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Monday, February 14, 2011

A Few Words on Adding an External Monitor

I have found that adding a second monitor to my Mac to expand my desktop is one of the best investments I can make. For $160 to $180 you can buy a 23” monitor with a screen size of 1920 x 1080 pixels, big enough for full-size HD movies. If you look around on a Saturday morning, you can find an old CRT monitor that someone doesn’t want any more.

Using the Apple adaptors, you can hook them up to the second video port on your Mac. You can get these adaptors at the Apple Store in the mall or on-line.

If you don’t have the most current Mac, I’d ask at the Genius Bar if they have the video adaptor for your model of Mac available. I looked on-line and Apple sells a wide range of video adaptors.

Anyway, once you have the adaptor, you need the monitor and the applicable video cable. VGA in the case of an old CRT monitor, DVI in the case of a new LCD monitor.

You Do Not Need to run the monitor at the same resolution as your Mac’s primary display. For example, my 13” MacBook runs at 1280 by 800 pixels. I’ve attached a 14” Hyundai monitor I found in the laundry room of my condo complex and run it at 1024 x 768. I now run the new LCD monitor at 1920 x 1080.

You Do Not Need to install a video driver for this to work. Unlike most Windows computers, which only come with one video output, the Mac has featured a second video output since at least my first iMac, a G3 all-in-one. True, the video output was only good for mirroring my computer’s main screen and not extending the desktop. It provided me with a convenient way to add a projector.

To make adjustments to the video, go to the Displays preference pane in System Preferences. In the lower left-hand corner, you will see a check box for Show Displays in Menu Bar. Check that off and you’ll see an icon that resembles a flat-panel display up in your menu bar of your primary display. Click on this and a menu will drop down, displaying all the monitors attached to your Mac. You will see the resolutions you can select for each one.

By default, the displays will extend the desktop area. You use the Displays preference pane to adjust the displays. Do you want them arranged horizontally or vertically? Do you want the secondary display on the left or right of the primary display? Adjust them to your pleasure with the Displays preference pane.

Have fun. More in the March Voice, including how to use an external computer as a secondary display.

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