Use an Old iPad as a Second Display with the Duet App

A couple of weeks ago, I made a comment on a forum that mentioned that I have an iPad 2, for which I got a lot of derision for having such “ancient” tech. People are really awful. *shaking my head* At any rate, some of my long-term readers might remember that I got my iPad as a bonus at my apartment management job back in late 2011. Because of this, it has quite a bit of sentimental value and I haven’t wanted to part with it. I still use it for playing some games and watching Netflix, but I favour my (also “ancient”) iPad Mini 2 and can go for weeks without touching my iPad 2.

The other piece of tech I have is a 13″ Macbook Air. The display actually feels more generous to me than did that of my old 17″ Macbook Pro, but it’s not always enough. I have a non-transcription client the tasks for which make me rue my tiny display. It would be really help to have another display where I could put the reference materials I keep having to flip back and forth to. I also have some transcription clients with documents or videos I have to refer to that would be nice to have on full display all the time. But neither of those needs would justify shelling out for an external monitor.

Well, in between all the trolling on the forum, one guy replied that he had an “out in left field” suggestion to make since he remembered from another comment I’d made that I only have a 13″ computer display — why not use the iPad 2 as a second display using an app called Duet? This would connect the two devices over USB, allowing for a more stable connection than other similar apps that connect over WiFi.

I was intrigued and did some research before shelling out about 20CAD for the app. This was a fraction of what it would have cost me to get set up with an external monitor as I would have needed to get a Thunderbolt “splitter” so that I could have both the display and an Ethernet connection.

I downloaded Duet on both my Mac and my iPad 2. Duet is also available for PC, but I don’t know how it works for a PC. On my Mac, the app shows up in my menu bar.

I just turn it on there, make sure WiFi is on both the Mac and the iPad 2, plug the iPad 2 into my Mac, and voilà! It just works.

Not only can I slide any app window to the iPad, I can slide one (or more) Safari tabs over and work with some tabs on the Mac and others on the iPad. The iPad has to be on the right-hand side of the computer as it adds space to the right of your screen.

The only disadvantage I’ve found to this setup is that since the iPad is feeding off my computer battery, the computer battery drains more quickly. I therefore prefer to plug the iPad into an extra port on my keyboard. This means that the iPad doesn’t stay charged, but I can go at least a full work day on an iPad charge, so this is good solution for me.

Duet is a breeze to use and immediately fit into my workflow. I leave the app on all the time and it’s just a matter of seconds to put my iPad in the stand (if I happened to take it out for some reason) and plug it in. The stand is actually a heavy metal bookend that came with my desk and a binder clip. I got inspiration on Pinterest. There are tons of other free or nearly free stand ideas on there that use things from around the house rather than shelling out for a pricey purpose-made stand.

The iPad is the perfect size for the content I want to display. This is really all the extra space I needed and I can’t believe that a random stranger’s tentative comment solved a problem I couldn’t see myself solving in the near future due to the cost, as well as making a nearly obsolete iPad useful again. I made sure to thank him profusely!

10 thoughts on “Use an Old iPad as a Second Display with the Duet App

  1. Hey! My iPad 2 is not obsolete! I use it several times every day. I also have a 13″ MacBook Air which I use daily. But, I can’t think of anything I need Duet for and I’m reluctant to tell Dave about it for fear he’ll “borrow” my iPad. 🙂

    • I agree with you! They’re just considered that because you can’t upgrade their OS anymore so their days are definitely numbered. That’s funny about Dave. 🙂 The two screens are that much different in size and pair nicely.

      You can also use Duet with a smaller or bigger iPad and even a phone, but I’m not sure how useful adding a tiny display would be!

  2. Absolutely brilliant! I use my old iPad2 just for music and it will also work in the car to play my music, the car has a usb port and a aux connection. I know many people who could benefit from this app so I will share your post on fb.

    • I use my iPhone 5C for music, so I really didn’t have much use for the iPad until now. I’m glad you also find this app interesting. An iPad might not be a big enough secondary display for everyone, but it’s perfect for me.

      One benefit I didn’t note in my post is that if I load a PDF on my iPad, I gain the touch screen ability. So I can cross things out, make notes, etc. using my stylus, as if I was working with a sheet of paper!

  3. Hi Rae,
    Thanks for sharing. I’m a retired IT analyst and we learn so much by voicing our challenges and listening to ideas. People naturally want to help. Good for you!

    • Barrie, in this current culture of outrage and trolling,the helpers are unfortunately being drowned out. That’s why I feel it’s especially important to let them know just how much their help helped!

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