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How To Setup Dual Monitors on Your Mac

Posted by Arch on July 25, 2018

People use dual monitors for many reasons. Some are design professionals or sound engineers, some are passionate gamers, some need different ways of boosting their creativity, and some just think it looks cool so they have to have them set up like that.

Hooking up your PC to dual monitors was never a big issue, but it wasn’t always the case for Mac users. Until just a few years ago it was a major annoyance to hook up another monitor to your Mac. Fortunately enough, it can now be done much more easily, just by following a few simple steps.

The trick is to find the right adapter. Once you have that covered, it will be a breeze and you will be multitasking in front of two monitors in no time.

Connecting an Apple Monitor

Due to a general incompatibility with non-Apple devices, it is much easier to connect another Apple monitor to your Mac than a non-Apple one. This is mainly due to the fact that non-Apple devices use different connectors.

First of all, you need to locate the Thunderbolt Port or the Mini DisplayPort on your MacBook laptop. Depending on the version and age of your machine, you should be able to locate multiple Thunderbolt ports, but some later models now feature a USB port instead of a Mini DisplayPort.

In some cases you may run into a mismatch with different versions of Thunderbolt ports. Usually, you will need to purchase an adapter which switches Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2. Keep in mind that Apple’s official products such as the one pictured below do not support Mini DisplayPorts.

After you’ve located the ports, simply take the cable from your second monitor and plug it into the appropriate port. Once you’ve connected it, turn on both devices and your laptop should recognize the
second monitor automatically.

If these methods don’t work on your laptop, you will need to revert to connecting your second Apple monitor just like any other non-Apple one. Read on to find out how.

Connecting a Non-Apple Monitor

The easiest way to connect a non-Apple monitor to your Mac is by using an HDMI cable, because most Mac laptops and non-Apple monitors come equipped with such ports. In case your Mac is one of the latest models, it may not feature an HDMI port, in which case you will have to try using several other connections.

The easiest way to connect a non-Apple monitor to a Mac laptop which doesn’t feature an HDMI port is to use an adapter converts HDMI to Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt, depending on what your machine has.

Perhaps the monitor that you want to connect to your Mac is an older one. In that case it won’t have an HDMI input, so you will have to deal with DVI or VGA adapters. Usually, all you need is a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter.

Cables and adapters can really turn into a nightmare, but you really should keep in mind that there are several other options available, which rely on the USB-C ports that we’ve grown accustomed to on our Mac devices.

Purchasing a simple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter might just be the proper solution to all your troubles as it can handle connections with HDMI, USB-A, and USB-C devices. There are also similar devices which deal with VGA instead of HDMI.

Setting up the Rig

Once your battle with cables and adapters is successfully resolved, you can get down to the actual business of setting up dual monitors on your Mac laptop.

By default, your second monitor will be set as the one that runs on the right side of your desktop configuration, and it will be set up so that it is basically just another monitor that shows the desktop. In order to change that, you will have to go into settings and options.

First of all, you need to go to your “System Preferences” represented by a grey icon with gears.

Once you get there, simply click on the first icon in the second row, titled “Displays”, which comes in the form of a stylized monitor.

Once you’re there, just click on the button that says “gather windows”. When you click this button, your main screen will show you icons for both monitors that are now connected to your system, the one on the laptop and the externally connected one.

The next step is to go to “Display Preferences” and select “Arrangement”. By doing so, you will be able to freely move the icons around so that you can determine where you want your monitors in terms of configuration. If you don’t want your secondary monitor to be on the right side, this is the place where you can change that.

Dragging the main menu bar between the two monitor icons will give you an additional option of selecting one of the two as your main monitor. The main monitor is always the one where all new windows are opened.

Last but not least, you can also fiddle with the “Mirrors Display” option. Do you want your additional monitor to be an extension of the original screen or to mirror it? If you check the mirroring option, it will have the same display as your original screen.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to connect another monitor to your precious Mac and improve your productivity, you just need to be careful when hunting for a proper adapter.

It might lead to a little bit of frustration at first, as cables and adapters can sometimes be a drag, but with persistence and patience you’ll be enjoying the vast real estate of two monitors in no time.

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