will love Apple's Handoff feature, which enables you to transfer tasks and data from one device to another. Keep reading to learn how to use Handoff on Mac and other Apple devices.

What is Handoff on MacBook?

Handoff is part of Apple's continuity features that allows you to start a task on one Apple device and pick up where you left off with another one nearby. It lets you continue tasks seamlessly between different Apple devices, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Pass a webpage in Safari from Mac to iPhone and vice versa
  • Start composing an email on one device and continue on another
  • Copy and paste between devices
  • Transfer Pages document across devices

 Tips: Do you know that Handoff is powered by a background process called mDNSResponder? This process helps detect devices on the local network so that they can communicate with each other. 

Handoff requirements

Before enabling Handoff on your Apple device, ensure that it meets these system requirements for continuity on Mac.

Apple devicesMaciPhoneiPadiPod touchApple Watch
Supported OSOS X Yosemite or lateriOS 8 or lateriOS 8 or lateriOS 8 or laterwatchOS 1.0 or later
Models support HandoffMacBook Pro/MacBook Air/iMac/Mac mini in 2012 or later 
MacBook in 2015 or later 
Mac Pro in 2013 or later
All iMac Pro
All Mac Studio
iPhone 5 or lateriPad 4th generation or newer
iPad Pro (all models)
iPad Air 1 or later
iPad mini 1 or later
iPod touch 5th generation or laterAll Apple Watch models

Apps compatible with Handoff

Although Handoff was released way back in 2014, accompanied by iOS 8, it still has limited app support. It's compatible with certain pre-installed apps on Apple devices and some third-party software as stated below:

Built-in apps: Safari, Mail, Maps, Reminders, Pages, Contacts, Numbers, Notes, Calendar, and Keynote.

Third-party apps: Chrome, iA Writer Pro, NYTimes, Airbnb, Deliveries, Pocket, CARROT Weather, PC Calc, Fantastical 2, Things 3, Bear, Drafts, and Yoink.

How to enable Handoff on Mac?

To continue working from one Apple device to another, you need to make sure both devices are signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID and have turned on Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff. Here are the steps to turn on Handoff on different Apple devices.

 Note: Your Mac also needs to support Bluetooth Low Energy to work with Handoff. You can check whether your Mac is Bluetooth Low Energy supported by opening the Apple logo > System Preferences > System Report > Bluetooth.

How to turn on Handoff on Mac:

  1. Open the Apple logo > System Preferences.
  2. Click General, select "Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices."how to turn on Handoff on Mac

How to turn on Handoff on iPhone/iPad/iPod touch:

  1. Open Settings > General.
  2. Click Airplay & Handoff, then toggle the Handoff switch to on.

How to turn on Handoff on Apple Watch:

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Click General, then toggle the Handoff switch to on.

How to use Handoff on Mac and iPhone?

After setting up Handoff on your Mac and iPhone and ensuring that both devices are within Bluetooth range (no more than 33 feet) as well as connected to the same Wi-Fi, you are now ready to work across devices.

How to hand off from iPhone to Mac?

As an example, we'll show you how to hand off Mail from iPhone to Mac.

  1. On your iPhone, launch Mail and fill out the information.
  2. Go to your Mac's Dock, and tap the Handoff icon (the Mail app with an iPhone icon on it).Where to find Handoff icon on Mac
  3. Your Mac will launch the Mail app and load it to where you left off.

How to hand off from Mac to iPhone?

As an example, we'll show you how to share a website in Safari from Mac to iPhone. Other apps compatible with Handoff work in the same way.

  1. On your Mac, open Safari and visit the website you want to continue reading on your iPhone.
  2. On your iPhone, swipe up from the bottom to the middle of your screen or double-clicking the Home screen to activate App Switcher.
  3. Tap the banner reading "Safari From Andy's MacBook " at the screen's bottom-left.where to find the Handoff banner on iPhone
  4. Then your iPhone will open Safari to the same page you viewed on Mac.

 Note: The webpage Handoff transferred will only open in the default web browser of your device. If you want Safari to open a website hand-offed from Mac, set it as the default browser for your iPhone.

Copy across devices on Mac

One of the most excellent features of Handoff is Universal Clipboard which makes copying and pasting between devices as easy as on one. Once Handoff is enabled on both devices, you can use Command + C to copy texts on one device, then paste the same content via Command + V to another device.

Sometimes, Handoff may cache the files you shared between Apple devices and store them in a folder named /private/var/folders/.../shared-pasteboard/. If you are transferring a large number of files on Mac and experiencing slow transfer speed, copying and pasting not working, or insufficient space, you can resolve the issue with one of these solutions:

  • Delete the cache files in /private/var/folders/.../shared-pasteboard/ folder.
  • Turn off Handoff and use another way to transfer files.
  • Drag and drop files instead of using Command-C and Command-V.

How to stop Handoff on Mac?

When two devices are Handoff-enabled, they automatically share tasks when a supported application is running. If someone else borrowed your device, you might want to turn off Handoff to avoid sharing what you do with them. 

To disable Handoff on Mac, you need to uncheck "Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices" in System Preferences > General.