How to Connect Your Mac to A Monitor

Created by Brianna Bryan, Modified on Mon, 11 Jul 2022 at 04:32 PM by Brianna Bryan

Find your MacBook's video output. You'll need to make sure you have a port on your Mac that is compatible with an input on your monitor. But if your monitor and your laptop don't have the same ports, don't worry—in most cases, you can get an adapter that can bridge two video types, such as Thunderbolt to HDMI, which makes it possible to use nearly any type of monitor with your MacBook. These are the connections your MacBook may have:

  • Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and Thunderbolt USB 4: An oval port with a lightning bolt, found on all MacBook Pros beginning in 2016, and MacBook Airs beginning in 2018.[3]
  • USB-C: An oval port without a lightning bolt icon. 12" MacBook Pros from 2015, 2016, and 2017 have these.[4]
  • HDMI: A six-sided tapered port found on 2021 MacBook Pros, as well as MacBook Pros from 2012 to 2015.[5]
  • Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2, or Mini DisplayPort: The original Thunderbolt ports both have 6 sides and are not oval-shaped. You'll see a lightning bolt icon near this port on MacBook Air models from 2011-2017, and MacBook Pros from 2011-2015. On MacBook Pro and Air models made between 2008 and 2010, you'll see a square with two vertical lines instead.
  • If you're not sure which port you can use for a monitor, go to, select your model, and find the ports under "Charging and Expansion."

Find your monitor's video input.
 Look at the back of your monitor for ports labeled "Input" or that like the port you found on your MacBook. If you don't have identical ports on both devices, you can usually get an adapter that will connect the two.

  • Nearly all modern Apple monitors will work with Thunderbolt 3, 4, USB 4, and USB-C. Most of these monitors come with a cable that will fit into these ports and work immediately.
  • Many non-Apple monitors also support Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, USB 4, USB-C, and HDMI.

Get a cable and an adapter if necessary. If your MacBook and monitor don't have matching ports, you can use an adapter to bridge two different cable types, such as Thunderbolt 3 to HDMI.[6] There's an adapter for nearly any two types of cables, and you can find them anywhere computers are sold (including the Apple Store). If you're confused about which cable to get, this should help:
  • MacBooks with Thunderbolt 4: Use a Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 3, or USB-C cable to connect to any of these types of monitors. You can also use an adapter to connect to a DVI, HDMI, or VGA monitor.
  • MacBooks with Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt USB 4: Use a Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C cable to connect to either of these monitor types. You can also use an adapter to connect to a DVI, HDMI, or VGA monitor.
  • MacBooks with USB-C: Use a USB-C cable to connect to a USB-C monitor. You can also use an adapter to connect to a DVI, HDMI, or VGA monitor.
  • MacBooks with Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2, and Mini DisplayPort : Use a Mini DisplayPort cable to connect to Mini DisplayPort monitor, or an adapter to DVI, HDMI, or VGA monitors.

Use the cable to connect your laptop to the monitor. Plug on end of the cable into your MacBook's video port, and the other end into your monitor's video input port. If an adapter is required, connect the cables with adapter to bridge them. 

Plug in and turn on the monitor.
 Attach your monitor to a power source (e.g., an electrical outlet), then press the Power button. In most cases, you should see your MacBook's screen (either extended or mirrored) on the second monitor.

  • If you are using a monitor or TV that has multiple inputs, you may need to select the port you connected your laptop to on the monitor. Press the button that says "Input", "Source". or "Video Select" or something similar on the monitor or remote.
  • If you don't see your MacBook's screen on your monitor, you may need to detect the display. On your MacBook, click the Apple menu, select System Preferences, click Displays, and then click Detect Displays.

Open your Mac's System Preferences. You'll find it in the Apple menu, which is at the top-left corner of the screen. This is where you can control how your second screen acts on your MacBook.

Click Displays. It's the monitor icon in the System Preferences window. This takes you to the Display tab. 

Click the Arrangement tab. It's at the top of the window.

Remove the checkmark from "Mirror Displays."
 If you want both screens to display the same thing at all times, leave the checkmark in place. But if you want the second monitor to act as a second desktop to give you more space for multitasking, don't check this option.

  • If your plan is to close the laptop and use the second monitor as your only monitor, mirroring is the option you'll want.

Choose the primary monitor. You'll see two rectangles at the center of the window—one represents your built-in monitor, and the other represents your external monitor. A thin white bar runs along the top of the rectangle that's set as your primary monitor, which is your laptop's built-in screen by default.

  • If you want your external monitor to be the primary monitor, click and hold the white bar with the mouse, and then drag it to the other monitor. The menu bar will only appear on the primary display.
  • If you want to keep your laptop as your primary monitor, you don't have to change anything here.

Rearrange the screens (optional).
 The position of each rectangle in the Display window should reflect the placement of your monitors. For example, if your second monitor is to the left of your laptop's primary screen on your desk, you'll want the rectangle that represents your second monitor on the left side of the primary monitor rectangle. Drag the second screen to its actual position so the arrangement looks how it does in real life.

  • This makes it so you can easily drag a window from one monitor to another without having to guess which direction to drag it in.

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