How many additional screens can you connect to a MacBook? These are your options

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If you have to work on your MacBook for a longer period of time, it's nice to connect an external screen. Here we explain how to use a MacBook with an external display and what you should take into account.

You can use a Mac with an external display. You quickly think of a desktop Mac, such as a Mac mini. But with a MacBook it is also quite possible to connect an extra screen. That works very well, because you have a much larger screen surface at your disposal and you don't have to lean over your MacBook. It is even possible to use multiple external displays, up to four at the same time!

  • Connecting an external screen: this is how it works
  • Number of screens per type of port
  • MacBook Air with external screen
  • MacBook Pro with external screen
  • Workaround: connect more screens

The first MacBooks with Apple Silicon only allowed you to connect one external screen, but much more is now possible. Current models often support two or more screens.

Connect an external display to your MacBook

Connecting an external display is very easy:

  1. Connect the display to a power outlet.
  2. Use a video cable to connect the display to a suitable port* ( Thunderbolt or HDMI) of your MacBook.
  3. If you don't have the right connection on your MacBook, you can use an adapter or connect a suitable video cable.

Ports may look similar, so determine if the port is suitable for connecting displays.

Once the display is properly connected, it will be automatically detected by your MacBook. The macOS desktop will appear on the screen and you can continue setting up the screen display.

Go to  > System Settings (or System Preferences) > Displays and go through the various settings, such as resolution and refresh rate.

How many displays per type of port?

The number of external displays you can connect depends on the type of port:

  • Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2 or Mini DisplayPort: up to 2 displays*
  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C ): ééon each port
  • Thunderbolt 4- (USB-C): up to 4 external displays
  • HDMI ports: up to 4 external displays

*If the displays themselves have a Thunderbolt port, you can connect one display to another and then connect one of the displays to a Thunderbolt port on your computer. If your Mac has two Thunderbolt ports, you can connect a display to each Thunderbolt port on your Mac. To connect a DisplayPort device, it must be the last device in the chain of Thunderbolt devices.

MacBook Air with external display

The MacBook Air is intended for consumer use and therefore only supports one external display. Regardless of whether you have an M1 chip (2020) or M2 chip (2022) version, this is the maximum possible:

  • 1x external display of up to 6K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt/USB 4-port

This maximum also applies to the entry-level model of the MacBook Pro with a 13-inch screen. These are equipped with a standard M1 or M2 chip and therefore only support one external screen.

MacBook Pro with external display

The number of displays you can use at the same time depends on the MacBook model, resolution, and refresh rate you want to use. Common resolutions are 4K, 6K and 8K and the refresh rate is often 60Hz, 144Hz or 240Hz. It is not possible to increase the maximum number of displays with a MacBook hub or docking station. If you want to connect multiple screens, connect the screen with the highest resolution first. So first 6K and then 4K.

MacBook Pro (2023) with M2 Pro chip

The 14 and 16-inch MacBook 2023 Pro models with M2 Pro chip support up to two external displays with a resolution of up to 8K and a refresh rate of up to 240Hz. You can see all the details below.

Connect 1 external screen

Choose from these options:

  • Thunderbolt: 1x screen of up to 6K at 60Hz
  • HDMI: 1x screen up to 8K at 60 Hz
  • HDMI: 1x a 4K screen at 240Hz

Connect 2 external screens

Choose from these options:

  • Thunderbolt: 2x a display of up to 6K at 60Hz
  • Thunderbolt and HDMI: 1x a display of up to 6K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt port én 1x a screen of up to 4K at 144Hz on the HDMI port

MacBook Pro (2023) with M2 Max chip

The 14-inch and 16-inch versions of the 2023 MacBook Pro with M2 Max chip support up to four external displays with a maximum resolution of 8K and a refresh rate of up to 240Hz.

Connecting 1 external display

This is possible when using one external screen:

  • Thunderbolt: 1x screen of up to 6K at 60Hz
  • HDMI: 1x screen up to 8K at 60Hz
  • HDMI: 1x a 4K screen at 240Hz

Connect 2 external screens

These are the possible configurations with two displays:

  • 1x display up to 8K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt port éone 1x display up to 8K at 60Hz on the HDMI port
  • 1x display up to 8K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt port One 1x display at 4K at 240Hz on the HDMI port

Connect 3 external displays

Three external displays are also possible in these configurations:

  • 1x display up to 6K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt port én 2x displays up to 6K at 60Hz
  • 2x display up to 6K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt ports 1x display up to 8K at 60Hz on the HDMI port
  • 2x display up to 6K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt ports 1x display at 4K at 240Hz on the HDMI port

Connect 4 external screens

This combination is possible as much as possible:

  • 3x screen up to 6K at 60Hz on the Thunderbolt ports 1x display up to 4K at 144Hz on the HDMI port

Earlier MacBook Pro models have slightly less options:

    < li>M1 or M2 chip: up to one 6K display at 60Hz
  • M1 Pro chip: up to two 6K displays
  • M1 Max chip: up to four displays (3x 6K and 1x 4K)

No MacBook Pros with M1 Ultra chip have appeared, but for the sake of completeness we should mention that these can handle 5 external screens. You will only find the M1 Ultra chip in the Mac Studio.

The entry-level models of the MacBook Pros in particular are a strange exception. These are actually aimed more at consumers who would like to have the ‘Pro' label on their laptop, but don't intend to do heavy graphical tasks. Apple assumes that the average consumer will not connect more than one external screen. With the Mac mini with M1 and M2 chip it is possible to connect two screens, but this does not apply to the MacBooks.

Chances are the forthcoming M3 chip will once again only support one external display. You will then have to wait for MacBook Pros with M3 Pro and M3 Max chips to be able to connect multiple external displays.

Workaround: Connect more displays

According to Apple's official information, you can only connect one screen to MacBooks with an M1 or M2 processor. However, this limitation can be circumvented with the right software and adapters.

If you use software, you are dependent on third-party drivers and you run the risk that this will no longer work at some point when Apple releases updates to macOS.

Option #1: DisplayLink Software Drivers

There are docks that allow for multiple displays using a combination of native USB-C Alternate Mode) and DisplayLink technology. There are several versions of the DisplayLink driver and some docks include it as standard. You can download the latest version here.

After downloading the DisplayLinks software, you give permission in macOS to take Screenshots, otherwise it won't work. You arrange this via  > System Settings > Privacy & Security > Screen recording. More information can be found on the support page. After that, connect the MacBook to a docking station and then connect the first screen via the HDMI port or DisplayPort. It uses Alternate Mode (Alt Mode). The second and third screens use the DisplayLink software.

Option #2: InstantView software

You could also use SiliconMotion's Instantview. This software works with various hubs and adapters from, for example, Satechi, Hyper, Plugable, Baseus and UGreen.

You can find more information about using a Mac with an external display in our tip about connecting Macs to a second screen .

See also

How to use a Mac with external displays

Want to use multiple displays on your Mac? Read how to connect monitors to your Mac, how to set up your external display and what you can do with it.

Which external display for your MacBook? We have made an overview of the most suitable models! You could also use the iPad as a second screen for your Mac.

See also

External display for your MacBook: monitors for home workers

Are you looking for an external display or monitor? for working from home, take a look at this selection. From 24-inch to no less than 43-inch from all conceivable brands and in all price ranges. This way you can work more comfortably at home via your MacBook.