How to Turn an iPad Into a Second Display for Your Mac
If you have a Mac and want more screen space, this super convenient feature will grant your wish
Mary-Elisabeth CombsAssociate Writer
Mary-Elisabeth is an Associate Writer on CNET's How-To team. She's a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's English Department, and resides in Charlotte, NC. On the How-To team, she covers a little bit of everything. When she's not writing, she's catching up on Formula 1 or reading!
Sometimes, one screen just isn't enough, especially if you're working on a smaller MacBook display. Apple has just the fix, though: the Sidecar feature. Sidecar allows you to turn your iPad into a second display (wired or wireless) for your Mac computer, essentially allowing you to have access to two monitors wherever and whenever you may need them. Not only is this feature super helpful, but it's also super quick to set up.
I discovered the Sidecar feature during the move to online learning in the wake of the pandemic, and it quickly became essential to my school routine. It was really convenient to have a second monitor during online classes: I could easily reference my notes on my iPad while keeping my Mac screen clear so I could focus on my professors' lectures. However, I will note that Sidecar would absolutely tank my iPad's battery, and the iPad display screen would get laggy if my Mac was running a couple of different programs at once.
Before you get started with Sidecar, check to see that both your iPad and Mac meet the Sidecar system requirements. For Macs, Sidecar will work on devices with macOS Catalina or later and for iPads, devices compatible with iOS 13 or later will work with Sidecar. If you are unsure if your devices are compatible, Apple has a list of all of the devices that work.
Your iPad will also need to be connected to your Mac. It can be connected to your Mac with a USB cable, which will keep it from losing power while you are using its Sidecar capabilities. It can also be done wirelessly if both the iPad and Mac are on the same Wi-Fi network. If you are using MacOS Catalina, then the option to connect your iPad to your Mac will be in the AirPlay menu.
If you are using Sidecar wirelessly, the devices must be within 30 feet (10 meters) of each other. If you are using Sidecar via USB, the iPad must be set to "trust" your Mac. Both devices also must be logged into with the same Apple ID using two-factor authentication.
Setting Up Sidecar
Getting started with Sidecar is fairly simple. Once your iPad and Mac are connected, move your pointer over the full-screen button of a window on your Mac and hover. A dropdown menu should appear with options to "Enter Full Screen," "Tile Window to Left of Screen," "Tile Window to Right of Screen" and "Move to iPad." To use Sidecar, select Move to iPad.
Now that Sidecar is set up, it's time to get started using your iPad as a second display. Once you have moved your Mac screen to your iPad, the Sidebar will appear on your iPad screen. The Sidebar enables you to have access to the most commonly used Mac controls, "Command," "Option" and "Shift." You can choose these commands by tapping with your finger or using an Apple Pencil.
Using your iPad as a second display also enables you to use multi-touch gestures on your iPad to navigate your second display. For example, if you wish to scroll on your Mac, you can use two fingers to scroll up or down on the page being displayed on your iPad. Apple has a full list of multi-touch gestures if you are interested in navigating your second display with your fingers.
When using Sidecar on your iPad, you are able to use your Apple Pencil to navigate your display as well. Using your Apple Pencil while displaying your Mac screen can be helpful when drawing or editing photos. If you are mirroring your Mac screen to your iPad, you will be able to see live updates made with your Apple pencil on your Mac. Sidecar also supports the double-tap feature, which allows you to perform custom functions by double-tapping the side of a second-gen Apple Pencil, and this can be enabled in System Preferences.
Sidecar also enables you to use a MacBook Touch Bar, regardless of whether or not your Mac supports one. As usual, you can tap the Touch Bar controls with your finger or Apple Pencil. However, if the Touch Bar is not appearing when using an app that uses Touch Bar controls, you can activate it by going to the Apple Menu> System Preferences > Mission Control and make sure that "Displays have separate spaces" is selected.
While you are using Sidecar you can use the keyboard and mouse attached to your Mac, or your iPad's keyboard and mouse.
Apps on your iPad can also be used as you normally would. When you switch to an iPad app, you will be able to return to your Sidecar screen by using the Sidecar app. The Sidecar app should appear on your iPad's home screen while using Sidecar.
If you wish to change Sidecar settings, like whether or not the Sidebar or Touch Bar is displayed, you can do so by going to the Apple Menu > System Preferences > Displays and then selecting your iPad under "Displays" if you are running macOS Monterey. If you are running macOS Big Sur or Catalina, then select Apple Menu > System Preferences and click Sidecar.