Use iMac as a monitor: 5 solutions

Want to find a way to use the iMac as a monitor? Fortunately, while Apple’s target display mode is limited to iMacs from 2009 to 2014, there are several other options for using that nice big screen on your iMac as a monitor.

Target Display Mode is an Apple solution for using iMac as a monitor with another Mac in a wired setup. It was a very popular feature for years, but when Apple released its Retina iMacs in late 2014, support ended.

The good news is that even if you don’t have an iMac over 8 years old that supports Target Display Mode, you can still use the iMac as a monitor with a variety of different options. Let’s explore your 5 options…

Use iMac as a monitor: 5 solutions

Luna Display or Duet Display

To get the same functionality that Target Display Mode offers with Mac to Mac (and even PC to Mac and iPad to Mac) support, Luna Display and Duet Display are two of the best options.

Luna Display requires a $119 Luna Display USB-C dongle, but there is no subscription cost.

Duet Display requires no hardware, but starts at $25/year for Duet Air (to get Mac-to-Mac, PC-to-Mac, and iPad-to-Mac support). One benefit here is that Duet Display offers a free trial.

We’ve used both here at 9to5Mac and found them to be great products that are updated regularly.

Use the iMac as a monitor with sidecar

Use iMac as monitor sidecar

Of course, this doesn’t offer Mac-to-Mac support, but if you want to use the iMac as a monitor with an iPad, Sidecar is a great free solution. And it works wired or wireless.

  • On macOS Monterey or Ventura, click control center (icon with two pills) in the menu bar > screen mirroring > Choose your iPad.
    • Once connected, you can choose whether the Mac or iPad is the primary display under System Preferences/Preferences

Sidecar has been built into Mac and iPad since macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13. If you haven’t tried Sidecar yet, check out our full guide here:

AirPlay on Mac

This feature doesn’t work if you want to expand the storage space of your iMac or iPad, but you can mirror from iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to iMac or other compatible Mac directly.

However, this requires a newer Mac. Learn more in our complete guide:

Pair iMac with an external monitor

This may seem obvious, but another option is to pair the iMac with an external monitor and choose which will serve as the primary and secondary monitors.

For a closer look at some of the best monitors out there, check out our guides:

And an affordable 32-inch 4K monitor that matches the M1 iMac’s aesthetic is Samsung’s M8 Smart Monitor.

target display mode

If you happen to have an old iMac, you might be able to use Target Display Mode, but it also needs to be running macOS Catalina or earlier – the same goes for the secondary Mac. Here’s what you need to use the iMac as a monitor with the original solution.

Apple requirements for iMacs from 2011 to mid-2014:

  • The iMac used as a display must have macOS High Sierra or earlier installed.
  • The other Mac you connect it to must have been introduced in 2019 or earlier and have macOS Catalina or earlier installed.
  • The cable connecting the two Mac computers must be a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 Cable.

Requirements for 2009-2010 models to use iMac as a monitor:

  • The iMac used as a display must have macOS High Sierra or earlier installed.
  • The other Mac you connect it to must have been introduced in 2019 or earlier and have macOS Catalina or earlier installed.
  • The cable connecting the two Mac computers must be a Mini DisplayPort Cable.

If you have two Macs that meet these requirements, Apple says:

  1. Make sure your iMac is turned on.
  2. Make sure the other Mac is booted up and signed in to a macOS user account.
  3. Connect the two computers with the appropriate Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt cable.
    You can use more than one iMac as a display if each iMac uses a Thunderbolt cable to connect directly to a Thunderbolt port on the other Mac (not the other iMac).
  4. Press Command-F2 on the iMac keyboard. You should now see the other Mac’s desktop.
  5. Press Command-F2 again to exit target display mode. Or disconnect the cable or restart either Mac.

Thanks for reading our guide to using iMac as a monitor!

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