Use your Mac notebook computer in closed-display mode with an external display

Learn how to use an external display with your Mac notebook while its built-in display is closed.

You can use an external display or projector with a Mac notebook while its built-in display is closed. This is known as "closed-clamshell" or "closed-display" mode.

Requirements for closed-display mode

To use closed-display mode with your Mac notebook, you'll need:

  • An AC power adapter
  • An external keyboard and mouse or trackpad, either USB or wireless
  • USB-C to USB adapter if you're using a USB mouse or keyboard with MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015) and later
  • An external display or projector

Enable closed-display mode

Use these steps to enable closed-display mode.

If the external display isn't recognized when it's connected and your Mac is powered on, try connecting the display while your computer is asleep or off. Then wake or turn on the computer after you connect the display.

If you're using a USB keyboard and mouse

  1. Make sure your Mac notebook is plugged in to an outlet using the AC power adapter.
  2. Connect a USB keyboard and mouse to your Mac.
  3. With your Mac turned on and the display open, connect the Mac to the appropriate port on the external display or projector and turn the display or projector on. Use an appropriate Apple video adapter if necessary.
  4. After your Mac notebook's Desktop appears on the external display, close the computer's lid.
  5. When you close the lid: 
    • In OS X Lion v10.7 and later, the external display changes to a blue screen, then shows your Desktop.
    • In OS X v10.6.8 and earlier, you can wake your Mac by clicking the mouse button or pressing a key on the external keyboard.

You can now use your Mac notebook as you normally would with a USB keyboard and mouse.

If you're using a wireless keyboard and mouse

  1. Make sure your Mac notebook is plugged in to an outlet using the AC power adapter.
  2. Verify that Bluetooth is turned on in the Bluetooth pane of System Preferences or the Bluetooth menu icon Bluetooth icon.
  3. Pair your Bluetooth keyboard or mouse with your Mac.
  4. In the Bluetooth pane of System Preferences, click Advanced and make sure the checkbox next to Allow Bluetooth devices to wake this computer is selected.
  5. With your Mac turned on and the display open, connect the Mac to the appropriate port on the external display or projector and turn the display or projector on. Use an appropriate Apple video adapter if necessary.
  6. After your Mac notebook's Desktop appears on the external display, close the computer's lid.
  7. When you close the lid: 
    • In OS X Lion v10.7 and later, the external display changes to a blue screen, then shows your desktop.
    • In OS X v10.6.8 and earlier, you can wake your Mac by clicking the mouse button or pressing a key on the external keyboard.

You can now use your Mac notebook as you normally would with a wireless keyboard and mouse.

Disconnect your Mac notebook from the display after use

It's best to put your Mac to sleep by choosing Apple menu > Sleep before disconnecting your display.

Some DVI and Mini DisplayPort displays — including Apple's aluminum-framed DVI displays and the 24-inch and 27-inch LED Cinema Displays — can be unplugged without putting the computer to sleep. If you aren't sure whether your display supports this feature, put your computer to sleep before unplugging the display.

Opening the internal display while in closed-display mode

Opening the display on your Mac notebook while it's in closed-display mode will have different results based on the operating system you're using.

OS X Lion v10.7 and later

If you open the lid of your supported Mac notebook computer running OS X Lion v10.7 and later while in closed-display mode, the display flickers to a blue screen after a few moments, and then both displays become active. Close the lid to return to closed-display mode.

OS X v10.6.8 and earlier

If you open the lid of your supported Mac notebook computer running OS X v10.6.8 and earlier while in closed-display mode, it might appear to have no video. This is expected behavior. When your computer is in closed-display mode, the built-in display is disabled and all video memory is allocated to the external display.

To reactivate your built-in display, put the computer to sleep and then wake it, or use the Detect Displays button in the Displays pane of System Preferences. You can also press Command-F1 on keyboards that don't have a Numlock key.

This document will be updated as more information becomes available.

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