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How to use your iPad as a second monitor

Having a second monitor connected to your computer can be a great way to help boost your productivity, but what if you don’t have an extra monitor lying around? If you own both an iPad and a computer, you can extend your desktop by using your iPad as a second monitor. Below, we have all the steps to set up your iPad as a second monitor — it’s likely easier than you think.

Sidecar on MacOS Catalina

If you have a Mac, the first thing you need to know is that Apple has built-in second-monitor functionality with the latest version of its operating system, MacOS Catalina. The feature is called Sidecar, and it allows you to turn your iPad into a second display with just a few clicks. There are some requirements to use Sidecar though; for example, you need a more recent Mac and iPad.

Compatible devices include the 2016 MacBook, 2018 MacBook Air (or later), 2016 MacBook Pro, 2018 Mac mini, 2015 iMac, 2017 iMac Pro, or 2019 Mac Pro, running macOS Catalina. Additionally, Sidecar can only be used on iPads that support Apple Pencil. That’s at least sixth-generation iPads, fifth-generation iPad minis, third-generation iPad Airs, and iPad Pros (9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, 11-inch, and 12.9-inch models) running iOS 13 or later.

Assuming you meet those requirements, it’s simple to connect your iPad as a display.

Step 1: Connect your iPad to your Mac via USB, or — to do it wirelessly — ensure Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff are turned on (you can check these in the Settings app). You’ll also need to be logged in to the same Apple ID on both devices.

Step 2: Click the AirPlay button in your Mac’s menu bar and select your iPad from the list. The icon will change, and clicking the menu again will offer you a number of options. You can mirror your Mac’s display or extend it, show or hide the Sidebar and Touch Bar that appear on the iPad, or disconnect your tablet.

Mirroring your display: If you choose to mirror your Mac’s display to your iPad, the iPad will act in the same manner as your Mac display (essentially becoming a mirror of what you see on Mac display). Once the display is mirrored, you will be able to use the iPad to control all of your Mac apps, edit documents, and so on.

Extending your display: If you choose to extend your Mac’s display to your iPad, the iPad will act as an extension of your Mac’s display (essentially becoming a secondary display you can use to display apps, documents, videos, etc.). Once you extend the display, you will be able to drag open applications and documents on your Mac to your iPad and view them there.

In our tests, Sidecar worked well, both wired and wirelessly. However, keep in mind if you’re going wireless that Apple says your iPad should be within 30 feet (10 meters) of your Mac for the best experience.

Splashtop Wired XDisplay or Duet Display on Windows

If you use a Windows computer (or your Mac doesn’t support Sidecar), fear not, you’re not out of luck. There are two options when it comes to using your iPad as a second monitor on Windows or older Macs.

The first is Splashtop Wired XDisplay, which offers a decent solution. Splashtop Wired XDisplay is free but only works when your iPad is connected via USB. It also doesn’t provide the smoothest experience but still should get the job done — and it’s free.

Splashtop Wired XDisplay requires that you install software on your computer as well as the iOS application on your iPad. Once you have installed both the desktop and iPad apps, ensure the desktop app is running on your computer, connect your iPad to your computer with its USB cable, then launch the XDisplay app on your tablet. It will then establish a connection to your computer, and a blank desktop will appear on your iPad. You can then rearrange your monitors from your computer’s display settings, drag windows to your iPad, and use it as a second monitor as you would expect.

The second option is Duet Display, which retails in the App Store for $10. It offers a much smoother experience than Splashtop Wired XDisplay, and if you find yourself using your iPad as a secondary monitor frequently, you may want to consider making the purchase. Duet Display also offers in-app purchases for its Duet Air subscription, which adds wireless connectivity, remote desktop, and improved graphics for $20 per year, as well as a Duet Pro subscription that adds drawing features for $30 per year.

Similar to Splashtop Wired XDisplay, Duet Display also has a companion app for the desktop (which it offers for free).

After you have installed both the desktop and iPad apps, ensure the Duet Display desktop app is running in the background on your PC, then plug your tablet in via USB and launch the Duet Display mobile app. It should connect to your computer right away, and you’ll see a desktop appear, ready for use. Additionally, you can click the Duet Display icon on your PC to gain access to a few other settings, including the frame rate and resolution your iPad uses. Generally, the default settings should be fine for most people; however, if you find it’s being a bit sluggish on an older computer, try lowering the resolution or frame rate to speed things up.

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