How to Setup Multiple Monitors on Your Mac

Apple is everywhere these days:  your phone, you tablet, heck you may even use Apple TV.  It’s not just nerds, hipsters and computer illiterate that use Apple products either.  They have designed some of the highest quality products on the market, and that’s why so many in so many different industries are using Macs.  But just like PC users, Mac users want to maximize their productivity too.  One easy way to do this, according to a study done at the University of Utah, is to use multiple monitors to maximize your screen real estate.  If you’re a Windows 7 user then setting up multiple screens is actually pretty easy, but if you use Mac, there’s far less documentation on how to do so.  So we’re going to go over the easiest way to setup and configure your multiple monitor mac computer.

I’ve got good news and bad news for you.  You may or may NOT be able to setup multiple screens with your mac though, so before you go crazy (like going and spending $900 on a second Mac display), you should probably check out a site like to see if your Mac is setup to run multiple monitors.  For example, older Mac minis aren’t multiple monitor capable and the Macs iBooks powered by G4 can only run in mirror mode, which doesn’t do you a whole lot of good.  If you get into a situation where your Mac is only capable of mirror mode, then the good news is that there is a fix.  The bad news is that Mac doesn’t support it and technically considered a “Hack” so you use this at your own risk I suppose, as it may void your warranty.  It’s call the Screen Spanning Doctor and it can be found here:


Another thing to consider before you go out and purchase a second screen is type of connector available on your Mac.  Here’s an image of some different connectors to look for:

At the very minimum, you may have to find an adapter, but most people would agree that buying the right type of connector in the beginning is probably the easiest option.  It can be frustrating trying to find the right type of adapter when you just want to get everything hooked up and working correctly.


Here’s a short description of what type of Mac uses what connector:


  • Mini VGA can be found on older Macs.  Examples are iBooks, eMacs and even some of the later iMacs.  Adapters are available directly from Apple if needed.
  • Mini DVI – This is the latest and the greatest from Apple and chances are if your Mac is less than a few years old, this is what you have.
  • DVI – Again is found on newer Macs.  This is a fairly common type of connector these days, most of the monitors that you purchase are going to have this type of connector.
  • VGA – VGA is an old type of connector, however many monitors still have this as well.  You’re better off using DVI when possible though, as the picture will end up looking WAY better.


Now I’m going to give you a short run down on how to configure your extra monitors.  We’re going to assume that you have a video card already that will allow multiple monitors.  If that’s the case, then the next few steps should get your second monitor up and running perfectly.


First thing is first, boot up your Mac.  You’ll see the Apple logo on your first screen.  After the boot up is complete though, you’ll see an extension of your desktop on the second monitor as well.  The background image that’s on your first screen should be echoed on the 2nd screen too.


Now we need to configure it so that the new monitor looks its best.  To do this we go to the apple menu, and then select System Preferences, then select displays.

Each monitor will have a similar window



From here you will select your display resolution for each monitor.  You’ll need to check with the monitor manufacturer to find out the best resolution for the monitor that you’ve hooked up.


After you’ve done the above then you can select the arrangement tab to move the monitors into the order you’d like them.

One little note that you should be aware of is that if you move icons that you have on your main desktop to your second desk, and then disconnect your second monitor, then those icons will “disappear.”  The easiest way to get those back would be to click your desktop, press CMD+A and then right click (or two-finger click) and select “Clean up selection.”

Hopefully this answers any questions you may have about hooking up multiple monitor computers to your Mac.  With the extra monitor and screen real estate that you’re going to appreciate increased productivity along with a number of other great benefits.  Setting up your 2nd monitor with your Mac isn’t hard and you should be able to do so within a few minutes. With a few bucks and a little knowledge you’ll have your Mac running multiple monitors in no time at all.