Apple introduced Universal Clipboard in 2016 as a glue that connects what you copy and paste across all your iCloud-linked devices. Copy some text on an iPhone and you can paste it on a Mac. AirDrop works as a more general case for the same things, but Universal Clipboard is instant and invisible when it works. (It used to be erratic in my experience, it’s gotten more and more rock solid in the last few iOS, iPadOS, and macOS releases.)
To use Universal Clipboard, you must meet the continuity and transfer requirements. For Continuity, that means running iOS 10 or later on an iPhone 5 or later and nearly any iPad model, or nearly all 2012 or later Mac models with macOS 10.12 Sierra or later installed. For Handoff, you must have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on on all devices you want to use the feature with, they must be signed in to the same iCloud account, and they must be within Bluetooth range of each other. This ensures proximity and reduces potential privacy breaches and attack surfaces.
Any device you use Universal Clipboard with must also have Handoff enabled:
In iOS or iPadOS, go to Settings > General > AirPlay and Transfer and use the Hand off switch.
In macOS, you’ll find it in System Preferences > General at the bottom (“Allow transfers between this Mac and your iCloud devices”).
For an Apple Watch, use the Watch app on the paired iPhone: tap General and tap Enable Handoff.
There is no additional configuration: copy on one device and paste on another. Apple notes that the copied item “stays there for a while” in one of its support documents, but it’s more exactly about two minutes. (To transfer entire files between Macs, both Macs must have 10.13 High Sierra or later installed.)
Because the clipboard contains sensitive information, Apple doesn’t use both proximity and one access restriction, as mentioned above, but also relies on end-to-end encryption between any set of two devices that use the feature. So if you have an iPad and an iPhone near your Mac, Apple creates separate secure connections between your Mac and iPad and between your Mac and iPhone.
What if you want Universal Clipboard to be? not in use? You can turn off Bluetooth on the device you’re copying to, such as your Mac, but other features will be disabled. You can disable Handoff in the locations described above, which will prevent other functions from working, such as opening websites or documents through Handoff.
This Mac 911 article answers a question from a Macworld reader.
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