How to use Sidecar with older Macs in macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13

Sidecar is a cool new feature coming in macOS Catalina that lets you use your iPad as a second display for your Mac. In addition to a display, you'll see some controls pop up on your iPad, including a virtual Touch Bar and a sidebar full of basic controls. You can even use your iPad as a Mac-connected drawing tablet if you've got an Apple Pencil, which lets you sketch something in AutoDesk SketchBook or edit images in Photoshop using a precision tool.

Note: This how-to guide requires familiarity with Terminal. If you don't feel comfortable changing your Mac's internal system, you should probably not perform this workaround.

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac (sadly, no public beta for the Apple Watch). While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.

Using Sidecar with older Macs

Unfortunately for a lot of Mac owners, the devices that will be able to use Sidecar immediately is rather limited. While Apple hasn't announced an official list of Sidecar-cable devices, we do have an idea as to which devices will support the feature thanks to developer Steve Troughton-Smith

  • iMac 27-inch (Late 2015 or newer)
  • MacPro (2016 or newer)
  • Mac mini (2018)
  • Mac Pro (2019)
  • MacBook Air (2018)
  • MacBook (Early 2016 or newer)

But, thanks to some sleuthing by Reddit user u/dotmax, we now know that it is actually possible to get Sidecar up and running on Macs older than this in the list above. We've got it to work on Macs from as far back as late 2013, lag-free and with all features intact.

That being said, it's not exactly a top-notch experience. While the connection is still lag-free, the image quality leaves a lot to be desired. I wouldn't really recommend using this with an older Mac unless you absolutely have to.

If you do want to use Sidecar with your older Mac, it's going to involve a trip to the Terminal.

How to enable Sidecar on an older Mac

  1. Open Terminal from your Dock or Utilities folder.
  2. Enter the following into the Terminal:

    defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display AllowAllDevices -bool true; defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display hasShownPref -bool true; open /System/Library/PreferencePanes/Sidecar.prefPane

    Open Terminal, enter string

  3. Hit the Return or Enter key to enter the string.

This will cause the Sidecar preference pane, not normally visible on your Mac, to open up. You'll also be able to find the preference pane after you close it. It has a blue icon and is simply labeled "Sidecar."

How to use Sidecar in macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13

Once you've got Sidecar up and running on your Mac, you can use it normally. Here's how you can use Sidecar in macOS Catalina.

Great Mac accessories

Apple AirPods 2 (From $159 at Apple)

The best Apple accessory has gotten betting with AirPods 2. Now offering a wireless charger case, the popular earbuds feature the new Apple H1 headphone chip that delivers a faster wireless connection to your devices, as well as support for "Hey Siri."

Samsung T5 SSD (From $88 at Amazon)

This solid state drive from Samsung is speedy, tiny, and portable. It also connects using USB-C, making it a perfect companion for your new Mac.

Questions?

If you have any questions about getting Sidecar to work in Catalina on your older Mac, let us know in the comments.

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