Trying to make an old Apple display work with your new Mac ? It’s no longer worth it

At some point, you have to cut the cord.

apple cinema display

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“I have an old Apple monitor,” several readers write each week. “How can I hook it up?” We’ve written a number of articles about connecting each of the generations of Apple monitors, from the DVI-based models through DisplayPort-only configurations and finishing with the last generation, which relied on Thunderbolt 2:

(With a Thunderbolt display and a Thunderbolt 3-equipped Macintosh, you just need a Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter and nothing else.)

Despite this small ocean of particular advice, it feels like an increasing number of readers’ queries come with the proviso that they’ve already read and tried one of the above articles—and it didn’t work.

I suspect this arises from one of several reasons. The Apple monitors are all aging; some are a decade or more old, and a given unit might be failing. A lot of companies make DVI and DisplayPort adapters, and—especially in cases in which you’re plugging two or even three together in series—compatibility isn’t assured. And sometimes, it’s just a mystery: One person can get a given monitor and adapters to work perfectly with a specific model and year of Mac, and another person cannot.

The good news is that new, modest-sized to mid-sized monitors of the size that Apple used to offer for several hundred to thousands of dollars now start at the $100 level. They’re sharper, brighter, more reliable, and, best of all, new. While these models typically lacks USB-C (and none of the less-expensive ones have Thunderbolt 3), you can use what’s effectively a simple adapter that passes through video data, instead of performing the tricks needed from older generations to work with newer ones. These simple adapters typically cost from $20 to $30 to work with HDMI or full-sized DisplayPort plugs and have a USB-C connector on the other end.

The other good news is that if you have a good-condition Apple display, there’s still a market for such units among the tens of millions of people using older Macs. You don’t need to push it into a recycling or disassembly waste stream. Instead, sell the monitor you have to someone who can plug it in, and use the proceeds to buy one that’s compatible or easily adaptable with the Mac you now own.

This Mac 911 article is in response to questions submitted by many Macworld readers.

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