How to use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac

A dual monitor setup helps with multitasking, organization, and general efficiency, which is why many people spend hundreds of dollars on a second monitor for their computer. This extra real estate can be used to make video calls, browse the web, send emails, or even draw with a stylus. But if you own a Mac and an iPad, you may not have to spend any money to configure a two-screen setup in your home.

As long as you have a compatible Mac and iPad, you can quickly and easily connect two Apple devices and use your iPad as an additional monitor for your Mac computer. With Sidecar, which comes built into supported devices, you can then either extend your macOS desktop or copy it to your iPad, complete with touchscreen controls to seamlessly use the two devices together.

Here’s what you need to know.

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How to use your iPad as a second display for Mac


Requirements for using an iPad as a second screen

As mentioned above, both devices need Sidecar support, which is the feature that allows you to use the iPad as a second screen for your Mac. For your Mac, it must be on Macos Catalina or later It must be one of the following forms:

  • MacBook Pro (2016 or later)
  • MacBook (2016 or later)
  • MacBook Air (2018 or later)
  • iMac (2017 or later and Retina 5K, 27-inch, late 2015)
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac mini (2018 or later)
  • Mac Pro (2019 or later)

And for the iPad, it must be on iPadOS 13 or later and includes the following models:

It is best to update your devices to the latest software available to avoid any problems.

Also, both devices must be signed into the same Apple ID account, using two-factor authentication.

If you plan to connect wirelessly, the two devices should be within 30 feet of each other. You can also use USB to connect the two devices, with the advantage of also being able to charge your iPad while it’s using it as a second screen.

Share your entire Mac desktop with your iPad

Depending on the software update you have on your computer, sharing your computer desktop with your tablet may vary. If you’re running macOS Big Sur or latertap on Show icon in the menu bar at the top right. In the list that appears, choose your iPad.

if you are on Macos CatalinaInstead, you will click on File broadcast icon in the menu bar and then select your iPad. If for some reason you don’t see the AirPlay icon, click on the Apple menu in the upper right and go to System Preferences > Displays and check Show mirroring options in the menu bar when available.

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Click the View option in the menu bar to find your iPad.

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Once your Mac and iPad are connected, you have several options to choose from that appear in the Show/Stream menu:

  • Retina display with integrated mirror: View your desktop on your iPad. This will transform your computer desktop to look like your iPad.
  • Use as a separate screen: Use the iPad as a desktop extension. To use the iPad screen, drag any window or files from your Mac computer to the right of your screen, which will take you to the tablet. To get back to your computer, simply drag your cursor to where you came from.

Share only one Mac window to iPad

Alternatively, you can quickly share a window instead of dragging it to your iPad. For example, you can share your web browser in Safari or what you jotted down in your notes. To do this, simply move your mouse pointer over the green full screen button that appears in the top left of most windows. After a second of scrolling, you should see an option that says Transfer to iPad which will share that window on your tablet. You can share multiple windows, in a row, on your iPad.

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Hover over the full screen button to send that window to your iPad.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Use Sidebar, Gesture, and Touch Bar controls on iPad

Once you share your screen with your iPad, a set of controls will appear on the left side of your iPad, which are the sidebar controls you’d normally see on a Mac. This includes, from top to bottom:

  • The menu bar: Show or hide the menu bar in full screen mode
  • Sidewalk: Show or hide the dock
  • Command: Double tap to lock the key
  • Option: Double tap to lock the key
  • control: Double tap to lock the key
  • converts: Double tap to lock the key
  • cancel download: Undo the last action
  • keyboard: Show or hide the keyboard
  • Disconnect: Unplug iPad from Mac

In addition to these Mac controls, you can also use a number of files swipe gestures To control certain things on the second screen (you won’t be able to use the touch screen as usual). This includes two-finger swipe to scroll, three-finger swipe to copy, three-finger swipe left to undo and more.

Finally, you may also be able to use the Touch Bar, if the app on your iPad is compatible. For example, if you move Safari to the iPad, you’ll see Touch Bar controls to go back and forth, use the search bar, navigate between tabs and open a new tab. In Messages, you’ll see controls for creating new text, sending emoji, and predictive text. The Touch Bar might not appear for every app you use on your iPad.


This is what your iPad will look like as a second screen.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

If you don’t want to use the Sidebar or Touch Bar controls, you can also get rid of them. On your Mac, click Show icon In the menu bar, under the connected iPad, you should see Hide the sidebar And Hide the touch bar. Click one or both options to hide the controls from your iPad.

Use your iPad while connected to your Mac

Even if you’re using your iPad as a second screen, you can still swipe out of the Sidecar app and use your iPad as usual. In your dock, you will see a blue icon with two screens on it – this is Sidecar. To go back to using the iPad as a second screen, tap the Sidecar app icon in the dock.


You can use the iPad as usual, even when it’s connected to your Mac via Sidecar.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

If you’re interested in learning more about what your iPad can do, check out how De-clutter your iPad’s dock by removing this annoying feature And 9 things to do as soon as you get a new iPad.

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