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Where Do AirDrop Files Go On iPhone And Mac?

When you use AirDrop for the first time, it does seem like a magical feature to share your files on iOS and macOS devices. With this feature, Apple has done an exceptional job in allowing users to transfer their data wirelessly.

Earlier, we had no other option than to use external Hard Drives and USBs to share our files and information, but things have changed a lot after the invention of Bluetooth, AirDrop and similar wireless technologies.


Now, you can just select the files and share them with any paired Apple device using AirDrop feature.

But if you’re not well versed with its functions, you might have to search a bit for the location of downloaded files.

So, where do AirDrop files go?

Since AirDrop doesn’t ask for the specific location to save your files, it becomes difficult to locate files with different extensions on iOS devices.

Alright, let’s find out how AirDrop saves files on iOS and Mac so that you don’t have to look into several files and folders next time.

For macOS Platform –

When you send files to macOS from iPhone or Mac, all these files will be downloaded and stored in ‘Downloads’ folder.


Try using this functionality once from your device to confirm the download location.

You may also use the Finder app or several useful filtering options in Downloads folder to find the appropriate file in no time.

Here’s how you can use the filters to save some of your time –

For iOS Platform –

Although the process of sending files to iOS devices over AirDrop is almost the same, there is a small difference in the later part of the process. The Downloads section is not present on iOS platform, which makes things slightly complicated for novice users.

As you know, iOS is an entirely revamped version of Mac operating system. It doesn’t display files and folders in macOS style, so it becomes difficult to find them especially when you’re dealing with large no. of photos or videos.

So, where do AirDrop files go on iPhone? And where do AirDrop photos go?

Well, it uses a different technique to make your files available on individual apps.

For eg., Photos airdropped from Mac or other devices will be saved in Photos app of your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Sounds confusing? Here’s a quick breakdown of how AirDrop saves files on your devices –

  • Photos – Check the Photos app
  • Videos – Check the Videos app
  • Website Links – Check the Safari browser and find these links in the Reading List section.
  • eBooks – Check the iBooks app
  • Notes – Check the Notes app
  • Calendar Data or Special Events – Check the Calendar app
  • Locations – Check the Maps app

Simple, isn’t it? Now, follow the same strategy to locate different AirDrop files.

For unidentified file formats, you will have these two options on your iPhone –

  • Download and install the supported app.
  • Save the file to iCloud Drive.

As you can see above, iPhone doesn’t support ZIP format on any of its preinstalled apps. You’ll have to download a compatible app from App Store so that these files can be downloaded and opened on the phone.

And if you choose iCloud Drive location to save the AirDrop file, it will be safely stored on their servers.

Note – This rule applies to all other unsupported file formats. You can only use your iCloud Drive to save such files.

AirDrop Photos Not Found

Many users have been complaining about their missing airdropped photos on iOS platform. The feature shows the successful transfer of files, but you won’t find them on your iPhone.

Well, don’t worry! You can fix this problem too.

Tip 1:

To address this issue, you will have to perform the following steps –

  1. Check if there is any date or year on the photos that you’ve just sent from iOS or macOS device.
  2. Open the ‘Photos’ app on iPhone and search for your photos as per the month/year.

Sometimes, the iOS system automatically saves backdated files according to their respective month and year data.

Tip 2:

Send files in smaller sizes and numbers. That’s right!

It’s always easy to manage and track few files when you batch process them. And in case some photos go missing from Photos Library, you can still airdrop them again.

Folder Not Found

The ‘Folder Not Found’ is another much talked about issue on the internet.

Many users send their Mac folders to iOS devices through AirDrop feature. Well, there is nothing wrong with it. You can share as many folders as you want on iOS devices.

However, the iOS platform won’t detect these shared Mac folders, as it uses iCloud Drive to save such files on the servers.

If you want to open and edit the files from such folders, there is no standard app to do so on the iPhone. Hence, your folders’ content will remain in stealth mode without giving any access to you.

Things to know –

  • The iOS file system can only open a particular type of files in its standard apps.
  • You can’t open MP3 files in Music Player automatically. You will have to sync them via iTunes. Don’t AirDrop such files!
  • If you don’t accept any suggested apps while airdropping them on iOS, the file transfer will not take place at all.
  • Spotlight feature won’t help much in searching lost/missing files.

Anyway, there are some limitations to AirDrop and iOS/macOS system at the moment. Let’s hope and wait for the Apple team to resolve some of these issues in their next updates.

Have you managed to find your airdropped files? Do let me know in the comments below.

2 comments… add one
  • Kalyan February 8, 2018, 1:10 pm

    I airdropped FLAC files from Mac to iPhone 8. I did a mistake by opening with Files. After which I clicked the cancel button. Where are the airdropped files now? Do they keep on occupying space in iPhone? How to clean them?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Harry February 8, 2018, 2:31 pm

      Yes, if the transfer is successful, these files will occupy space on your iPhone. You’ll find your FLAC files in Files app, and you can delete them from there.

      Apart from that, you can also check the iCloud Drive settings. The iOS system stores unrecognized files in the form of Documents & Data. You’ll see the file names & sizes in Other Documents section of iCloud Drive settings.

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