Is screen sharing not working on your Mac with macOS? Let’s fix it

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With a significant number of folks working or studying from home, it’s likely that at some point you will need to share your screen with others. Screen sharing, also called desktop sharing, is when you (or someone else) share some or all of the contents of your screen with other devices (like other computers, tablets, or phones). Sharing your screen allows you to quickly show co-workers, bosses, classmates, teachers or others anything that’s on your screen in real-time without needing to send any files. Screen sharing makes collaborating or reviewing things like presentations, documents, graphs, and even illustrations easy.

But what if you just can’t get it to work and are unable to share your Mac or MacBook’s screen with others?

Over the past few weeks, several readers let us know they are unable to share their screens during their online meetings or classes. Many report issues with third-party conferencing apps not working in screen share mode for apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and other similar services.

In this article, we outline steps you can take to quickly get screen share working on your Mac so you can get to the business at hand.

Quick tips quick tips 2019

Follow these quick tips if you cannot share your Mac’s screen with others

  • If you are not the meeting host, confirm with the host that meeting participants can screen share
  • Close all other programs that may use your camera or microphone
  • Connect to the fastest internet connection available–if you have 5 GHz, use that instead of 2.5 GHz
  • Try maximizing the app’s window on your Mac and then choose the button/option to screen your share. Or, if on full-screen, reduce the size of the app window and then try to share your screen
  • Try using the web version of the conference service using Safari, Chrome, or another third-party browser INSTEAD of the Mac app
  • If using a VPN, try temporarily disconnecting from the VPN during the call
  • Check for a macOS software update (especially any security updates) and update your Mac if needed (be sure to backup first, before updating)
  • Temporarily turn off any sleep and power nap settings using Energy Saver preferences. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Energy Saver
  • Restart by going to Apple menu > Restart
  • Check the Mac App Store or the web conference downloads site for any updates to your web conference apps
  • Quit the app and relaunch it or if necessary, force quit the app and relaunch it
  • Delete (uninstall) the conference app and reinstall it using the latest version available

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Can’t share your Mac’s screen? Check these settings

Apple’s increased security and permissions measure in macOS (particularly with macOS Mojave and above) require that you give permission and authorize any conference apps and services to use your Mac’s microphone and camera. Additionally, you may be asked to allow the conference app access to accessibility options and screen recording.

When you launch the conference app or service for the first time, you should see on-screen prompts asking for your permission to access these items.

app would like to access the camera prompt on Mac
Be sure to tap OK to allow your conference app to access your camera & microphone

If you did not allow access or ignored these prompts, macOS disables the apps from using your camera, microphone, screen sharing, and other remote access. Consequently, you need to give these permissions to get screen sharing and other conference services working on your Mac.

Check your Mac’s privacy settings

  1. Close the web conference app and go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy
  2. If you lock your Mac’s settings, tap the lock icon and enter your device password to unlock it
  3. Tap Microphone 
  4. Click the checkbox next to the conference app you want to use for screen sharing
    Security and Privacy settings on Mac for Microphone
    To ensure your conferencing app works on your Mac, give permissions to your Mac’s microphone, camera, and accessibility options
  5. Repeat these steps for Camera and Accessibility
    1. Depending on the web conference app, you may or may not see it listed in these settings. If it is listed, be sure to tick the box next to it
  6. When done, tap the lock icon to lock your settings again
  7. Reopen the app and run a screen sharing test to see if you solved the problem

You must quit the app to activate these permission changes!

  • When you give permission to your Mac’s Camera, you allow the app to share your image and video in a meeting or webinar.
  • When giving permission to the Microphone, you allow the conference app to use your Mac’s microphone for audio when joining a meeting.
  • Giving permission for Accessibility allows the app remote control during the meeting–not all conference apps require this permission.

For folks using macOS Catalina, you need to allow the conferencing application access to screen recording to share your screen

  1. Close the web conference app and go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Screen Recording
  2. If you lock your Mac’s settings, tap the lock icon and enter your device password to unlock it
  3. Tick the box for your conference app to enable it Mac privacy screen recording preferences for web conferencing and screen sharing
  4. Repeat for Files and Folders to allow any file sharing during the meeting
  5. Relaunch the app and run a test and try sharing your screen
  • Screen Recording allows the app to access sharing your screen with others.
  • Files and Folders let you share and save files from chat windows during a meeting.

Is your conference app not appearing in the list of apps under Screen Recording?

If you don’t see your conference app listed and discover that there is no option to add it, make sure you use the latest version of the conference app. Check for an update in the Mac App Store or via the developer’s site.

Alternatively, delete the app and reinstall it which automatically installs the latest version.

Temporarily turn off your camera

Sharing your screen takes up a lot of your internet’s bandwidth. For that reason, turning off the video component of your call when sharing your screen often helps.

If you know your call involves sharing your screen, begin your call without your camera sharing your video and choose audio instead. If you on a conference call already, try turning off your camera’s video and then choose to share your screen.

Getting a black screen during screen sharing?

  • Verify that you gave permission for Screen Recording in Apple Menu >System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Screen Recording. You need to close and reopen the app to reset this permission when using the app
  • Disable Automatic Graphics Switching.  Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences > Energy Saver Preferences and toggle off Automatic Graphics Switching toggle off automatic graphics switching on Mac
  • Temporarily turn off your camera and connect to your meeting with audio-only. Then try sharing your screen

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