How to Connect a MacBook Air to a Monitor

Add an external display to your MacBook

What to Know

  • Extended Display: Go to System Preferences > Displays > Arrangement, then click and drag the display icons.
  • Mirror Displays: Go to System Preferences > Displays > Arrangement and check off the box next to Mirror Displays.
  • Use Apple AirPlay to wirelessly connect to a compatible smart TV or iPad.

This article walks through the basic steps of connecting a MacBook Air to a monitor and how to check for which cables you need.

How Do I Connect MacBook Air to an External Monitor?

Connecting your MacBook Air to an external monitor is a straightforward process, but you need to make sure you have the right cables first.

The Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your MacBook Air—or Thunderbolt 4 if you have an M1 model—can be used for video output. Depending on what type of external display you’re using, you’ll need one of the following adapters:

  • USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter: Connects to an HDMI display or HDTV.
  • Thunderbolt/USB-C cable: Connect to a USB-C monitor.
  • VGA Multiport Adapter: Connect to a VGA display or projector.

If you have an older MacBook Air model (2009-2017), it’ll be equipped with either a Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt/Thunderbolt 2. In this case, you’ll need a different type of adapter than the ones listed above. Check out Apple’s handy ports guide to find out exactly which type of adapter you’ll require.

How Do I Use an External Monitor With My MacBook Air?

Once your MacBook Air is connected to the external monitor, here’s how to set it up:

  1. Click the Apple menu.

  2. Select System Preferences.

    Opening System Preferences on MacBook Air.
  3. Select Displays.

    Selecting Display settings on MacBook Air.
  4. If you don’t see your external display under the Display tab, press and hold the Options key on your keyboard and click Detect Displays in the lower right corner of the window ("Gather Windows" by default). Your MacBook will scan for connected displays.

    Selecting Gather Windows in MacBook Air display settings.
  5. To change your display arrangement, click the Arrangement tab.

    Selecting Arrangement tab in MacBook Air Display settings.

    If you’d like to mirror your displays instead so they duplicate the same screen, check off the Mirror Displays option in the Arrangement tab.

  6. Click and drag the display icons to your preferred orientation. A red outline will appear around the display being actively moved.

  7. To change which screen is the main display, click and drag the white menu bar between displays.

    Changing display arrangement on MacBook Air.

What Monitor Can I Use With My MacBook Air?

If you’d prefer to go cordless, you can connect your MacBook Air to a wireless monitor using a few different methods.

Compatible smart TVs can be connected to MacBooks through AirPlay. The setup is similar to connecting other monitors, only you’ll need to input a code from your compatible smart TV in order to complete the setup. Go to System Preferences > Displays, and look for the AirPlay Display drop-down menu at the bottom of the window to get started.

You can also use your iPad as an external monitor if it supports the Sidecar feature and is running iPadOS 13 or later. This applies only to models with Apple Pencil support:

  • iPad Pro (all models)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation and newer)
  • iPad (6th generation and newer)
  • iPad mini 5 (and newer)

Additionally, your MacBook Air must be a 2018 model or newer, and running macOS Catalina 10.15 or later. You also need to be signed into the same iCloud account on both devices. Here's where you can find more information on how to use your iPad as a second monitor.

Can I Connect My MacBook Air to a PC Monitor?

As long as you have the right cable, you can connect your MacBook Air to pretty much any external display—even monitors from an old PC. These older monitors will typically have either a VGA or DVI port, so make sure you have the right adapter for your specific MacBook Air.

  • How do I connect a MacBook Air to an iMac monitor?

    To use your older iMac in target display mode, ensure your iMac has macOS High Sierra or older, and your MacBook Air (introduced before or in 2019) should run on macOS Catalina or earlier. On iMacs from 2011 to 2014, use a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 connecting cable; on 2009 to 2010 iMacs, use a Mini DisplayPort to connect both devices. Once the cable is in place, press Command+F2 on your iMac to enter target display mode.

  • How do I connect more than one monitor to my MacBook Air?

    If you have a MacBook Air with an M1 chip, you can connect only one external display. Some MacBook Air models from 2019 and earlier support multiple external displays. To find out if you can set up dual monitors on your Mac, find your serial number from the Apple icon > About this Mac > enter the serial number into Apple's Tech Spec's page > and find details about supported external displays under Video Support.

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