How to Connect an External Display With a MacBook

By Parker Hotchkiss

Whether you simply want to use a bigger monitor with your MacBook, or you are having problems using the laptop's internal display, you may want to connect an external display to your computer. Thankfully, with the correct cable and monitor, simply connecting the two and changing a setting in the control panel will have you up and running in no time.

Things You'll Need

  • Apple MacBook
  • External monitor
  • Mini-DVI or mini-display port adapter
  • DVI or VGA cable


Step 1

To successfully link a MacBook to an external monitor, the display must have either a VGA or DVI port. Check the back of the monitor you wish to connect to for a port similar to one of the two shown here. These connections are the most common for recent displays, especially with flat-screen LCD displays. The monitor should come with an appropriate VGA or DVI cable attached already or included separately. If the cable is not not already connected, attach the appropriate one to the corresponding port on the monitor.

Step 2

MacBook laptops have one of two external display connection ports -- a Mini-DVI port on older models, and a Mini-DisplayPort for recent models. Apple sells adapters that plug into these ports and allow you to connect a VGA or DVI cable to the adapter. Attach the appropriate adapter to the MacBook that will allow your monitor cable to plug in as well.

Step 3

Power on the laptop and press F7 or Fn + F7 (depending on your function-key settings) to enable external monitor mirroring. This will tell your laptop to send out a signal to the external device, allowing the connected display to activate and work properly. There is also a Display Options setting in the control panel that will allow you to tweak settings for the external display specifically. You can change resolution and whether the external display acts as an extension of the internal laptop screen or as a mirrored display.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your external display has another connection type---HDMI or Composite, for example---other adapters can be attached to the mini-DVI or mini-DisplayPort to accommodate these cable types. These additional adapters may degrade quality or simply not function properly any more.

References & Resources