iPadOS + External Display + Ethernet = Questions Abound [RESOLVED]

Since upgrading to iPadOS 16.2, I can’t believe how great Stage Manager works on an external display. I did not try a single beta this year, so I saw none of the bad. Whatever pain happened during the beta season, it seems to have been worth the effort of the developers and beta testers. I find that it works really smoothly, and I’ve had to remind myself that I’m not on my Mac. It’s great.

I have run into a curious situation, though, that maybe someone can explain to me. My external setup that I’ve been testing in on is an Apple Thunderbolt Display, which is wired into my network via the ethernet cable. I also have a strong wi-fi connection in that room. But when my iPad is connected to the display, it will not connect to the Internet unless the ethernet cable is unplugged.

I can turn off wi-fi, I can turn off cellular, etc. Does not make a difference. That cable has to be removed.

It would be great if I could access the network via ethernet, but that’s not my greatest concern. It’s perfectly fine if my iPad relied on wi-fi when connected. What I don’t want is to have to remove the cable every time I connect my iPad.

Have any of you experienced this?

Hoping someone will tell me that I forgot to set something or that I’m doing something boneheaded.

What adatper(s) are you using to connect the iPad to the Thunderbolt Display?

Good question. It’s Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter. Same one I use with my M1 MacBook Pro.

Do you have a USB-C ethernet adapter you could use to plug the network cable directly into the iPad Pro to see if that works?

I don’t have one, but will get one and test it. That’s a good suggestion.

I’m confused, is the Thunderbolt Display, network connectable?

Yes. You have that right. There is an Ethernet port in the display. My network is plugged into the display.

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Ah, so it’s like a built in hub. Thanks, I didn’t know that.

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Do you have something that would let you use ethernet directly from the iPad? If so, my second troubleshooting step would be to try it with the the same ethernet cable but plugged “directly” into the iPad just to take the display out of the equation.

My first step would be to verify that using that ethernet cable actually provides network service.

(I’m speculating but my speculation is that if the iPad sees an ethernet connection with link status up then it will try to use that over any other network.)


This is my speculation as well. I’m going to try isolating the connection to the Ethernet as you suggest.

I also wonder, this set up works as you would expect when using my MacBook Pro. It will “use” the Internet either through Wi-Fi or through the ethernet cable. Even if both are active.

Maybe there is a port power-insufficiency? So, the iPad sees the Ethernet link, prioritizes that connection, but doesn’t have the power to pull it off. On the other hand, the port is in the display and the display is plugged into AC, so maybe that theory is flawed.

My guess (and the reason I suggested trying another Ethernet adapter with your iPad) is that the built-in driver that the iPad is using is not compatible with the older Ethernet chipset in the Thunderbolt display.


I have a USB C hub with an Ethernet port at my office. I’ll try that.

The problem is solved and it is not at all interesting. I would NOT have discovered it but for trying the recommendations from @ChrisUpchurch and @ACautionaryTale. None of the testing sets ups yielded anything–nothing was working when wired into my router. Then the coup de grace was that even my Mac was no longer connecting to the Internet through that Ethernet connection.

Next, I suspected Private Relay was the issue, but that was not it, either.

Well, it turns out that last week when I was traveling out of state. I received a warning that looked like a network intrusion. So, I locked out the offending devices and changed all my Wi-Fi passwords. Somehow in the process, I blocked a device that prevented my Mac from connecting to the network. Once I fixed that, it fixed everything. All my devices–other than the iPad–were otherwise working fine, so I did not even suspect a network problem.

Now, the iPad connects to the Internet with no trouble while connected through the Thunderbolt Display with the Ethernet cable plugged in and connects to either the wi-fi network or the wired network with no difficulties.

Thank you all and thanks to the unsung hero “networkquality -v”