Use your iMac as a monitor: 5 Solutions

Want to find a way to use an iMac as a monitor? While Apple’s intended display mode is limited to iMacs from 2009 to 2014, luckily, there are a few other options for using that nice big screen on your iMac as a monitor.

Target display mode is an Apple solution that uses the iMac as a monitor with another Mac in a wired setup. It was a very popular feature for years, but when Apple launched its Retina iMacs in late 2014, support was dropped.

The good news is that even if you don’t have an 8-year-old+ iMac that supports target display mode, you can still use the iMac as a monitor with various options. Let’s explore your 5 options…

Use your iMac as a monitor: 5 solutions

Luna Display or Duet Display

To get the same functionality that target display mode offers to Mac (and even get PC to Mac and iPad to Mac) support, Luna Display and Duet Display are the top two options. Friday.

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

Duet Display doesn’t require hardware but costs $25/year for Duet Air (to support Mac to Mac, PC to Mac, and iPad to Mac). 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 see regular updates.

Use your iMac as a monitor with Sidecar

Use the iMac as a Sidecar monitor

It certainly doesn’t offer Mac-to-Mac support, but if you want to use an 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 (two pills icon) in the Menu Bar > Screen Mirroring > Select your iPad.
    • Once connected, under System Preferences/Settings you can choose whether the Mac or iPad is the primary display.

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

AirPlay for Mac

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

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

Pair the iMac with an external display

This may seem obvious but another option is to pair your iMac with an external display and choose which one you want to be the primary and secondary display.

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

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

Target display mode

If you have an older iMac, you may be able to use target display mode but it also requires macOS Catalina or earlier to be running – same for a second Mac. Here’s what you need to use your iMac as a native resolution monitor.

Apple requirements for iMacs 2011-mid 2014:

  • The iMac used as a display must have macOS High Sierra or earlier installed.
  • The other Mac you’re connecting 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 Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 cable

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

  • The iMac used as a display must have macOS High Sierra or earlier installed.
  • The other Mac you’re connecting 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 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 started and signed in to a macOS user account.
  3. Connect two computers using the appropriate Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt cable.
    If each iMac uses a Thunderbolt cable to connect directly to a Thunderbolt port on another Mac, you can use more than one iMac as a display (not another iMac).
  4. Journalism Command-F2 on the iMac keyboard. You should now see the other Mac’s desktop.
  5. To exit target display mode, press Command-F2 again. Either disconnect the cable, or restart the Mac.

Thanks for reading our guide on how to use an iMac as a monitor!

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