How Do You Discover a Bluetooth device?

How Do You Discover a Bluetooth device? 1

Bluetooth is everywhere. From wireless headphones to industrial sensors and medical devices, Bluetooth has become our go-to way to communicate data between devices. It may only cover a short distance, but it’s highly efficient, and it’s here to stay.

Discovering Bluetooth devices is crucial for establishing connections and utilizing the full potential of Bluetooth-enabled devices. This article aims to guide readers through the process of discovering Bluetooth devices using various methods, from the basic built-in settings to advanced tools like Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) scanners.

Understanding Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a standardized protocol for wireless communication between devices within a short range. Typically, this maxes out at 100 meters, though many devices can hardly manage a quarter of this. So, if you’re struggling to discover a device, ensuring it’s within this range is the first consideration.

Bluetooth operates on the 2.4 GHz frequency band and comes in two main versions: classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Classic Bluetooth (versions 1 to 3) are used for high-bandwidth applications like audio streaming, while BLE is designed for low-power, low-data-rate applications such as wearables and IoT devices. This, unsurprisingly, helps reduce our energy consumption, prolongs battery life, and helps the environment. 

Bluetooth pairing is the process of establishing a secure connection between two devices, allowing them to communicate and exchange data.

Built-in Bluetooth Discovery Methods

Most modern devices come with built-in Bluetooth settings that allow users to discover and connect to nearby Bluetooth devices. The process may vary slightly depending on the device and operating system.

Smartphones (iOS and Android):

  • Open the Settings app and navigate to the Bluetooth menu.
  • Ensure Bluetooth is turned on and the device is set to discoverable mode.
  • Available Bluetooth devices will appear in the list.

Computers (Windows and macOS):

  • Open the Bluetooth settings from the system tray or menu bar.
  • Click on “Add Bluetooth or other device” (Windows) or “Set up Bluetooth device” (macOS).
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to discover and pair with nearby devices.

Other devices (tablets, smart home devices, etc.):

  • Refer to the device’s user manual or settings menu for specific instructions on Bluetooth discovery.

While built-in discovery methods are convenient, they may have limitations in terms of range, sensitivity, and the ability to discover devices in low-power mode. However, make sure the device you’re searching for is discoverable, such as being in pairing mode, so that you can connect. This is a necessary feature, so that strangers do not randomly connect to your headphone whilst listening to music.

Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Scanners

Bluetooth analyzers are advanced tools that offer enhanced capabilities for discovering and analyzing Bluetooth devices, particularly those using the BLE protocol.

What are Bluetooth LE scanners?

Bluetooth LE scanners are software applications or hardware devices designed to detect and analyze nearby Bluetooth devices. They provide more detailed information about discovered devices and offer features not available through built-in discovery methods.

How Bluetooth LE scanners work

These tools actively scan for nearby Bluetooth devices by listening for advertising packets broadcast by the devices. These packets contain information such as the device name, signal strength, and support services.

Benefits of using Bluetooth LE scanners

  • Can detect devices at greater distances and with lower signal strengths compared to built-in discovery methods.
  • BLE devices often operate in low-power modes to conserve battery life. Bluetooth LE scanners can detect these devices even when they are not actively advertising.
  • Bluetooth LE scanners provide additional information about discovered devices, such as the manufacturer, service data, and RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) values.

Features of Bluetooth LE scanners

  • Bluetooth LE scanners continuously scan for nearby devices and update the list in real time.
  • Scanners display the RSSI value for each discovered device, helping users determine the proximity and signal quality.
  • Users can filter and sort discovered devices based on various criteria, such as device name
  • Bluetooth LE scanners often allow users to export and share discovered device data in various formats for further analysis or reporting.

How to use a Bluetooth LE scanner

  1. Download and install a reliable Bluetooth LE scanner application on your device. Many popular options are for desktop computers.
  2. Launch the scanner application and initiate a scan. The scanner will continuously search for nearby Bluetooth devices and display them in a list.
  3. Review the information provided for each discovered device, such as the device name, signal strength, and supported services. Use this data to identify and troubleshoot devices as needed.

Troubleshooting Bluetooth Discovery Issues

Despite the convenience of Bluetooth technology, users may encounter various issues during the discovery process.

Common problems encountered during Bluetooth discovery

  • Devices not appearing in the list: Sometimes, target devices may not show up in the list of available Bluetooth devices.
  • Pairing and connection issues: Users may face difficulties establishing a connection or pairing with a discovered device.
  • Interference from other devices or networks: Other nearby devices or wireless networks can cause interference, affecting Bluetooth discovery and connectivity.

Solutions and workarounds for Bluetooth discovery problems

If you’re having trouble discovering a Bluetooth device, there are a few things you can try. If you’re not using a Bluetooth Analyzer, make sure the device you’re trying to connect to is in discoverable mode and within range. 

If that doesn’t work, try turning Bluetooth off and on again or resetting the Bluetooth settings on both devices. This can sometimes resolve discovery issues. Another important step is to check that your device’s drivers and firmware are up to date, as outdated software can cause connectivity problems. 

Finally, if you’re still having trouble, you might want to consider using a Bluetooth LE scanner for advanced troubleshooting. This can help determine if the device is broken, has a poor signal, or isn’t a supported device.


Discovering Bluetooth devices is an important part of ensuring our devices work properly – it’s an issue that is particularly common with earbuds, particularly as we chop and change their connected devices frequently. Always ensure devices are discoverable, within range, and supported. For advanced troubleshooting, use a Bluetooth LE scanner, which can provide more detailed insight.