Apple Sidecar on a Mac and iPad

Universal Control is an excellent feature for Macs and iPads that allows a single keyboard and mouse to seamlessly control up to three devices. Universal Control arrived with macOS 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4, but there are cases where the older Sidecar feature is the better option—and it’s still there.

Universal Control vs. Sidecar

Universal Control

Universal Control is a feature that arrived with macOS 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4. Once you set up Universal Control, you can push your mouse pointer through the edge of one device’s screen and onto another. This means seamless control over up to three Macs and iPads, as long as at least one device is a Mac. You can copy and paste from one device to the next, drag-and-drop files to copy them, and generally forget you’re using different systems. However, each device is still running its own apps and you can’t drag windows from one screen to the next.

Sidecar allows an iPad to act as an external monitor for a Mac, using a wireless or wired connection. The experience is exactly the same as using an external monitor, with an added virtual Touch Bar and Apple Pencil integration for macOS.

How to Get Sidecar Back

If you’ve updated to the latest version of macOS and iPadOS, the default feature is now Universal Control, but Sidecar has not been removed. Switching between these two modes is actually quite easy.

First, click on the Apple logo at the top left corner of the macOS screen, then select “System Preferences”.

System Preferences macOS Selection Menu

Under “System Preferences,” select “Displays.”

macOS System Preferences Cropped

If your iPad hasn’t been connected yet as either a Sidecar or Universal Control device, click on “Add Display”.

macOS Add Displays Window

Now make a choice between “Link Keyboard and Mouse”, which is Universal Control, or “Mirror or extend to,” which is Sidecar.

macOS Sidecar or Universal Control Options

If you don’t see your iPad at all, make sure that both devices are signed in to the same iCloud account.

If your iPad is already running in Universal Control mode, select “Display Settings” on the “Displays” window instead.

macOS Display Settings Button

Now choose your iPad from the lefthand pane, and open the “Use as” dropdown menu.

macOS Displays Use iPad As Option

Finally, select “Extended or mirrored display” to activate Sidecar.

macOS Extended Mirror or Mirrored Display option

If you want to switch back, change this option to “Linked keyboard and mouse.”

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Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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