How to Enable VGA Out to TV From a MacBook

by David Weedmark
Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Connecting a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air to a TV using a VGA cable is mainly a matter of selecting the right adapter. While MacBook models sold in 2012 and early 2013 have Thunderbolt ports for connecting to external monitors, projectors and TVs, Apple changed the ports frequently on earlier models. Once you connect the cable, the MacBook should automatically mirror what you see on the screen to the TV using the right resolution and screen size; however, you can adjust these settings, if needed.

Selecting an Adapter

Step 1

Examine the sides of your MacBook to determine what port it uses for video-out. As of May 2013, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models include Thunderbolt ports. These have a lightning bolt icon beside them, and are about the size of small USB ports. Older models may have a Mini DisplayPort or a Mini-DVI port.

Step 2

Select a VGA adapter for your MacBook. Both the Mini DisplayPort port and Thunderbolt port can use a Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA Adapter (see Resources).

Purchase a VGA cable if you don't already have one. Apple adapters are only a couple of inches long, which may be too short to connect to a TV if you want to be able to put the MacBook down.

Connecting the MacBook to the TV

Step 1

Turn off the TV, and then connect the VGA cable to the adapter and to the TV's VGA port. Connect the adapter to the MacBook's video-out port, and then turn on the MacBook if it's not already on.

Step 2

Turn on the TV, and then use the remote to select the "PC" or "VGA" input option. Wait for several seconds for the MacBook to identify the TV connection and display its screen on the TV.

Step 3

Select "System Preferences" from the MacBook's Apple menu, and then click "Display." Use this window to change the resolution and screen size, if desired. "Video Mirroring" shows the entire MacBook screen, while "Extended Desktop" extends a portion of the screen to the TV. You can also drag the screen icons to change their orientation when using Extended Desktop mode.

Leave the MacBook open while watching the display on the screen. If you want to close the MacBook while continuing to watch the TV, connect an external keyboard and mouse to the MacBook first. Otherwise the MacBook will power down when you close the screen.


  • Some people experience problems connecting a TV to a Mac, depending on the TV model. If you don't get a picture, leave the cable connected, turn off both devices, and then turn the TV on first, then the MacBook. If this doesn't work, try again, reversing the order.


  • Before buying a VGA adapter, look for any other ports on the TV. An HDMI port gives you digital video, and can play audio as well as video on the TV. If you use a VGA adapter, only video is displayed -- the sound is played by the MacBook.


Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

About the Author

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.

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