I just bought a new late 2013 iMac and a new late 2013 Macbook Pro retina. Also bought an Apple thunderbolt cable.

Pressing CMD+F2 (enabling Apples "Target Display Mode") on my iMac lets me use the iMac as external monitor for the MB Pro, but I'd like it the other way around (which doesn't seem to work).

Does anyone know how I through Thunderbolt (for speed, am aware that apps like Air Display and Screen Recycler can do it through WiFi) so that my MB Pro becomes an extra external monitor for my iMac?

While this question addresses this problem for earlier hardware and software, I'm looking for a solution that supports using a thunderbolt cable and works with late 2013 Macs with OS X Mavericks.


6 Answers 6


If you really don't want to do it over the network, the retina MBP's display uses DisplayPort internally. You could disassemble your machine and use this pinout to connect it via Thunderbolt.

  • 3
    Thanks for the idea but don't want to take it apart :)
    – rassom
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 20:20
  • Unfortunately, there appears to be no other way. :-(
    – Kevin Chen
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 20:50

Target Display Mode is right out since the hardware doesn't support it. What about using one of the networked applications (Air Display, Screen Recycler, etc) and running it over Thunderbolt instead of WiFi? If you have two Macs connected by a Thunderbolt cable, there's a Thunderbolt Bridge network interface that runs at 10Gbps, which might solve your speed problem.

I don't have a TB cable to test with, but I believe the bridge is enabled by default and you should be able to just get the IP for it from Network Preferences (it should automatically pick something in the 169.254.x.y range). If the app you're using typically handles finding the server automatically, you might have to find the option to enter the IP manually to force it to run over the thunderbolt interface.

Here's an example of someone using this. Note that only one of the Thunderbolt ports on each device might be usable for this purpose, so if the interface doesn't seem to be connected, try the other port.

  • 2
    Great idea! But unfortunately it's just a sluggish as with WiFi. Tried Air Display (v2.0.2) connecting to the other Macs Thunderbolt IP with WiFi turned off on both matcs to make sure it was using Thunderbolt. Will write to Air Display support to hear what they have to say / if they have any ideas / new releases that will support Thunderbolt in a better way.
    – rassom
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 20:41
  • Here's their reply: "To be honest, we haven't tried using the Air Display Mac client over a Thunderbolt connection since Mavericks was released. I'll speak with one of our QA engineers to see if we can set something like this up and get back to you as soon as possible." I'll get back when I hear from them.
    – rassom
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 22:24
  • 1
    Here's their - so far - final reply (part 1): "We had a chance to do some testing of our own today and we are seeing similar results to what you described. As far as we can tell it seems to be related to the thunderbolt networking capabilities still being developed. Ars Technica published a great article about this and the results of testing that they performed.
    – rassom
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 7:06
  • 1
    (part 2) arstechnica.com/apple/2013/10/… Since the communication method for the display and the networking operate separately from each other it seems that this is a limitation of the technology for the time being. That being said, we look forward to improvements in this area as it would be a great way to use Air Display."
    – rassom
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 7:07
  • That's a shame. I had hoped that display traffic wouldn't encounter the same problems as file transfer, since they behave a bit differently.
    – gabedwrds
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 12:15

With Maverick you can set up the network accross Thunderbolt. Be sure both machines are Thunderbolt and make sure to add the "Network" interface in "System Preferences". Then you can use AirServer on the Retina but not sure the latency will be great (as sending the image using TCP)…

  • 1
    Thank you :) Tried it and unfortunately it's just as sluggish as Air Display :(
    – rassom
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 8:31
  • Sad ! Hope Apple will when day allow / build Target Display with MacBook (whatever) as a technician it could be usefull for example installing a MacMini.
    – llange
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 18:16

According to http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3924, no. But it might be done with Screen Recycler. As far as I know, Apple has no official support for this.

  • Screen Recycler appears to be an interesting option. However, the OP linked to another question/answer that suggested that, but mentioned it didn't work well anymore as it was developed for earlier hardware and software. That being said, there is a valid beta version which is said to work with Mavericks. @rassom, have you tried it? Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 3:08
  • 1
    Thanks :) Yes, I've tried Screen Recycler uses. It also use the network connection (and VNC) which does not allow the second display to appear fluid. Same problem with Air Display that I mentioned in the question. So still looking for a solution supporting the use of a thunderbolt cable :)
    – rassom
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 16:51
  • @downvoter Why the downvote? Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 1:34

I was going to just leave a comment to existing answer, but I don't have enough reputation for that, so I'll just write it here.

I'm running AirServer on my MacBook Pro, and I'm using it as a AirPlay monitor for my much more powerful hackintosh desktop.

I can confirm that when using gigabit lan instead of wifi, performance goes up and latency goes down noticeably (it's still not as good as direct hdmi cable though)

I've just purchased 2m thunderbolt cable and going to check if it will bring any improvement over gigabit lan.

Another option would be using USB3 HDMI capture card, like this one (haven't tried that myself yet)

Also Nexdock is about to release their generation 2 model, which hopefully will be exactly what we are waiting/looking for.


If you want it so you can do KVM access to Mac mini then I suggest you look at "Remote Desktop". Much more convenient than video target mode as you can have multiple VNC connections open simultaneously.

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