How to select a Bluetooth adapter in OS X

Bluetooth main

After plugging in the Belkin Mini BluetoothV4.0 USB Adapter to fix my erratic Magic Trackpad problems on my MacBook Pro, there was no obvious way to tell if it was identified or working.

The solution was to download the Bluetooth Explorer app, which is part of the Hardware IO Tools for Xcode bundle. This is only available from the Apple Developer site, which requires free registration to access. I can’t link to the download directly, so you’ll need to search for “Bluetooth” from the Downloads for Apple Developers page. One thing to watch — the results list routinely came up blank when I was poking about on that page. This seems to be a glitch with the site, since it happened to me with both Chrome and Safari. Flushing my browser cookies and cache fixed it.

Hardware-IO-download

Open the downloaded file (“hardware_io_tools_for_xcode__october_2013.dmg”) and drag the Bluetooth Explorer app to your Applications folder.

Bluetooth-DMG

Nothing appears to happen when you run Bluetooth Explorer, but that’s because there’s no window and everything happens via its menu bar. Select HCI Controller Selector (⌘K) from its Tools menu and the Host Control Selector dialog box appears.

Bluetooth-menu

The  Host Control Selector dialog has a drop-down with, in my case, two options — the default “Apple BRCM” Bluetooth adapter and my new Belkin adaptor with “Broadcom Corp” Bluetooth chip. I just selected the Broadcom option, paired my Magic Trackpad with it in the usual way (System Preferences > Bluetooth) and I was done.

Bluetooth-selection

The Host Control Selector dialog states that any changes are not retained after a restart, but mine certainly was and the new Belkin adapter seems to take precedence over built-in Bluetooth.

There’s a bunch of other useful stuff in Bluetooth Explorer for troubleshooting Bluetooth problems, but thankfully, I didn’t need them.

  • disqus_4cbwnwIN8r

    Jules – please help. When I click my broadcam and click activate it just jumps back to my apple controller – it wont let me select the controller

    • Josh Taylor

      I just used this to switch to a BT4 dongle. After I hit activate it jumped back also to the built in one, but if you click the list you will notice it says (ACTIVE) next to the new one.

    • Nike

      I had the same problem.

  • James Snell

    Awesome. Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks. Now my little iogear USB dongle is driving.

  • Turns2Stone

    Wow, very glad I stumbled across your blog! I was having the same issue with my Magic Trackpad + 2014 Mac mini + USB 3.0 HDDs. I got the IOGear GBU521 adapter, a USB extension cord, and followed your instructions. So far, it works great! The ONLY issue.. I have lost Handoff support. It is a small price to pay for having a Trackpad that actually works.

  • http://flickr.com/arthur97reis Arthur Reis

    Thanks, very helpful! Do you think that by using an external bluetooth adapter with my MacBook Pro Retina might solve the interference problem with WiFi? This is driving me crazy!

  • Isaiah Jones

    Thank you so fucking much!!! You don’t realize how much I had to dig to find this! :D (Typing from my bluetooth LE keyboard)

  • Torsten Torrebelvicino

    MacbookPRO Mid2009 on Logilink BT0015 works fine, thanx

  • Devlin Ford

    This doesn’t appear to be working on El Cap 10.11. I can choose my adapter, but it never does say [Active] beside it?! Has anyone had any luck on El Capitain?

    • jake weber

      anyone had luck with this? also on El Capitan

      • Devlin Ford

        Hey Jake,

        Not sure of the latest Bluetooth Explorer that I am using but if you download the latest it works with El Cap.

    • http://www.thebiggayscifiblog.com/ Byron DeMent

      Having the same issue, downloaded the Bluetooth Explorer from September 2015 and it will not activate the USB Broadcom dongle.

      • Devlin Ford

        Hey Byron, I cannot be sure because it was a while ago, but I think I am running an older version of Bluetooth Explorer as I started downloading older Dev Tools to find one that worked on El Cap. The version I am currently running is 4.4.0, and it works on El Cap.

        Hope that helps….

        • http://www.thebiggayscifiblog.com/ Byron DeMent

          Thanks Devlin. It turns out I just didn’t read fully enough through all the caveats for this workaround, and it is actually my Atheros wireless card that’s to blame. So unless I replace that, as I understand it this patch will not work for me. Too bad, but it was only a $10 gaffe on my part. Oh well.

  • DrMuggg

    BT Explorer is very handily removed from latest XCode… FUCK IT! I don’t seem to be able to download it without ending up in obsure pages on the net (Who wants me to update Flash… nope)

    • tar

      it still there open Xcode. press xcode in menu bar>open developer tools>more developer tools.. and find the Hardware IO Tools on the list.. & now fuck them

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