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. (Used to be erratic in my experience; it’s gotten more and more rock-solid in recent iOS, iPadOS, and macOS releases.)
To use Universal Clipboard, you must meet the Continuity and Transfer requirements. For continuity, that means iOS 10 or later running on an iPhone 5 or later and almost all iPad models, or almost all 2012 or later Mac models with macOS 10.12 Sierra or later installed. For Handoff, you must have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled on all the 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. That helps ensure proximity and reduces potential incursions into privacy and attack surfaces.
Each device you use Universal Clipboard with must also have Handoff enabled:
On iOS or iPadOS, go to Settings > General > AirPlay and Transfer and use the Free hands change.
On macOS, look for it in System preferences > General at the bottom (“Allow transfer between this Mac and your iCloud devices”).
For an Apple Watch, use the Watch app on your paired iPhone: tap General and touch enable transfer.
There is no additional configuration: copy to one device and paste to another. Apple notes that the copied item “stays there briefly” in one of its support documents, but it’s more precisely 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 does not use proximity as an access reduction measure, as noted above, but also relies on end-to-end encryption between each set of two devices using the feature. So if you have an iPad and an iPhone near your Mac, Apple establishes separate secure connections between your Mac and iPad and between your Mac and iPhone.
What if you prefer Universal Clipboard to be No In use? You can disable Bluetooth on the device you’re copying to, like your Mac, though that disables other features. You can disable Handoff in the locations described above, which prevents other features from working, such as opening websites or documents through Handoff.
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