How to Pair a Bluetooth Device to Your Computer, Tablet, or Phone

By Chris Hoffman on April 14th, 2015

Wireless devices with Bluetooth radios must be “paired” with each other before they can communicate. This involves making them discoverable and potentially entering a PIN.

The pairing process works with “Bluetooth profiles,” and each device has to be compatible. For example, you can only pair a mouse or keyboard with a device that’s been designed to work with that type of accessory.

Put an Accessory or Device Into Discovery Mode

To save battery power, a device with Bluetooth isn’t constantly broadcasting that it’s available. Even if you have a Bluetooth-enabled accessory near a Bluetooth-enabled device, they won’t be able to see each other until you put them into discovery mode. The device will then be “discoverable” by other devices — for a few minutes.

First, put the accessory you want to use into discovery mode. The exact way you do this depends on the accessory. If you have a headset, you may need to hold a button down on the headset for several seconds until a light starts flashing. A keyboard or mouse may have a similar button you may need to press or hold down. A speaker may have a Bluetooth button on its remote that puts it into Bluetooth discovery mode. Others may go into discovery mode by default after you turn them on. A light may flash to indicate that the device is in discovery mode. It’ll only stay discoverable for a few minutes.

Not sure how to put your accessory into discovery mode? Consult its manual, check the manufacturer’s website, or perform a web search for instructions.

bluetooth discovery button

If you’re using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can make it discoverable, too. On an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, just open the Bluetooth settings screen — your device will be discoverable as long as you have that screen open. On a Mac, just open the Bluetooth settings screen. On Windows, you’ll need to search the Control Panel for Bluetooth click “Change Bluetooth settings,” and enable the “Allow Bluetooth devices to find this PC” option.

Note that you don’t need to make a device discoverable if you’ll be connecting from it. You only need to make a device discoverable if you’re connecting to it. For example, let’s say you wanted to connect a headset to your Android phone — you’d just need to make the headset discoverable, and not the Android phone.

But, let’s say you wanted to connect an Android phone to your computer — you’d need to make the Android phone discoverable.

View a List of Discoverable Devices Nearby

Now, go to the smartphone, tablet, computer, music player, or whatever other device you want to connect the Bluetooth accessory to. Look for the Bluetooth settings or devices screen. This screen will display a list of nearby Bluetooth devices that are in discovery mode as well as devices paired to the device.

Be sure the Bluetooth hardware on your device is actually enabled. You’ll often see a toggle in the Bluetooth settings area.

For example, here’s how to do this on popular operating systems:

  • iPhone and iPad: Open the Settings app and tap Bluetooth near the top. of the list
  • Android: Open the Settings screen and tap the Bluetooth option under Wireless & networks.
  • Windows: Open the Control Panel and click “Add a device” under Devices and Printers. You’ll see discoverable Bluetooth devices near you. You’ll need Bluetooth hardware in your computer to do this, but you can always add Bluetooth to your computer.
  • Mac OS X: Click the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click the Bluetooth icon in the System Preferences window.
  • Chrome OS: Click the status area at the bottom-right corner of the screen. Click the Bluetooth status in the pop-up that appears.
  • Linux: This varies depending on your Linux distribution and desktop. On Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, click the gear menu at the top-right corner of your screen, select System Settings, and click the Bluetooth icon in the System Settings window.
  • Other Devices: Whether you’re using a music player or a video game console, you should generally just be able to enter the device’s settings screen and look for a “Bluetooth” option.

Pair the Device and Enter a PIN

Select the discoverable device in the list to connect. Depending on the device and its security settings, you may have to enter a PIN code to pair the device. If you need a PIN code, it should be displayed on the device’s screen. For example, if you’re pairing your phone with your computer, you’ll see a PIN on your phone’s screen and you’ll have to type it into your computer.

You may sometimes not have to type the PIN. Instead, you may simply see the PIN displayed on both devices. Just ensure each device shows the same PIN code before continuing.

In some cases, you may be asked to enter a PIN even if your device can’t display it. For example, you may be asked for a PIN when pairing with a Bluetooth headset or speaker. Entering the code “0000” will often work. If not, you may need to check the device’s documentation (or perform a web search) to find the PIN it needs.


By default, after the devices are paired, they’ll automatically see each other and communicate when they’re both powered on and have Bluetooth enabled.

You shouldn’t have to re-pair the accessory and the device when you want to use them together again. You’ll only need to do this if you tell your devices to forget each other — or pair a headset with another device, for example.

Image Credit: William Hook on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 04/14/15
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