How to Add a Second Monitor to Your MacBook

Your MacBook can be a great for when you’re on the go, but if you’re mostly using it at home and want some larger screen real estate, here’s how to add a second monitor to your MacBook.

The largest screen you can get on a MacBook is 15 inches, which isn’t a whole lot of room to work with. You can usually get by when you’re working remotely, but if you have the space and capability, using your MacBook with a larger monitor is ideal.

Read: How to Use an iMac as a Second Monitor

A larger screen can make it easier to work on projects, allowing you to have multiple windows open side-by-side, or just be able to fit more text and other items on the screen at once, since some monitors can offer a higher resolution that your MacBook.

Whatever the case may be, getting a second monitor for your MacBook can be a great way to add a desktop computer feel to your setup while at home. Here’s how to add a second monitor to your MacBook.

What to Look for in a Monitor

First, before you can add a second monitor to your setup, you first need to buy a monitor if you don’t already have one. The good news is that it’s not that hard to shop for a computer monitor, but there are a few things to keep in mind.


The first thing is resolution. In other words, how many pixels the monitor displays. Most basic modern monitors have a resolution of 1920×1080, which means it displays 1,920 pixels across and 1,080 pixels down. This is usually good enough for most casual users.

However, you can get monitors that have higher resolutions, including QHD monitors (2560×1440) and even 4K monitors (3840×2160). 4K monitors are still rather expensive, but QHD monitors are getting better in price. I recently picked up a Dell UltraSharp 25-inch QHD monitor for $250 on sale. The main to know is that higher-resolution monitors are generally more expensive.

Once you decide on a resolution, make sure to look at the cable connections that the monitor offers. Most basic monitors will offer DVI at the very least. The problem with DVI is that you’ll need an adapter to connect it to your MacBook.


Many basic monitors, however, come with an HDMI port, so if your MacBook has an HDMI port, you can simply connect any HDMI cable between the two and off you go.

Most higher-end monitors don’t have DVI, but they’ll usually have HDMI, as well as DisplayPort connections, and these monitors will likely come with a DisplayPort-to-Mini DisplayPort cable that you can use with your MacBook.

How to Connect a Second Monitor

Once you have your monitor in hand, it’s now time to connect it to your MacBook.

If you have a MacBook Pro, it’ll be a bit easier for you, since the MacBook Pro has a variety of ports you can use. The MacBook Air and the 12-inch MacBook are a bit more of a challenge, but it’s still possible with some adapters.

On a MacBook Pro, you have two options: HDMI or Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt. As mentioned earlier, if your monitor has DVI, you can get Apple’s Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter. If your monitor has HDMI, you can plug an HDMI cable in directly.


If you have a MacBook Air, your only options is Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt. With that said, you’ll either need the above adapter or a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter.

With the 12-inch MacBook, it’s a bit more tricky, but to connect a DVI monitor to it, you’ll need a DVI to HDMI adapter, as well as USB-C adapter. Or if you’re using HDMI, you can simply just get the USB-C adapter.

The less options you have as far as ports go, the more complicated it gets, but there’s always a way.

Now, once you have connected the monitor to your MacBook and turn it on, your MacBook will automatically detect the added display. You’ll just need to customize it the way you want by opening up System Preferences and clicking on Displays.


From here, the most important settings are found in the Arrangement tab at the top. This is where you can set which monitor is your main display. To do this simply click and drag on the miniature menu bar and place it on the monitor that you want to act as the main display.

You can also click and drag on a whole monitor to move it around and set how you want the desktop to act. For me, since my MacBook Pro is off to the right side and just slightly down from where my big monitor is, I’ve placed the desktop arrangement as such.

After that, you’re good to go and can begin using your second monitor right away. Your MacBook will automatically detect your monitor whenever you plug it in, and OS X will remember window sizes with the second monitor as well.