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A computer, charts and graphsThe basics of screen mirroring

Screen mirroring technology allows a phone, tablet or computer to wirelessly share an exact replica of its screen on another device screen. You share a "mirror" image of your device to your intended destination. Often, you can mirror your entire device screen, an open application or a window. Screen mirroring is frequently used during meetings, presentations and lectures to easily share content to others in the room. In some cases, it can even be used in conjunction with videoconferencing software to accommodate both in-person and remote audiences. 

This article will teach you what screen mirroring is, what it isn't and how to use it. 

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Learn more about screen mirroring, find the most popular screen mirroring products and answer common screen mirroring questions: Read The Ultimate Screen Mirroring Guide.

What screen mirroring is not

To better understand what screen mirroring is, you have to know what it isn't. 

1. Online meeting/video conferencing software

Screen mirroring is not the same thing as online meeting software, desktop sharing software or videoconferencing software, such as Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting or join.me. Screen mirroring is a “localized” action, which means the screen-sending device and screen-receiving device are on the same network. An internet connection is not required.

Since screen mirroring connections are point-to-point and remain on the local network, screen data never crosses the internet. There are some exceptions where the devices are not required to be part of the same network. More information on that can be found below.  

Videoconferencing software does allow users to share their screen with other videoconference attendees, which is similar to screen mirroring. In that case, screen data must cross the internet. While screen mirroring and videoconferencing are very different technologies, some screen mirroring solutions have the ability to accommodate videoconferencing software in a way that enables sharing to both in-person and remote audiences. 

2. Media streaming

Screen mirroring is not media streaming. Media streaming is the continuous playback of an audio or video file. Many people stream media on a daily basis. Ever hear of Netflix or YouTube? That’s media streaming. But media streaming can also be as simple as sending an audio or video file on your computer to play on an external receiver, such as an Apple TV.

Streaming is great if you just need to send an audio or video file to the big screen. Screen mirroring is better for presenting and collaborating.

3. Cables, adapters and dongles

Some people interpret screen mirroring in a broader sense to include physical connections, such as HDMI, VGA and various other cables and dongles. Those methods are becoming mostly obsolete as the world transitions to wireless tech. For the purposes of this article, screen mirroring is an entirely wireless act.

How screen mirroring works

Screen mirroring requires two components: a screen-sending device and a screen-receiving device. 

The screen-sending device utilizes a screen mirroring protocol. There are a number of screen mirroring protocols. Great examples of this include Apple AirPlay on iPhones and Google Cast on Chromebooks.

Screen mirroring also requires a receiver. The receiver is the destination for the content you are trying to display. There are hardware receivers, such as Apple TV, Chromecast and many others. There are also software applications like Reflector that turn existing devices — such as a Mac or Windows computer — into robust receivers.

Screen mirroring connections can be established in a number of ways depending on the devices that are trying to connect. Devices are equipped with various types of native screen mirroring technology (such as AirPlay and Google Cast) and therefore do not always share the same compatibility. For instance, Windows devices are equipped with Miracast while Apple devices use AirPlay. This prevents Windows devices from wirelessly connecting to Apple TVs. These technological barriers cause issues for businesses and schools that deploy and use multiple device types.

Fortunately, there are third-party screen mirroring solutions with cross-platform compatibility like Ditto to help bridge that gap.

Screen Mirroring with iOS, iPadOS, Chrome OS, Android, macOS and Windows

  • iOS and iPadOS devices: Use native AirPlay on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Open Control Center, select "Screen Mirroring" to view a list of available AirPlay receivers. Compatible AirPlay receivers for iOS and iPadOS device screen mirroring include Apple TV and Reflector-enabled devices.

    Note: Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access Control Center on an iPad running operating systems released 2017 and earlier, iPhone 8 or older and iPod Touch. Swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen to access Control Center on standard and Pro models of iPhone 14, iPhone 13, iPhone 12, iPhone 11, iPhone Xs, iPhone X, iPhone Xr and iPhone SE. Follow the same process by swiping down from the upper-right corner for new iPads, including the iPad Air and iPad Pro running iPadOS 13 or later. 

    Read more about iOS screen mirroring and get tutorial videos: 

  • macOS: These devices can screen mirror or stream content to Apple TV using native AirPlay (only available on Apple laptops released in 2012 or later). Additionally, you can download Reflector software on Windows computers to turn them into compatible AirPlay receivers.

    Note: Third-party screen mirroring software such as Ditto and AirParrot allow Mac users to mirror or stream content to Chromecast, Apple TV or Reflector-enabled devices with additional features not provided by standard AirPlay.

  • Windows: Newer Windows devices and old Android devices use Miracast screen mirroring technology. Compatible Miracast receivers for Surface Pros and other Windows devices include the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, Amazon Fire TV stick (sometimes) and Roku, to name a few. Neither Google nor Apple support Miracast. However, the Ditto screen mirroring solution allows Windows users to mirror and stream content to Apple TVs, Chromecasts and Reflector-enabled devices.

    In general, the Miracast protocol is not as straightforward as its AirPlay and Google Cast counterparts. Knowing which devices use Miracast, which receivers they can connect to and the performance of those connections will require some research for the end user.  

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Who uses screen mirroring technology?

Screen mirroring is used in schools, homes and businesses for in-class content sharing, collaboration, meetings and home entertainment.


Screen mirroring technology is used in K-12 and higher education to promote collaboration, display student work and add mobility to instructional delivery. Screen mirroring solutions that have cross-platform compatibility are ideal for education settings because a wide range of device types are frequently used in schools.


Professionals often need to present content to a big screen during meetings. Screen mirroring technology makes it easy to share presentations or reports, brainstorm and collaborate in the places they meet, like conference rooms, huddle spaces and common areas. Similar to schools, companies deploy multiple devices types. An organization's wireless presentation solution must accommodate the devices its employees — and guests use.  This requires a screen mirroring solution with cross-platform compatibility, such as Ditto.

Home entertainment

General consumers mirror and stream music, movies, videos, photos, mobile gameplay and more from their devices to TVs and displays equipped with a compatible receiver. Popular consumer screen mirroring software includes AirParrot and Reflector. 

Screen mirroring across networks 

Traditionally, the sending and receiving devices must be on the same network to screen mirror. However, there are times where an organization may need certain devices and receivers on separate networks for security purposes. For instance, an organization may have a separate network for guests to avoid having guest network traffic on the main network. This would make connecting to a receiver, such as an Apple TV, impossible for guests. 

There are a couple of ways to resolve this problem. Organizations will often open specific network ports for local communication between the networks. For some cases, multicast or Bonjour Forwarding may be required as well. Taking these steps will enable screen mirroring between networks. However, this solution does not work for all organizations. Some organizations cannot open network ports due to security and legal obligations. 

Fortunately, our screen mirroring experts worked with high-profile engineering and IT teams at these organizations to develop technology that allows devices on separate networks to screen mirror without opening network ports and without requiring any user information to cross the internet. It makes connecting simple for the end user and keeps networks secure.

Want to know more? Talk to our team to learn more about screen mirroring and how it can meet your needs. 

Last updated 1/24/2023

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