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In iOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3, Apple introduced Universal Control, a feature designed to allow you to control multiple Macs and iPads with a single trackpad/mouse and keyboard. This article offers solutions to the most common problems encountered when getting Universal Control to work.

universal-control.jpg

With Universal Control, you can use your main Mac's trackpad and keyboard to control additional Macs and/or iPads nearby, which means you don't need a desk cluttered up with more than one set of input devices. But getting it to work can sometimes present issues, especially the first time you come to try it.

Many of the solutions listed below are requirements that need to be fulfilled in order for Universal Control to work. Check each one to ensure you have everything set up correctly.

Mac and iPad Compatibility

First up, Universal Control requires iPadOS 15.4 on an iPad and macOS Monterey 12.3 on a Mac. It is compatible with the following devices:
  • MacBook Pro (2016 and later)
  • MacBook (2016 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2018 and later)
  • iMac (2017 and later)
  • iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015)
  • iMac Pro, Mac mini (2018 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2019)
  • All iPad Pro models
  • iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
  • iPad (6th generation and later)
  • iPad mini (5th generation and later)

Are All Devices Signed into Your iCloud Account?

All devices must be signed into the same iCloud account in order for Universal Control to work across them. It will not work across devices signed into separate ‌Apple ID‌ accounts. You can make sure your Mac is signed into iCloud by going to System Preferences -> Apple ID. On iPad, open Settings and tap the Apple ID banner at the top of the main menu.

Universal-Control-Colored-Feature.jpg

How Far Away Are the Devices?

Universal Control is designed to be used with Macs and iPads that are nearby, usually on the same desk, so that you can visually see the cursor move from a display to an adjacent device. For this reason, Macs and iPads need to be within 30 feet (10 meters) of one another for Universal Control to work.

Are Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Enabled?

Universal Control uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to communicate between devices for a seamless experience, so both of these wireless protocols need to be enabled on Macs and iPads. In addition, all devices must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

Is Handoff Enabled?

Universal Control requires Handoff to be enabled on all devices. On Mac, go to System Preferences -> General and make sure the box is checked at the bottom, next to Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices.

handoff-mac.jpg

On iPad, open Settings -> AirPlay & Handoff and toggle on the switch next to Handoff. On the same screen, check that the switch is also in the green position next to Cursor and Keyboard (Beta).

Is the iPad Sharing a Cellular Connection?

For Universal Control to work, any ‌iPads‌ and Macs cannot be sharing a cellular and internet connection, so the Mac can't be tethered to the ‌iPad over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB‌. Make sure to disable any tethering using the options in Settings -> Personal Hotspot.

Are You Using Sidecar?

Sidecar‌ and Universal Control are separate features and some users have had trouble getting them to work in tandem. It is possible to use both features at the same time, but keep in mind that Universal Control in macOS 12.3 is still technically in beta, and some setups may throw up lingering bugs.

sidecarmacoscatalina.jpg

If you're using ‌Sidecar‌ to mirror or extend your Mac's display to an ‌iPad‌, Universal Control won't work on that iPad and may not work on an additional iPad to Mac, as there are some issues with the way the two features interact during the beta. Turn off Sidecar using the Display panel in your Mac's Control Center to prevent potential issues.

Are You Using At Least One Mac?

Though Universal Control can be used with two or more Macs and no ‌iPad‌s, at least one Mac is required to use it with iPads‌. In other words, two iPads without a Mac cannot take advantage of Universal Control, but if at least one Mac is in the mix, you can use the feature with multiple iPads.

Problems Automatically Reconnecting to a Nearby Device

The first time you use Universal Control, you can connect to a nearby Mac or ‌iPad‌ by pushing the trackpad or mouse cursor to the edge of the display toward the other device. After that, you can automatically reconnect to any nearby Mac or iPad in another session, but only if the setting is enabled (it isn't by default).

To enable automatic reconnections on Mac, go to System Preferences -> Displays -> Display Settings- > Advanced, and check the box next to Automatically reconnect to any nearby Mac or iPad, then click Done.

Problems With Drag and Drop

You can drag and drop files between two devices using Universal Control, but note that if you're using an ‌iPad‌ and a Mac, you need to have an app open that's compatible with the file type.

If you want to drag a photo from the Mac to the ‌iPad‌, for example, make sure you open up the Photos app on the ‌iPad‌ first. Or if you have a document you want to move, open up the Files app on the ‌iPad‌.

Dragging something from the ‌iPad‌ to the Mac is simpler because the Mac's desktop supports different file types, unlike the ‌iPad‌'s Home Screen.

Problems Using Multitouch Gestures

Some multitouch gestures like Mission Control are not available on an ‌iPad‌, and some are a little bit different. If you open up an app on the ‌iPad‌ and then want to exit out using the Mac's trackpad, you can use a three-finger swipe to do so. Alternately, with a mouse, you can mouse down over the dock to bring it up to swap apps.


Problems Using Copy and Paste

You can copy and paste text from one device to another using the one keyboard as long as it's an app that supports text input, but this feature does not yet appear to be working properly with apps like Safari. Features like copy/paste will likely see some refinement during the beta testing process.

Problems With Display Arrangement

If the cursor exits one display and appears on another display in a position that doesn't align with the physical arrangement of both displays, use the Displays section of the Mac's System Preferences to rearrange how your devices are laid out.

If your ‌iPad‌ is to the left of your Mac, for example, you'll want to make sure the Displays section shows that arrangement so your Mac's cursor can pop over to the ‌iPad‌'s display when you pop it off of the left edge of the Mac's screen.

Problems Using Apple Pencil

Universal Control does not work with the Apple Pencil. Input and control are limited to connected trackpads, mice, and keyboards. A single mouse/trackpad and a single keyboard can be used to control multiple iPads and Macs.

Problems Using iPhone

Universal Control is a feature that is designed only for the Mac and the ‌iPad‌. There is no option for controlling an iPhone with a Mac or ‌iPad‌'s mouse/trackpad and keyboard.

Read More

If you want to know more about the ins and outs of how Universal Control works, we have a dedicated Universal Control guide that explains everything.

Guide Feedback

Have questions an issue with Universal Control not discussed or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.

Article Link: Universal Control Not Working? Here’s How to Fix It
 
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szw-mapple fan

macrumors 68030
Jul 28, 2012
2,736
3,019
It works flawlessly for me, but Apple needs to fix the multitouch gestures compatibility before launch between Magic Trackpads and the other device.
 

mrhansolo

macrumors member
Oct 24, 2011
47
16
Anyone else have an issue where typing on the ipad from the mac keyboard that the shift key is not recognized? I know it's beta, but I was just wondering if anyone else is having this issue.
 

anthogag

macrumors 65816
Jan 15, 2015
1,110
1,460
Canada
I have M1 Mac mini and 12.9" iPad Pro. Universal Control works good and is super easy to use. 👍
 

melgross

macrumors 6502
Jan 23, 2004
393
304
New York City
Keep in mind folks, that we’re in early days yet, even just a beta. Possibly some will work when it’s finalized, and more features will come as time goes on. Look at how iPad cursor support evolved, and quickly. As long as it’s possible, and not technically incompatible in a way that can’t be overcome, Apple may implement it. I can see a number of those problems going away over the next year.
 

erikkfi

macrumors 6502
May 19, 2017
273
823
I switched off Handoff on Mac because it causes apps to show up and disappear constantly on the left side of the dock. It's actually quite distracting. Bummer that it has to be turned back on in order to make this feature work.
 

iStorm

macrumors 6502
Sep 18, 2012
452
583
Is it just me, or does running betas on our everyday devices seem to be the norm these days? I mean, this looks like a useful article, but I didn't read it in great detail since I'm not running the beta...and I'm going to forget all about it by the time the feature is released in a month or two. Seems like it would be better to publish these types of articles closer to the actual release date, when it's more relevant to a larger group of people. Are these generally republished again or stickied somewhere?
 

tobybrut

macrumors 6502
Sep 10, 2010
265
369
I have quite a few issues starting it. I can push the cursor against the edge of the screen and nothing happens for a while and then suddenly it starts working. It’s a problem, but I’m not going to complain about it because it’s still in early beta. This would be a problem with a release version. Outside of this one issue, I’m pretty happy with the feature.
 

SoldOnApple

macrumors regular
Jul 20, 2011
199
210
Feel like I've been waiting forever for this feature. I'm just glad that copy and paste works between devices.
 

ThunderSkunk

macrumors 68040
Dec 31, 2007
3,304
3,204
Milwaukee Area
Any features that require babysitting or troubleshooting I usually just don’t use.
I find myself having less and less patience as I get older, for things that do something amazing on paper, but irl only on 3 specific devices and only while standing on your head and arm wrestling a kangaroo, on tuesdays.

Tried this, & it was just another thing that started to work, and then just didn't. It would be about the most useful feature of Mac OS in my home and office, if it worked. Oh well.
 

contacos

macrumors 68000
Nov 11, 2020
1,768
6,766
Mexico City living in Berlin
I know it is still in beta but a general observation with Apple in the last few years is that they barely introduce new features to the public like they are just hidden somewhere in the settings panel (that the average user isn't even looking at) and you have to discover them yourself. Why is there no pop up after installing a new OS version introducing to "what's new" properly with some nice on-boarding screens? I know people that did not even know you could add widgets to your iPhone Home Screen let alone stack them on top of each other. I also wonder how many people actually use the hide your email feature, hidden in the iCloud controls (again, who actually checks those?). I personally had to tell people about it. I also still do not understand how the new multi tasking actually works on the iPad or why they changed it in the first place and I do not care enough to invest my time in finding out
 

amartinez1660

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2014
1,289
1,190
Any features that require babysitting or troubleshooting I usually just don’t use.

I find myself having less and less patience as I get older, for things that do something amazing on paper, but irl only on 3 specific devices and only while standing on your head and arm wrestling a kangaroo, on tuesdays.

Tried this, & it was just another thing that started to work, and then just didn't. It would be about the most useful feature of Mac OS in my home and office, if it worked. Oh well.
Wholeheartedly agreed… Sidecar was similar for me, it works then it doesn’t, then apple support asks you to sign off from iCloud on all your devices, but “make sure to make a backup first!”, sign in them back to iCloud, sidecar works fine but “now I have duplicated contacts for some reason that never ever merged together” situations over and over again.

One thing to mention, I spent some time scratching my head, using VPNs on the Mac (to connect to the office for example) will make the system believe that the computer is far away and make Sidecar not work, I would assume Universal Control will neither work. Maybe worthy of a mention.

Under VPN:
  • Universal Clipboard’s copy pasting between devices is a hit or miss luck
  • Annotating markup screenshots from the Mac on the iPad tends to work
  • AirDrop is a no-go: it sees the devices, it tries, it gets silently stuck without any prompt, error, reason
  • Receiving or initiating phone calls from the Mac through the phone will trigger then action but then fail. When receiving a call accepting it will just hang it up.
I’m missing a couple that I can’t remember anymore, it will come back. Probably it also depends on the VPN client and office’s configs for that… we use Cisco AnyConnect

——
Just a vent:
I find it incredibly annoying that a lot of these hands off features feel like hidden enough toggles somewhere with names that appear nowhere, the first time I heard “handsoff, continuity, iMessages/SMS syncing” and some other fancy names, the first thing I went in Catalina was try to look for a control panel, app or something that says “Setup continuity” or “Continuity is all good and dandy”… nothing front facing to be found, it is a combination of toggles, ”sign in here”, make sure that “iMessages SMS and something else there”, etc

By the way, usually iMessages is off sync… and the sms texts on mac? Tough luck with that, I still don’t know what makes it work at times.

EDIT: typos, phrasing, the usual middle of the night half asleep rambling mixups.
 
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basehead617

macrumors regular
Jun 5, 2017
120
131
This is ‘cool’ but i’d love to know some actual use cases people are using this for..
 

bobtem

macrumors 6502
Jun 5, 2017
360
408
Any features that require babysitting or troubleshooting I usually just don’t use.
Like the “time sensitive” feature on notifications. How much freakin time are you gonna spend messing with settings for notifications? If you don’t want to be bothered by notifications, turn your phone off. Done ranting now.
 

antmit

macrumors member
Oct 11, 2011
68
10
Whilst I appreciate that there's no other real way to do it, I do wish it wasn't dependent on wifi. My laptop is connected via a TB3 dock (Elgato for the record) and has a hardwired connection which gets me nearly 1GB download speeds. The wifi is around 500mb. I'd love to be able to connect my iPad and control is via my keyboard and trackpad, but don't want to "suffer" the slower speeds (I put it in speech marks because until recently, I'd have bitten your fingers off for 500mb download speeds) for the sake of it.

First world problems, I guess. But it's still annoying.
 
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