What Is Sidecar on a Mac?

Gain a second monitor with Sidecar

Sidecar is a feature for Macs that lets you connect an iPad and use it as a second monitor or a tablet input. Here are all the things you can do with Sidecar and how to set it up.

Which Devices Can Use Sidecar?

Apple introduced Sidecar alongside iOS/iPadOS 13 and macOS Catalina (10.15), so you'll need devices running at least those operating systems to use this feature. More recent versions of iOS and macOS have dropped the feature for iPhones, though, but that's not to say it won't come back in the future.

Here are the devices that support Sidecar. If you aren't sure yours qualifies, you can check your iPad model and see what kind of Mac or MacBook you have.

  • iMac: Late 2015 and newer.
  • iMac Pro: 2017 and later.
  • iPad: 6th generation and up.
  • iPad Air: 3rd generation and later.
  • iPad Mini: 5th generation and newer.
  • iPad Pro: 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, 11-inch, 12.9-inch.
  • Mac Mini: 2018 and later.
  • Mac Pro: 3rd generation (2019) and up.
  • MacBook: 2016 or later.
  • MacBook Air: 2018 and newer.
  • MacBook Pro: 2016 and later.

What Is the Purpose of Sidecar?

A dual-monitor setup is increasingly common in professional settings, and Apple developed Sidecar to make it easy to use. Mac users often also have an iPad, so using the tablet as a second screen makes a lot of sense.

If you have a compatible iPad and an Apple Pencil, you can also use Sidecar to make your iPad into a Mac-compatible drawing tablet.

What Can I Do With Sidecar?

The most apparent use of Sidecar is to provide an extra display for productivity. If you're running a MacBook, for example, an iPad Pro can almost double your screen space. You can have photos open on one screen and a document on the other and drag items between them using your mouse.

Another good use is freeing up space on your main screen by moving tools to the other. For example, you could keep all of Photoshop's tools, layers, and libraries on your iPad and let your Mac's entire screen show nothing but the canvas.

Sidecar also has two settings: Your iPad can act as a second monitor and mirror your Mac. Doing so can let you use apps that may not be available on the tablet or ones that are available, but you prefer the Mac version.

That second setting can also give you a drawing tablet that automatically works with your Mac. If you mirror a Mac drawing app to your iPad, you can use your Apple Pencil for the extra precision and features it offers. Sidecar effectively makes Apple Pencil compatible with Mac apps.

How Do I Connect My iPad to My Mac?

You can use Sidecar over a wired connection or wirelessly via Bluetooth (with a range of about 10 feet). Whether you use a cable or not, follow these steps to start using the feature:

  1. Open System Preferences on your Mac.

  2. Select Sidecar.

    The Sidecar heading in macOS System Preferences
  3. Select your iPad from the Connect to dropdown menu.

    The "Connect to" menu in macOS Sidecar settings
  4. When Sidecar is active, an iPad icon will appear at the top of the screen. Click it to choose mirroring or dual-display options.

    The Sidecar menu in macOS
  5. Alternatively, if you regularly use AirPlay to mirror your Mac to other devices, you can select your iPad from that menu. Once you connect, the AirPlay icon will become the Sidecar (iPad) icon.

Apple introduced Sidecar to give Mac and iPad owners more ways to get the most out of their devices. It's a powerful feature that can make work more accessible and productive once you get it set up the way you want.

  • How does Sidecar work?

    Your iPad and Mac make their initial connection using Bluetooth, and then it transfers data over a local Wi-Fi network. It's the same general process as AirPlay, which lets you mirror one Apple device to another's screen.

  • Why is Sidecar not working on my Mac?

    If Sidecar has never worked, you may not have a Mac or iPad compatible with the feature. If it's suddenly stopped working, it may be a communication issue; either Bluetooth isn't on, or your devices aren't connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Check the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi settings on both your computer and your tablet, and restart both of them to see if that solves the problem.

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