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How to Use the Coolest New Feature on Your Mac: Universal Control

Universal Control is an awesome feature that allows you to control your Mac and iPad with the same keyboard and mouse at the same time.

Tucker Bowe

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If you have a Mac and an iPad, you can unlock one of the coolest features that Apple has released in years. It's called Universal Control and it's a software trick that allows your Mac and iPad to wireless sync together and do some pretty special things. No connecting cables required.

Apple devices have always worked really well together, but Universal Control takes it a step further with the Mac and iPad. It turns your iPad into somewhat of a secondary display for your Mac, allowing you to use your Mac's keyboard and trackpad (or wireless mouse) with your iPad. You simply drag your cursor off the screen of your Mac and onto your iPad's screen, just like you would with a multiple-monitor setup. It makes transferring files between your Mac and iPad a simple drag-and-drop experience. No need to use AirDrop, a web-based service (like iCloud or Dropbox) or an external hard drive.

There is a bit of a caveat when Universal Control as it doesn't exactly turn your iPad into a secondary screen for your Mac. You can't drag a Chrome window from your Mac and have it rest on your iPad's screen for example. Your iPad still works like an iPad (with apps and gestures) when you bring your Mac's cursor and keyboard over. Universal Control simply makes controlling the two devices together more streamlined, as well as making it super easy to transfer files between the two.

What you need to use Universal Control

Universal Control is simple enough to you use, but there are a few requirements. Your Mac and iPad need to be registered under the same Apple ID and with two-factor authentication turned on. (It doesn't work with Managed Apple IDs, like if you borrow a Mac or iPad from school.) And they need to be running relatively new software.

Mac: It needs to be a Mac computer that's capable of running macOS 12.3 (or later). The can be a MacBook Pro from 2016 (or later), a MacBook Air from 2018 (or later), a Mac mini from 2018 (or later), or an iMac from 2017 (or later).

iPad: It needs to be able to run iPadOs 15.4 (or later). This can be any iPad Pro, an iPad from 2018 (or later), an iPad Air from 2019 (or later), or an iPad mini from 2019 (or later).

If you Mac and iPad check both those boxes, good. From there, you then need to make sure that they are within close proximity (within 30 feet) of one another and have all their wireless connectivities (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Handoff) turned on.

Once you have Universal Control enabled on both devices, you can simply drag your cursor to the edge of your Mac’s screen and you’ll see the above icon on the side of your iPad. Simply continue dragging your cursor over and — boom — you can magically use it to control your iPad.

How to turn on Universal Control

Before you can take advantage of Universal Control, you need to turn it on on both your devices. Here's how.

  1. Turn on Universal Control on your Mac:Select the Apple icon in the menu bar (top left of screen) > select System preferences > select Displays > select Universal Control > select the box that says “Allow your cursor and keyboard to move between any nearby Mac or iPad.”
  2. Turn on Universal Control on your iPad: Open the Settings app > select General > select AirPlay & Handoff > turn on Cursor and Keyboard.
  3. Connect the two devices: Place the Mac and iPad next to each other make sure each is awake and unlocked. Move your Mac's mouse beyond the edge of the computer's screen (just like you would with an external display). Once over the edge, you should see an icon on the side of your iPad's screen indicating that it wants to accept the cursor. It might be a little difficult finding your mouse at first as you haven't arranged your display yet.


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