It seems that Apple is finally taking the iPad lineup serious as a productivity model. We were provided Pro-level hardware late last year, and with the release iPadOS, we are one step closer to a Pro-level software experience.
However, the fun didn’t stop there as Apple also included some awesome integrations between macOS Catalina and iPadOS. One of which is Sidecar, which allows you to essentially turn your iPad into a secondary display for your compatible Mac.
- 1 Sidecar not working? Check out our video
- 2 Seeing error message “you can’t open the “Sidecar” preferences pane because it is not available to you at this time?”
- 3 How to enable Sidecar on an incompatible Mac (workaround)
- 4 How to connect Sidecar
- 5 How to disable Sidecar via Terminal
- 6 Sidecar not working due to incompatibility?
- 7 Troubleshooting your Sidecar connection
- 8 Conclusion
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In addition to just turning your iPad into a secondary display, Apple also made it possible to do the following with your iPad:
- Mirror content to display the same content
- Use Apple Pencil with various apps via Sidecar
- Create content with iPad and Apple Pencil and insert it into any document on Mac
This added functionality is fantastic for those who own both a Mac and iPad and want to be able to turn the iPad into a product similar to the Wacom tablet.
Unfortunately, Apple has decided that this feature should not be available to everyone who can run macOS Catalina.
Sidecar not working? Check out our video
Seeing error message “you can’t open the “Sidecar” preferences pane because it is not available to you at this time?”
Check if your Macs is officially compatible with Sidecar
Sidecar requires a Mac with Skylake processors and later models and an iPad that support the Apple Pencil.
Here’s a list of both the Macs and iPads that are compatible “out of the box” with Sidecar from Apple’s official list of Macs and iPads that support Sidecar.
These iPad models support Sidecar, running iPadOS (iPads with Apple pencil support)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro
- 11-inch iPad Pro
- 10.5-inch iPad Pro
- 9.7-inch iPad Pro
- 6th generation or later iPad or later
- iPad mini (5th generation)
- 3rd generation iPad Air
Currently, these Mac models “officially support” Sidecar, running macOS Catalina
- 2016 or later MacBook
- MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later
- 2016 or later MacBook Pro
- Mac mini introduced in 2018 or later
- iMac introduced in late 2015 or later
- iMac Pro introduced in 2017 or later
- Mac Pro introduced in 2019
Now, the list of Catalina-compatible macOS devices is actually much larger, opening an opportunity for older Macs to potentially be compatible with Sidecar. Unfortunately, Apple made a seemingly-arbitrary cut off for Catalina computers that are not “compatible” with Sidecar.
How to enable Sidecar on an incompatible Mac (workaround)
Okay, now for some possibly good news.
There is a workaround that might enable Sidecar. In our testing with various Mac models and years, this trick worked on some and not on others–with little rhyme or reason. But it’s worth a try!
If it doesn’t work, the most common experience is Sidecar showing up in Preferences, but your iPad doesn’t show up in the devices dropdown menu.
In order to try and enable Sidecar on your Mac if it isn’t on the list, follow these steps:
- Connect your iPad to your Mac with a cable
- Open Terminal from your macOS Catalina computer
- Type “defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display AllowAllDevices -bool true; defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display hasShownPref -bool true; open /System/Library/PreferencePanes/Sidecar.prefPane” into Terminal (without the quotes)
- Press Enter
- Enter your password if you are prompted
Once you have input that line of commands into Terminal, your System Preferences opens up. From there, if it worked, you see a new option next to Displays called ‘Sidecar’ and you too can enjoy the fun.
If the steps did not work for your Mac, reader Brandon discovered a workaround on GitHub that patches your Mac’s SidecarCore instead. This method edits Apple’s blacklist in macOS that disables iPadOS 13/macOS Catalina devices from using Sidecar.
We do not recommend following the steps unless you are comfortable using Terminal, editing your Mac’s framework files, and accept that you are using the app and commands at your own risk! It is not for the casual Mac user! The process includes disabling your Mac’s SIP (Systems Integrity Protection) using Terminal, install a small app, and requires 2 restarts into the recovery partition.
Although some Mac will work wirelessly, most Macs will require a wired connection for Sidecar to work with this method.
How to connect Sidecar
Provided that you have macOS Catalina and iPadOS installed, you can now access Sidecar easily. Open up the System Preferences, tap the Sidecar icon, and enter the settings.
From there, you will want to click on the dropdown menu under “Connect to”. Select the device that you are looking for, and then watch the magic happen.
Apple has also included a few additional settings for you to tinker with after Sidecar is enabled
- Show Sidebar: on the left/on the right
- Show Touch Bar: on the bottom/on the top
- Enable double tap on Apple Pencil
- Show pointer when using Apple Pencil
You will have to tinker with these settings to find the best layout for your needs. But regardless, after Sidecar is enabled and turned on with your iPad, you will have the most portable two-display set up, all courtesy of Apple.
How to disable Sidecar via Terminal
If you have played around with Sidecar and realize that it really doesn’t work for you, then you may want to disable it. There’s a chance Apple could end up closing this loophole in the future regardless, but for now, you may want to close it yourself.
In order to do so, follow these steps
- Open Terminal from your Mac
- Type “defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display AllowAllDevices -bool false; defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display hasShownPref -bool false” into Terminal
- Press Enter
- Enter password if prompted
You may want to restart your Mac really quick after the terminal commands have been completed. This will wash any remnants of Sidecar clean so that you don’t have to worry about any issues with future releases of macOS Catalina.
Sidecar not working due to incompatibility?
If you tried to get Sidecar working with your iPad and Mac but it just refuses to get going, there still are third-party apps like Duet Display that support older Macs and a much larger variety of iPads–Duet even supports iPhones!
It’s not free. But it does have many devoted fans who love that it works with so many different devices!
Troubleshooting your Sidecar connection
- The iPad’s picture quality is terrible!
- Use a wired connection instead of wireless. This is particularly true for older Macs that don’t have an HEVC encoder/decoders
- Error 32002
- Use a wired connection instead
- Turn off your iPad’s WIFI and Bluetooth
- Reset your iPad’s trust settings and re-establish the trust relationship with your iPad and Mac
The inclusion of Sidecar likely means the end of the line for apps like Duet or products such as Luna Display. However, with the self-imposed cutoff for older macOS devices with Catalina, those not ready to deal with faulty keyboards will be able to rely on those products for the time being.
We really wish Apple had just made it possible to use Sidecar with all Catalina-compatible computers, but we can’t get everything we want. Hopefully, future releases of Apple’s latest software don’t block this workaround from being useful, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see that happen either.
Let us know if you have run into any issues when trying to use Sidecar and we’ll be more than happy to try and help. In the meantime, stay tuned for more iOS 13, iPadOS, and macOS Catalina content coming soon.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.