Hooking Up a Mac Mini to a Non-Apple Screen
By David Weedmark
Compact and relatively inexpensive, the Mac Mini computer does not ship with a monitor. You can connect it to an Apple monitor, but Apple does not offer a lot of selection in its monitors and the prices are often higher than those of other manufacturers. Using the right adapter, you can connect the Mac Mini to any computer screen with a VGA port. While the Mac Mini ships with an HDMI-to-DVI adapter for connecting to a monitor's DVI port, few brands besides Apple use DVI.
Ports and Adapters
The Mac Mini has two ports you can use for connecting it to a screen: Thunderbolt port and an HDMI port. To connect to most computer monitors, which have a VGA port, you can use a MiniDisplayPort to VGA adapter connected to the Thunderbolt port. The Thunderbolt port also supports monitors with a Mini DisplayPort, DVI or Dual-Link DVI port using the appropriate adapter for each monitor. In addition to the DVI cable it came with, the Mac Mini's HDMI port can connect to an HDTV using an HDMI cable.
Connecting the Screen
Because most Mac video adapters are only 2 or 3 inches long, they are almost always too short to reach the screen -- so you'll need a monitor cable, too. After you connect the cable and adapter to the screen and the Mac Mini and power them on, the Mac Mini should automatically detect the monitor. If it doesn't, turn off both the monitor and the Mac Mini, turn on the monitor, and then restart the Mac Mini.
In most cases, the Mac Mini should automatically detect the optimal display settings for the screen it's connected to. If you need to adjust the settings, open System Preferences from the Apple menu and select "Display." Under the Display tab, you can adjust the display resolution after selecting the "Scaled" option. You can also manually adjust the brightness by dragging the slider. To adjust the color settings, click the "Color" tab.
Older Mac Minis
Mac Minis manufactured between early 2009 and mid-2011 come with a Mini DisplayPort instead of a Thunderbolt port. These use the same Mini DisplayPort adapters as models with Thunderbolt to connect to DVI, dual DVI or VGA screens. If your Mac Mini was manufactured in 2008 or earlier, it has a DVI video output port on the back, which connects to any VGA cable for use on a monitor. If you aren't certain which model you have, you can check on the Apple website (see Resources) to identify the model from its serial number.
- Apple: Mac Mini
- Apple: Mac Mini Specs
- Apple: About Apple Video Adapters and Cables
- Apple: OS X Mountain Lion: About the Display Pane of System Preferences
- Apple: Mac Mini (Mid 2007) Technical Specifications
- Apple: Mac Mini (Late 2006) Technical Specifications
- Apple: Mac Mini (Early 2006) Technical Specifications
- Apple: Mac Mini (Original) Technical Specifications
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.