Why Add Another Monitor to Your Mac?

There are those of you who have already answered the opening question of why or what benefits there are to adding another monitor to your Mac, but for those of you who haven’t even given it a thought, then it’s time to do just that. The why is pretty simple really, just consider all of the times that you’ve run out of space on your screen, or had so many windows open that switching back and forth between them gets frustratingly bothersome. With two monitors, two screens, you now have one really large screen to work from. Another alternative is that you can use the other monitor for a Mac that has a screen that is no longer working or burning out. Whatever you use that extra space for a second monitor will certainly be a large help.

Adding Another Monitor to Your Mac via Cables? Consider These Things First:

Can your Mac support a second monitor? To be able to determine this you will need to check with Apple or on the Apple website to see if your Mac can support a second display. You can also call the Apple store at 1-800-MY-APPLE. Don’t feel disheartened if they tell you your model is not able to support a second monitor, because there are other ways to still add a monitor to your Mac, but we’ll talk more about those later.

What’s the maximum resolution? If it’s a go on adding a second monitor, you now need to find out the maximum resolution your Mac can support for the second display. You can ask about this if you call Apple support or you can check for your Mac’s display information on Wikipedia.

Which cable do you need to connect the two? For this you need to check the back of the monitor you are wanting to connect to. See which it takes and then you can get an adapter in which you can connect from your Mac to the DVI or VGA (or other) connection. If you’re using a Mac BookPro you need a mini-display port cable. You choose which end it needs such as DVI, VGA, or HDMI.

Adding a Monitor to Your Mac Wirelessly

Yes, that is possible now. So if yo are at all concerned with the earlier discussion of the more traditional setup of a secondary display monitor on your Mac then worry no more. An app from Apple called Air Display on Mac, now allows you to connect another Mac computer to your main Mac. To connect it to another Mac and example would be if you have an iMac and a MacBook Pro and you want to use both screens but just one computer. You can choose which you wish to use as the main computer and use the other only as a monitor or display.

There is also another application called ScreenRecycler that can add another monitor to your Mac. This app only has a beta version for Lion users at this time, but it does allow you to connect to other computer screen monitors other than Mac. With either app you need to connect to a computer not just a stand alone monitor, but with ScreenRecycler you can connect your Mac to an old Windows computer if you want to at least get some use out of it. At least it will work better as a monitor then it did as a computer, just a little Mac humor.

Using Your iOS Device as Another Wireless Mac Monitor

Another way to add a second monitor is to connect your Mac to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. This is done via the same app spoken of earlier from Apple just a slightly different version. It is Air Display for iOS. With this app you can also connect a Windows computer to any of these devices, which is a big plus for someone that uses Windows as their main computer and has an iPad or other iOS device they would love to use more.

Although it may sound great for using your iPad as another monitor for your Mac, it may not sound very advantageous for you to use your iPhone or iPod as such due to the much smaller size, however, there are other reasons to consider using it even with the smaller iOS devices. Here are a few:

  • Fill your Air Display screen with your utility apps, like iChat, Mail, iCal, and Calculator..
  • Air Display makes a laptop much more useful. Adding the iPad’s 1024×768 display nearly doubles the screen area of a laptop or netbook.
  • Air Display not only gives you a wireless computer screen extender, but also works as a tablet input device. You can use your finger to draw directly on the screen’s surface. Try it with a calculator, painting tool, or music control surface! Simple gestures allow you to operate the right mouse button and scroll wheel.
  • Air Display provides a keyboard and mouse input on the iOS device. 

Air Display supports video-out to your TV or Monitor, when used with an appropriate adapter cable.
  • Graphic design: Make Photoshop and Illustrator usable on your laptop by putting your tool palettes on the iOS screen.
  • Music: Use your iOS screen as a wireless control surface for Logic or Pro Tools.
  • Programming: Use the extra display area for such auxiliary development tools as Console, Terminal, and the Debugger.

Not Done Yet! Configuring Display Needs to be Done

Whichever way you have chosen to add the other monitor to your Mac you still need to go in and mess with the display settings a little bit. To configure your monitors click on Settings i.e. “Apple Menu” > “System Preferences” and choose “Displays”. Here you can fix any screen sizes or color management, but most of all you will want to setup your new monitor for how you wish to view it. To do so click the Arrange tab to choose how your screens will display. To do so you drag your main Mac display screen and put it to the left or right (depending on which side the monitor is on) so that it will show as a continuation of your main screen. If you are using the additional monitor as your new main monitor, then you will also use this same tab to configure it to mirror exactly what is on the screen (working or not) of the Mac you will be using.

Which is Best? Cables or Wireless?

Cables: So this article shows you a few ways to add that other monitor to your Mac, but now you have to choose which you would use; connect via cable or wireless app? Benefits for the cable version are that you can choose nearly any stand alone monitor, if your Mac supports it, which gives a secondary benefit of not needing another computer just to use its screen. The down side, well there’s a few. Cables are expensive, connecting them is never fun, not all Macs can connect to other monitors, and you of course have more wires to deal with.

Wireless: Benefits for the wireless version is that you don’t have to worry about cables or extra wires, you connect easily through your computer, you (with Air Display) can connect to iOS devices, and the apps are less expensive then the cables you will have to buy. The down side on doing it this way is again, the inability to use a stand alone monitor, and if you don’t use an ethernet cable with both computers you may have a little lag between screens.

Editor sidenote: For myself the benefits outweighed any downside for the wireless apps. I use my MacBook Pro with its smaller screen with my iMac, which I now use as the main computer. Using the Air Display app for Mac I have my MacBook Pro next to my iMac whenever I feel the need for a little extra screen space. I did also try out the Air Display app for my iPod Touch, but I haven’t spent enough time with it to give an opinion one way or the other on it as a second Mac monitor. I have also not yet tried the other secondary display app ScreenRecycle, but I will do so soon when they have their Mac Lion version ready to go. When that happens I will update this article with the comparison or we will just write a new one reviewing the two apps so that you can get the best way to wirelessly add another monitor to your Mac.

50 Kimberly Carver


Kimberly Carver is a trained Mac Specialist/Expert. Trained both in school and on the job she continues to educate herself about Macs at every opportunity she gets. Kim’s official training and areas of expertise include: Mac specialist, AOL IT Tech, certified paralegal, research specialist, and licensed private investigator.