One Apple AirPod in the charging case and the other lying beside it.
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Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro offer a truly wireless earbud experience and sound great, to boot! But what do you do when things aren’t working like they’re supposed to? Here are some common issues you might encounter with your AirPods, and how to solve them.

Pairing Your New AirPods

If your AirPods are brand-new, you can pair them easily by following the steps below:

  1. Wake your iPhone, so it’s unlocked and the Home screen is displayed.
  2. Open the AirPods case with your AirPods inside and hold it near your iPhone until the pop-up message appears.
  3. Follow the on-screen pairing instructions to complete the setup.

Your AirPods are synced to your Apple ID, which means you won’t need to complete this pairing process again. Your AirPods should also work with any other Apple devices automatically, including iPads, Macs, and Apple Watches.

If the automatic pairing process doesn’t work, check out the section on how to manually initiate the pairing process later in this article.

A pop-up message showing the battery life of a pair of AirPods and their case on a paired iPhone.

When you put your AirPods on, they attempt to pair with the last-known device. Sometimes, you might have to select your AirPods from a list of known devices.

Follow the steps below on iOS or iPadOS to find your AirPods on the known devices list:

  1. Swipe down from the top-right corner (iPhone X or later) or up from the bottom of the screen (iPhone 8 or earlier) to open the Control Center.
  2. Tap the AirPlay icon in the “Now Playing” tile.
  3. Select your AirPods from the list.

Follow the steps below on macOS to find your AirPods on the known devices list:

  1. Click the “Volume” icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  2. Select your AirPods from the list.

You can also select your AirPods from the System Preferences > Sound > Output menu.

Pair Your AirPods Manually

Occasionally, you might have to pair your AirPods with a new device. You can use this method to pair with another iOS device that isn’t using your Apple ID. You can also pair your AirPods with any regular Bluetooth phone (like an Android) or even a Windows PC.

Follow these steps to pair your AirPods manually:

  1. Initiate the Bluetooth pairing interface on the device with which you want to pair your AirPods.
  2. Open the AirPods case with the AirPods inside.
  3. Press and hold the small circular button on the back of the case until the LED on your AirPods turns white and starts flashing.
  4. Select your AirPods on the device with which you want to pair them, and then complete the process.

The Pairing Button on the back of an AirPods Case.

Your AirPods behave like a standard set of Bluetooth headphones when they’re paired with a non-Apple device. This means you won’t be able to use features like automatic ear detection, single-ear listening, or customizable gestures.

Reset Your AirPods to Solve Connectivity Issues

Sometimes, your AirPods might not work as advertised. Maybe they’re not appearing in the sound output list or repeatedly disconnecting when you try to listen to music. In these instances, it might be a good idea to have the paired device “forget” your AirPods, and then re-pair them.

Follow these steps to re-pair your AirPods on iOS or iPadOS:

  1. Head to Settings > Bluetooth and find your AirPods.
  2. Tap the Information button (i) next to your AirPods.
  3. Tap “Forget This Device.”
  4.  Follow the automatic instructions we covered above to re-pair your AirPods.

Tap "Forget This Device."

Follow these steps to re-pair your AirPods on macOS:

  1. Head to System Preferences > Bluetooth.
  2. Find your AirPods and click the “X” next to them.
  3. Confirm that you want to forget this Bluetooth connection.
  4. Follow the manual pairing instructions we covered above to re-pair your AirPods.

Restart Your Device to Solve Connectivity Issues

One pervasive issue that plagues AirPods is their tendency to drop out while music is playing. Simply taking the AirPods out of your ears and replacing them isn’t enough to fix the problem, and it will keep happening.

Even the nuclear “Forget This Device” option sometimes won’t resolve this issue. Usually, the only way to solve it is to restart your iOS device.

Follow these steps to restart an iPhone X or later:

  1. Press and hold the side and volume-up buttons.
  2. When the prompt appears, tap “Slide to Power Off.”
  3. After the iPhone powers off, press and hold the side button to restart it.

Follow these steps to restart an iPhone 8 or earlier:

  1. Press and hold the side button.
  2. When the prompt appears, tap “Slide to Power Off.”
  3. After the iPhone powers off, press and hold the side button to restart it.

Rename and Customize AirPods Gestures

You can customize your AirPods easily if you first pair them with an iOS device, and then place them in your ears so you hear the connection noise.

Then, head to Settings > Bluetooth and look for your AirPods in the list of paired devices. Tap the Information button (i) to see a list of options. Here, you can name your AirPods and assign gestures to each ear. Double-tap an ear to initiate the gestures of your choice.

The menu to customize AirPods gestures for the "Right" ear.

If you find that you’re accidentally skipping tracks or activating Siri, you can turn off these gestures entirely. If you had to force your device to forget and re-pair with your AirPods due to a connectivity issue, you’ll have to set up these gestures again from scratch.

Solving Problems with Automatic Ear Detection

Automatic ear detection is one of the standout AirPods features. Not only does this enable automatic pausing and playback, but it also automatically saves battery life when you’re not using your AirPods.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work correctly. A major reason for this is that AirPods attract ear wax and other grime. When the sensors (the small black dots on the inside and outside of the earphones) are obscured, automatic ear detection doesn’t work.

The "Automatic Ear Detection" option in iOS.

The best way to remedy this is to make sure your AirPods are squeaky clean at all times. If you want to disable ear detection, visit Settings > Bluetooth, tap the Information button (i) next to your AirPods, and then toggle-Off “Automatic Ear Detection.”

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Icky AirPods

Patchy or Crackling Audio

AirPods can maintain a connection as long as they’re within 100 feet of your iOS device. If you’re listening from an Android device, it’s more like 30 feet. However, these distances can vary depending on the environment.

If the audio starts crackling, move closer to the source. Solid walls and electrical devices, like microwaves, routers, and vacuum cleaners, can also limit the effective range of your AirPods.

Use Find My to Locate Lost AirPods

Just like your iPhone, Mac, or any other Apple device, AirPods are compatible with Apple’s rebranded Find My service (previously referred to as Find My iPhone).

Follow these steps to find your AirPods via the Find My service on iCloud:

  1. Log in at iCloud.com.
  2. Click “Find iPhone” and wait for the map to load.
  3. Select your AirPods from the drop-down list at the top of the page.

AirPods labeled on a "Find My iPhone" map on the iCloud website.

You can use any of Apple’s dedicated Find My apps to locate your missing AirPods. If they’re turned off, you’ll see their last-known location. If your AirPods are turned on but aren’t in their case, you can play an audible sound to help you find them.

When Your AirPods Won’t Charge

If you’re trying to charge your AirPods wirelessly, make sure you have a wireless charging case. If you have first-generation AirPods, but you haven’t upgraded to the wireless charging case, you can’t charge them wirelessly.

If you have a wireless charging case, you’ll see an LED on the outside of it. If you only see an LED on the inside of the case, your AirPods aren’t compatible with wireless chargers.

If you’re having problems charging via a Lightning cable, the charging port might be dirty. Clean the Lightning port on your AirPods and make sure it’s free of any pocket lint or other debris, that could be causing the charging problems.

A clean Lightning Port on an AirPods Case.

RELATED: What to Do When Your iPhone or iPad Isn't Charging Properly

Replace Individual AirPods or the Charging Case

Did you break one of your AirPods or lose their charging case while wearing them? Fortunately, Apple has thought of these predicaments and will replace a single AirPod for $109. A charging case will run you $95, while a wireless charging case comes in at $125.

For AirPods Pro, you’re looking at $139 per AirPod and $155 for the charging case.

The "Lost AirPods" page on Apple's website.

In some cases, it might make more sense to just purchase a new pair of AirPods. You can also take out an AppleCare+ policy on your AirPods, which provides accidental damage coverage for a $45 fee per incident.

Get More From Your AirPods

If you love your AirPods, why not invest in some accessories and get more out of them? You can upgrade to a wireless charging case or add hooks to prevent them from slipping while you work out.

If you’ve already made the leap to the wireless charging case, you might want to look into how you can charge your devices on the cheap with AirPower alternatives.

RELATED: Charge Your Stuff Wirelessly with These AirPower Alternatives

Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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