Follow these simple steps to configure your Mac to connect to an external monitor.
Given the affordable price of external monitors these days people are moving towards connecting their MacBooks to an external monitor so they can see things in a bigger, better scale. Hooking up an external monitor to your Mac is very easy. Just buy the right connectors and connect the monitor to your MacBook and you are ready to go. There are very minimal changes that you’d need to make if you need some fine control over extending your screen real estate to the external monitor and such.
MacBook uses Mini-DisplayPort to connect to an external monitor. Mini-DisplayPorts are smaller in size to comfortably fit on the MacBook side panels but need a special cable to establish a connection with your external monitor. You’d need either of these 2 connectors.
Mini-DisplayPort to DVI Adapter – If you have a monitor that supports DVI connections then your best bet would be to make use of the DVI port as it gives better display quality. It costs $29.00 at the Apple Store.
Mini-DisplayPort to VGA Adapter – If your monitor doesn’t support a DVI connection then you don’t have a choice but to tap into the default VGA ports. Apple Store has this cable for $29.00.
Different ways of using the external monitor
Once you connect the cable to bridge the monitor and your MacBook the first thing you would notice is that now you have 2 displays, the MacBook display and the external monitor display. There are 3 ways to go with using the displays.
One way is to use the external monitor as a mirrored display, which means whatever you see in your MacBook display will get replicated on to the bigger monitor display. This would be the default setting if you don’t want to mess with fine-tuning the display settings.
Second way would be use the external monitor as an extension to your MacBook display. Imagine that as one really wide MacBook display. You can move windows to the external wide space and see it all in one shot even if you have Spaces enabled. This would be the best way to make use of that monitor investment.
Finally, you can also use your external monitor as the only display source and turn off the MacBook display completely. This would be particularly useful to those of you who are very used to the one-display-to-rule-all model.
Now, we’ll see how Mac OSX settings can be tweaked to use one of these display models.
Use the external monitor as a mirrored display
This would be the default setting if you don’t do anything to your Display settings. As soon as your Mac senses there are multiple displays you can go into “System Preferences” > “Display“. You’ll be able to see 2 display preferences dialog, one for your prime MacBook display and one for the external monitor. You can use the settings in these dialogs to adjust the screen resolution, color intensity and if you have a monitor that can be swiveled (rotated) you can tell Mac OSX to rotate the display to a certain angle for that particular display.
The main setting to note to get the (default) mirrored display is to go into the “Arrangement” tab. Once you are in there you should be able to see the “Mirror Displays” checkbox. Check the box (checked by default) to have what’s displayed on the MacBook display to be replicated to the external monitor.
Use the external monitor as an extension to your MacBook display
As you’ve seen above, the real trick in making the external display either as a mirrored display or an extension to your current display is a matter of checking/unchecking the “Mirror Displays” checkbox at the “Arrangement” tab on Display Preferences. Uncheck (clear) the “Mirror Displays” box to make the external monitor as an extension to your MacBook display.
Now, by default, your external monitor would act as a secondary display. What that means is that you’d be working on your MacBook as the prime display and drag windows to the external monitor. All your menus and dock will show up on your MacBook display. Human eye is used to the bigger-smaller display model than the other way around. So we’d definitely prefer our external monitor as the main display and use the MacBook display as a secondary display to keep an eye on certain tasks like email, chat, Twitter etc.
To do that all you have to do is drag the bigger display (which is your monitor display) as the first display on the above dialog. Your menu bar will stick with the smaller display and you want the menu bar and the dock to come to your primary display which is the monitor display. No problem, just drag the menu bar to the bigger primary display and you are all set.
Use the external monitor as the only display
This would be convenient for those of you who are used to one-display model. This is a bit tricky as there are no explicit ways to turn off your MacBook’s display and keep it open. You might need an external keyboard and an external mouse because we’d need to keep the lid closed on your MacBook to achieve this.
Once you connect the external monitor to your MacBook follow the instructions as if like mirroring the external display (check the “Mirror Displays” checkbox). Once done, close the lid on your MacBook. It will go into the Sleep mode.
Now, awake your MacBook from sleep using the external keyboard or the mouse. Your MacBook will sense that its display is not turned on and so will direct all the outputs to your external monitor. Since the lid is closed all the time it would be smart thing to have your MacBook lifted up a little bit for proper ventilation. From now on, you can use the keyboard and the mouse to put your Mac to sleep and to awake it from sleep.
I hope this is comprehensive enough to give you an understanding of the many ways you can connect an external monitor to your MacBook. If you have any questions/comments on this topic please ask/share over at comments.