Quick Tip: Add More External Displays to Your Mac

I always thought Apple (s aapl) was really missing a beat by including only one video-out port on its all-in-ones and notebooks, given that many Mac users are design, video and photography professionals. So I went looking around for a solution. If you want to get more screen real estate out of your Mac, here’s how.


My (Too?) Many Monitors


First, you need some extra hardware. Obviously, you’ll need two extra monitors, in addition to the one built in to your computer, but that’s not all. You’ll also need to pick up a USB-to-video adapter. These come in many flavors. I’ve got a Sewell USB-to-DVI external video card ($79.95), but another good cheap option is the EVGA UV Plus+ ($69.99 for the UV16). Both options come with DVI-to-VGA adapters, so you can use either type of connection.

One of your monitors should be connected via your Mac’s video-out port (whether it be mini-DVI or Mini DisplayPort, depending on your machine’s age). You can get an adapter for that direct from Apple, or from third-party vendors. That’s the easy part.

Now, connect your other monitor using the USB-to-video device you decided upon. To do this, first install DisplayLink’s Mac OS X drivers. The latest version (1.6 Beta 3 as of this writing) can be found here. Without these drivers, no USB video cards will work with a Mac.

Once you’ve installed the drivers, plug in your second external monitor using the USB video adapter. Your screen should go blue, then extend to your new monitor. Use Displays under System Preferences to make any necessary adjustments.

Note that using DisplayLink to operate a third display with your Mac isn’t perfect. Because of restrictions Apple imposes on OS access for third-party software, the DisplayLink drivers don’t support 3D acceleration or OpenGL, meaning that keynote presentations won’t work properly, and video will be choppy. But if you’re using that third display to house an extra browser window, or even for photo editing, it’s more than up to the task. Plus, you can add up to four additional monitors over USB using this method (though separate adapters would be required).

DisplayLink’s been around for a while, but I remember when I was first testing a multi-monitor solution, it took me longer than it should have to unearth this solution. Hopefully now you won’t have the same problem.

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