Can My MacBook Extend to More Than One Display?
If you purchased a 2020 MacBook Pro with an M1 chip, you’ve probably come to the conclusion by now that you can only extend your display to up to one external monitor. I am not sure why this was ever thought to be a good idea or a solid feature to include on any kind of computer in today’s world, but it has, indeed, been confirmed by Apple, and you can see that for yourself here. The same applies to the M1 MacBook Air and Mac Mini.
I am an Apple lover, and our entire company runs on Apple products. We would not do what we do nearly as well as we can without the incredible hardware provided by Apple. That being said, this was certainly not my favorite thing that Apple ever decided to do.
A few geniuses (not myself.. Not even close) have figured out an incredible way to work around this frustrating feature.
I have tested this myself, and I am currently writing this article on my MacBook Pro extended across two monitors.
Needless to say, it’s amazing.
I want to share with you how I was able to do this, so that you might also be able to do the same for yourself if you’re having the same issues that I was.
The first thing that I did was pick up one of these handy little docking stations from Plugable. I have been using one of these for a long time, but I had no idea that it had the capability to do what I’m about to tell you it can do.
I have tested out this model as well as this model. They both work perfectly, and they provide great functionality beyond just the displays. I believe that just about any of the Plugable models will work, but these are the two that I have tested for sure.
Once you get your docking station, you have to download a software to make the multiple displays happen. You can use the docking station right out of the box to extend to one display and to connect tons of USB devices to your computer, but you will have to download a certain software to get your other displays up and running.
This is the software that you’ll want to download. It’s called DisplayLink Manager, and by methods beyond my comprehension, they were able to bypass the “one external display” feature to allow you to extend to multiple displays. It’s pretty freaking awesome! You can read all about it here if you have questions about what it does.
Once you get that software downloaded and installed, I would recommend restarting your Mac.
When it has restarted and updated everything, you should have the “DisplayLink Manager” app in your launchpad. Go ahead and fire it up (make sure that your displays are plugged into your docking station, and that your docking station is plugged into your Mac), and your Mac should now be displayed across the monitors that you hooked up to your docking station!
If you’ve gotten used to the fact that you can only use one display, or you’ve been only using your laptop’s screen (no idea how you function), you might have forgotten how to mess with your display settings. No worries!
Just open up your system preferences and hit “Displays” in the bottom left-hand corner. From there, you can drag them around, reposition them, change the color, brightness, refresh rate, and mess with other technical settings that I do not understand.
Congratulations! Your productivity just tripled!
I tried other workarounds before this. You can airplay to a display connected to an Apple TV.. you can use an iPad in SideCar mode, etc.. These methods work, but they are kind of clunky, and they can get expensive! Who needs to buy a $1,000 iPad just to have another monitor? Plus, even the largest iPads won’t come close to the size of screen you can get on a good monitor. I would also prefer to not have to buy a monitor as well as an Apple TV that I have to use every time I want an external display! With the docking station method, you can save a lot of money, and you can leave your entire setup as it needs to be, and you only have to plug in one USB device to your laptop to pick up right where you left off. It’s a money saver, a time saver, and an efficiency and productivity maximizer.
If you need to extend to a whole range of monitors, then you might want to check out this guy on YouTube. He figured out how to make it possible to extend to up to six displays on a Mac Mini and up to five displays on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. I have not tested this method, but it looks pretty legit, and I gotta say, it would be pretty amazing to have another three monitors on my desk. I’m hoping to try this one out soon!
I hope that this was some helpful information, and I wish you luck in getting around this poorly designed feature!