Apple has recently made it much easier to share your screen with friends and colleagues on FaceTime. This can be very helpful if you want to show a problem you’re encountering with an app, display important work-related information for video-meetings, or just share something fun with your friends.
It should be noted that Share Screen is slightly different to SharePlay, which is another new feature introduced by Apple. With the latter, you’re able to watch streamed movies, TV shows or music together, but any subscription services (such as Netflix, Spotify, Apple TV+ etc) require every person on the call to have active accounts. So, it’s not a way to get around watching the latest episode of a show if you don’t subscribe to the service.
Here’s how to share your screen while using FaceTime for iPhone, iPad or Mac. For users with older devices, not able to run the latest versions of its OS, we also have some other methods for sharing your screen later on in this tutorial.
If what you wanted to do is use your iPad as a screen with your Mac you need to read this: How to use an iPad as a second screen with a Mac.
What you need:
- Latest version of iOS, iPadOS and macOS
Before you can access the latest screen sharing features, you’ll need to ensure that your device is running the latest versions of their relative operating system. For iPhone you’ll have to be on iOS 15, iPads require iPadOS 15, and Macs will need macOS Monterey – these all have the screen sharing features built-in.
If your device isn’t able to run these versions, then you can still share your screen, but it will require different methods, which we’ve outlined later in this guide.
To move your device to the newest iteration of its OS, you can follow the instructions in how to update iOS on your iPhone, how to get iPadOS 15 on your iPad and how to update macOS.
How to share your screen in FaceTime for Mac
On macOS Monterey it’s simple to share your screen when using FaceTime. Here’s what to do:
- Start or join a FaceTime call.
- Click the FaceTime icon in the menu bar to open up the control panel.
- Select the Screen Share button (a screen with a person in front).
- You’ll now be able to select from two options:
- Window: This allows you to show a specific window, which is great for displaying an app with those on the call.
- Screen: This shares your entire desktop, so anything you can see on your Mac can be seen by others on the call.
- When you’ve finished, click the FaceTime icon in the menu bar once more and click the Stop Sharing button.
How to share your screen with FaceTime for iPhone and iPad
As with macOS Monterey, iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 now have simple ways to make sharing your screen a doddle. Here’s how it’s done:
- Start or join a FaceTime call.
- Tap the Share Content icon (the display with a person in front).
- Tap the Share My Screen option.
- Now everyone on your call will be able to see what’s on your screen.
- To finish sharing, tap the End button.
How to use SharePlay on iPhone, iPad and Mac
If you want to watch movies, TV shows or other steamed content with friends over FaceTime, then SharePlay is the way to do it. For this, you’ll require the latest version of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 or macOS Monterey, so make sure all participants’ devices are updated accordingly.
When on a call, activating SharePlay is very similar to the Share Screen feature, but with a few different steps:
- Start a FaceTime call.
- Open up an app that supports SharePlay (This is growing all the time, but you’ll need to check whether the one you want to use will work or not).
- Choose the movie or show you want to watch, then tap Play followed by Play for Everyone.
- This should sync the content to everyone on FaceTime, so long as they have active accounts with the content provider.
How to share your screen with devices running earlier versions of iOS, iPadOS and macOS
You don’t have to use FaceTime to share your screen, although it is the easiest way to do so. But, if you want other methods, then here are some you can try. Many are centered on older versions of macOS, with could be handy if your current devices doesn’t support the newest version of its OS.
Method 1: Use Screen Sharing on a Mac
If you’re both on Macs, an easy way to access and control your friend or colleague’s screen is to use the screen-sharing feature built into macOS.
- Run a Spotlight search (Cmd + Space) and enter ‘screen sharing’ – it’ll offer to autocomplete once you’ve typed in the first couple of letters. Double-click the icon on the right to launch the feature.
- A dialogue box will appear with a single field, labelled ‘Connect To:’. Enter your mate’s Apple ID. An invitation will be sent to them. (In fact, if your Contacts file for that person includes the correct email address, you can just type the first couple of letters of their name, and then select them from the autocomplete options presented. Contacts who are set up correctly for this will have their names highlighted in blue.)
The invitation will appear as a notification on your colleague’s Mac; they should click Accept.
Then select either ‘Control my screen’ or ‘Observe my screen’ (depending on whether they want you to be able to see what’s going on or actually control their Mac) and then Accept.
Your colleague’s desktop will appear on your desktop as a window. (If they’re using two monitors, as is the case below, this window will be double-width.) If your colleagues selected ‘Control my screen’, you can actually click on the windows and icons inside Screen Sharing and control the other Mac directly. This enables you to fix any problems yourself.
- In Control Mode you will find that performance is affected by the speed of both your networks, and the other person’s internet connection. So you may have to be patient. (By default, Screen Sharing adjusts the quality depending on the performance of the network.)
- You can zoom in and out, and if you wish to upgrade your privileges from observing to controlling, you can click the lefthand option (a cursor inside circles) at the top left of the window, labelled Control. This will send a further request that your colleague can accept or decline. (If this isn’t displaying, click View > Show Toolbar in the menu.)
When you’re finished, click on the Screen Sharing icon in either Mac and choose End Screen Sharing.
Method 2: Access a Mac via Messages
Messages also allows you a quick and easy way to share your screen with another person. Our US-based Macworld team has already written a fine tutorial outlining the process, so take a look at How to share your Mac’s screen with Messages for a step by step guide.
Method 3: Remote access a Mac using Chrome Remote Access on an iPad/iPhone
If you’re using an iPad (in particular) or an iPhone (if you think you’ll be able to make our any detail on the smaller screen) then using remote access to view and control what’s on your friend’s Mac is a good option. And one of the best ways to remote-access a Mac from an iPad is to use Google’s free Chrome Remote Access service, which lets you remotely use Mac programs from an iOS device.
It’s quite an involved process to set it up the first time, but easy if you want to do it again in future. You’ll need the Google Chrome web browser for Mac, and a Google account. If you haven’t got these already, you can download Chrome here and sign up for a Google account here.
How to set up Chrome Remote Desktop on a Mac
- Open Chrome and go to Chrome Remote Desktop on the Chrome Webstore.
- Click Add to Chrome, then Add App.
- Click Allow, then Continue.
- Hit Get Started under My Computers, and select Enable Remote Connections, Accept and Install, then OK.
- Double-click the chromeremotedesktop.dmg file in your Downloads folder, then double-click the Chrome Remote Desktop Host.pkg icon that appears in Finder. Click Continue, Install, enter your Admin password and click OK. Click Close.
- Return to the Chrome Remote Desktop window and click OK. Enter a memorable pin and click OK.
- The Chrome Remote Desktop Host Preferences window will open. Click the lock icon. Enter your Admin password (click OK) and your PIN (click Enable).
- Click OK in the Chrome Remote Desktop window. Close the Chrome Remote Desktop window, Chrome Remote Desktop Host Preferences window, and Google Chrome windows.
How to set up Chrome Remote Desktop on an iPad or iPhone
- On your iPad, you’ll need to download the Chrome Remote Desktop app.
- Open the app, tap Sign In and enter your Google ID (the same Google ID as the one you logged into on the Mac)
- Select the appropriate Mac computer in the My Computers window. Enter the PIN we chose earlier and tap Connect.
- There are some other excellent iPad remote-control apps out there, but most of them charge a monthly fee, which is why we return to Chrome Remote Access.
- We look at this approach in more detail in a separate article: How to remote access a Mac from an iPad for free
Method 4: View Mac on iPad or iPhone with VNC Viewer
Accessing a computer on the same network as your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch is usually just a matter of entering the local network IP address or computer name when prompted in the apps discussed below.
However, accessing your computer from outside the home or office is more complicated. You’ll need to configure your router so that the relevant ports are passed through to the computer you want to connect to. You’ll find guides online.
It’s also wise to configure a dynamic DNS service so that you can connect via a hostname rather than an IP address, which is prone to changing. Examples of dynamic DNS services include NoIP and DuckDNS, which are free of charge, but how they’re configured is again outside the scope of this article. There’s many guides available online – just search using your router model number and “dynamic DNS”.
How to set up your Mac and iPad for screen sharing
macOS uses the established Virtual Network Computing (VNC) protocol to share a desktop remotely, so any iOS app that supports VNC will work. There are quite a few of these, in fact, but one of the best that also happens to be free is VNC Viewer.
- Before using VNC Viewer you’ll need to configure the Mac you want to connect to: put a tick alongside Screen Sharing in the Sharing component of System Preferences.
- Click the Computer Settings button and ensure there isn’t a tick alongside either of the two headings you see.
- Note the address listed beneath the heading that reads Screen Sharing: On. You’ll need it to connect in a moment. It’s also a good idea to note your Mac’s IP address in case using this address doesn’t work – click the Apple menu, hold down Alt ( Option on some keyboards), and click System Information.
- In the window that appears click the Network heading in the list at the left, and look alongside either Wi-Fi or Ethernet at the right depending on which your Mac is using.
How to connect to your Mac (or PC) from iPad or iPhone
- On the iOS device open the VNC Viewer app and click the plus icon at the top right. In the dialog box that appears, type the address you discovered in the paragraph above, and in the name field type something memorable and identifiable such as Mac Desktop.
- Click Done, and then the Connect button. You’ll be warned you’re using an unencrypted connection. This is unfortunate but there’s no way to avoid it, so tap the Connect link at the top right of the window.
- You’ll then be prompted for the username and password of the Mac account you want to log into. You should type the “short” version of your username – usually your first name, or the first whole word of the longer version of the username.
- You’ll connect immediately and see a tips panel showing some control tricks. However, in short, the mouse cursor is represented by a small dot and you “shove” it around – push up on the screen, for example, and wherever the mouse cursor happens to be it will also move up. It can take a bit of getting used to. Tapping on the screen is the equivalent of clicking. Use the pinch-expand gesture to zoom in and out of the desktop.
- To make a keyboard appear for typing, tap the keyboard icon on the toolbar at the top of the screen.
- To disconnect from the remote Mac, tap the X icon on the toolbar.
If you want to connect to a Linux desktop, you can install a VNC server package (just check your distro’s package archive), and the same VNC Viewer app can be used to connect as described above.
Method 5: Connect to Windows computers from iPad or iPhone
Microsoft has a surprising number of apps available for iOS and one of them is Microsoft Remote Desktop. This lets you remotely connect to the desktop of Windows computers. It’s free of charge.
Microsoft has put together a FAQ addressing many of the features and capabilites of Remote Desktop, so it’s well worth investigating that if you’re interesting in using the method. Here’s an overview of the process:
- Before using Remote Desktop you’ll need to ensure it’s activated on the Windows computer you want to access. This can be done by clicking Start and typing Allow Remote Access To Your Computer.
- Then click the entry that appears in the results, and click Allow Connections Only From Computers Running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (More Secure).
- Then click OK.
- You’ll also need to know the IP address of the Windows computer. Click Start, then type cmd. In the DOS box that appears, type ipconfig and hit Enter. In the output, look for the line that reads IPv4 Address and make a note. Then close the DOS box.
- Start the Microsoft Remote Desktop app on your iOS device and click the plus button in the top right, then select Add PC or Server. In the PC Name field, type the IP address you noted earlier. Tap the User Name field, then tap Add User Account. Now type the username and password of the Windows computer you want to access, and tap Save, and then Save in the parent dialog box. Then tap the icon for your new connection. You’ll be asked immediately if you want to accept the security certificate. Tap the switch alongside Don’t Ask Me Again and then tap Accept.
- You’ll see the remote PC’s desktop and your fingertip moves the mouse cursor. To switch to touch controls, as if using a touchscreen PC, tap the IP address toolbar at the top of the screen, and select the option at the bottom right on the sidebars that appear. To bring up a keyboard for typing, tap the keyboard icon in the toolbar at the top of the screen.
- To disconnect, tap the toolbar and then tap the X at the left of the thumbnail listing at the left of the screen.