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What is "AirDrop"? Which Macs are compatible with the AirDrop technology? Are there any "hacks" to use AirDrop with incompatible Macs?
In Apple's press copy, the company explains that "AirDrop" is a technology introduced by OS X Lion (10.7) that "finds nearby Macs and automatically sets up a peer-to-peer wireless connection to make transferring files quick and easy." The subsequently introduced OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) also supports AirDrop.
Most importantly, AirDrop uses Wi-Fi -- which Apple used to refer to as "AirPort" or "AirPort Extreme" -- directly between two or more Macs, which means a file does not travel on the "open" Internet, but rather only between the computers. Apple likewise importantly notes that AirDrop uses "TLS encryption" and "creates a firewall between you and the person you are sharing a file with, preventing anyone from accessing your computer over that connection."
This should mean that AirDrop file transfers are secure. Although there are no security guarantees in the digital space, it is a reasonably safe bet that AirDrop is more secure than online file transfer methods and certainly vastly more secure than sending a file via e-mail, which is not encrypted at all.
General AirDrop Supported Macs
On Apple's own support site, the company notes that if AirDrop "isn't listed under the Go menu or doesn't appear in Finder window sidebars, your Mac doesn't support this feature" when running OS X Lion or OS X Mountain Lion. Earlier versions of the operating system are not supported.
Apple elaborates that the following Mac generations are compatible with AirDrop when running OS X Lion or OS X Mountain Lion:
Asterisks note that Apple further disclaims that the "white" MacBook (Late 2008) -- which more precisely is the MB402LL/B configuration of the MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.1 13-Inch (Penryn) -- and the "17-Inch Late 2008" MacBook Pro -- which Apple commonly refered to as the "Early 2008" MacBook Pro models -- do not support AirDrop.
Apple more recently dubbed these MacBook Pro models the "Early 2008 and Late 2008" models to accommodate for minor standard RAM and hard drive configuration differences for the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.5 17-Inch (Early 2008) and MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.6 17-Inch (Early 2008) made on October 14, 2008.
AirDrop "Hack" Option
There is no way to add AirDrop support to Macs running versions of Mac OS X earlier than Lion, but for systems capable of running Lion, but that do not support AirDrop, there is a terminal hack option.
As first discovered by an anonymous Mac OS X Hints visitor, and elaborated upon by Macworld, AirDrop formally requires the Mac to have Wi-Fi hardware "capable of personal area networking (PAN) for peer-to-peer connections," but by changing one line of code within terminal, it modifies AirDrop to work over any network rather than just a PAN.
Although convenient, note that this hack disables the encryption that is standard between two Macs that formally support AirDrop over a PAN, and it would be wise to proceed with caution should you choose to go this route.
AirDrop Mac Identification Help
If you're not sure which Mac or Macs you have or need to determine AirDrop compatibility -- official or otherwise -- EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup makes it easy to lookup any of these models by the last three or four characters of its Serial Number (the last three characters if it has an eleven character serial number and the last four characters if it has a twelve character serial number).
Specific AirDrop Supported Macs
Specifically, the following Macs formally support AirDrop when running OS X Lion or OS X Mountain Lion:
Please note that all subsequently released Macs formally support AirDrop as well.