Several people have posted about how they use 3 external monitors with their MacBook Pro Retina. see:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJhvyLB_Tbw

  2. Using 3 External monitors on my macbook pro, problem with DVD player

  3. How many monitors can the new retina MacBook Pro handle and at which pixels resolutions?

However, when I attempt to do this on my 15" late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina, I can only run 2. Either, 2 thunderbolt, or 1 thunderbolt and 1 HDMI. When I plug in all 3, only 2 of them work.

Apple tech says

Yep. You can only have 2 external monitors (unless you want to add a usb monitor).

Is there some trick I am missing? Some setting to tweak? I have 3 monitors just waiting for the solution. One of my monitors feels quite left out...

  • seems the 2012's did it at one point... apple.stackexchange.com/questions/54078/… Nov 19, 2013 at 19:47
  • 2
    Here's another question that might have some info on this - check the second comment on the question: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/87712/…
    – nwinkler
    Jan 30, 2014 at 11:01
  • The 2013 Haswell 15" MacBooks were the first where the discrete GPU was optional, so the answer to this question may depend on whether you have only the Intel Iris integrated GPU, or also have the Nvidia GT750M discrete GPU. The video links all show 2012 15" Ivy Bridge MacBooks - these all had a discrete Nvidia GT650M GPU.
    – bain
    Nov 9, 2014 at 16:03

9 Answers 9


3 external displays DOES work.

I am on a Late 2013 MacBook Pro. I have 1 monitor on the HDMI port, 1 on a displayport to HDMI adapter, and one on an ACTIVE displayport to DVI adapter. I'm thinking that the trick here is to use an Active DVI adapter (mine is from Accell)

  • Can someone confirm that this is working?
    – Wild Goat
    Jul 30, 2014 at 22:26
  • Since Yosemite I also have internal + thunderbold display (via thunderbold port) + led cinema display (thunderbold port) working.
    – motto
    Nov 5, 2014 at 21:09
  • Are you using the Intel or Nvidia GPU?
    – bain
    Nov 9, 2014 at 17:25
  • 2
    Can you explain your setup with the macbook pro 2013 ? Are you powering 3 external displays in Linux or in OS X ? If you have 3 external displays working, is your laptop screen also active, making it a total of 4 displays ?
    – amol0010
    Feb 23, 2015 at 1:34
  • 1
    What is your GPU? I have Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB with one monitor using an active mini displayport to HDMI adapter, one using a passive mini displayport to VGA adapter, and one directly through HDMI. and only two are working at a time. Mar 17, 2016 at 14:52

I have a Macbook Pro 15" Retina (mid 2013). I run three monitors with it. From the mini HDMI port, I run an old Apple Cinema Display. From one of the Thunderbolt ports, I run a 2013 Apple Thunderbolt display. From its Thunderbolt port, I daisy-chain another 2013 Thunderbolt display.

I have experienced no difficulties with running all three displays at once (typically watch Slingbox or Netflix on one, working on Photoshop with another, and running other apps on both the MacBooks' native display and the old Cinema display monitor.

  • @griewei - unfortunately I can't comment on your answer b/c I don't have enough rep...but a question about your setup. With your setup, does your Apple Cinema Display come in at 2560 x 1440 even though its via the HDMI port? Thanks!
    – Java Guy
    Jun 13, 2014 at 16:06
  • Can you please look at this question apple.stackexchange.com/q/134935/18664 Jun 13, 2014 at 16:18

I can confirm that the 13" MBPROr 2.6gHz i7 can NOT power three external displays. I connected an Apple Thunderbolt Display via Thunderbolt cable, a Cinema Display connected with a mini-display to DVI adapter and a Samsung monitor connected via HDMI. Only two would work at a time. Frankly, when I could get the Samsung to work by disconnecting one of the other monitors, the quality was disappointing using the HDMI but it's a great monitor and I was excited to use it. The quality of the Thunderbolt display is a revelation. It is miles ahead of everything that preceded it.

  • Is this a stand alone answer or more of a comment on another answer? (either way, Welcome to Ask Different!)
    – bmike
    Jan 22, 2014 at 23:52
  • The question was about a 15" MacBook Pro - the 13" seems to handle this in a different way. According to this answer, the 15" is supposed to handle 3 displays: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/87712/… - check the second comment on the question for some more info.
    – nwinkler
    Jan 30, 2014 at 11:01
  • The 13" Macbook Pro retina can power three external displays but you must turn off the internal display. Under Linux you can use a pair of passive DisplayPort adaptors if you have two identical monitors connected to the DisplayPorts, but I suspect that OS X will require a pair of active adaptors (I tried OS X with passive adaptors and could only get 2 screens working simultaneously).
    – bain
    Aug 30, 2014 at 19:23

This is my current setup on a Late 2013 15" MacBook Proenter image description here

  • I've seen lots of sources around the net claiming that you can run only one 4K display at 60hz with this machine (e.g., discussions.apple.com/message/26742237#message26742237). How did you get two 4K screens running at 60Hz? Is this the MacBookPro11,3? Mar 20, 2017 at 6:09
  • @DavidBraun I write down the full specs: MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) Processor 2,3 GHz Intel Core i7 Memory 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB and Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB macOS Sierra 10.12.1 An almost 4 years old laptop but still a beast.
    – Nisba
    Apr 2, 2017 at 9:50

According to the Tech Specs page of the 15" MBP Retinas the Apple agent wasn't misleading you. I double checked because there was a similar thing with the 2012 Mac Minis that came out. The basic model and the server model could only support 2 displays but the higher end standard Mac Mini with the juiced up GPU could run 3 (2x Thunderbolt and 1x HDMI).

I assume that the Tech page is accurate in stating that you have only have two external monitors and that an external display via USB or AirPlay might be the next course of action.

In the YouTube video the person has a Mid 2012 Retina and I don't know why it works, my suspicion is the iMac in Target Display Mode... According to the Tech Specs for that model Retina it is also limited to two. I'd write the YouTuber and see if he had any troubles setting that up and what tricks he used, if any.


just wanted to say , i have just set up 3 external monitors on my early 2013 MBP retina 16 GB ram , NVIDIA gtx 850M 1024 mb , and this works PERFECTLY in OS.X , bootcampt ... I have my middle one set up with hdmi , and 2 others set up with 2 vga cables to 2 minidisplay port - to - vga adapters , THIS WORKS perfectly , no issues at all:)


The 2015's Radeon chips lack passive display connections (or timers?). Pick up an “active” mDP cable and your monitors should come to life. These GPUs only support two passive connections, the rest NEED to be active cables. Source: http://mkn.us/blog/how-to-use-3-external-monitors-on-macbook-pro-2015/


I watched the YouTube video and noticed that one of the three displays being used is an Apple Cinema Display (via Thunderbolt). Note that the Apple Cinema Displays have their own graphics card and can be daisy-chained (up to 5 displays) and yet only on thunderbolt port is used to plug into the MacBook.

This makes sense if the MacBook can only run two and the third has its own Graphics Card to run itself.

  • 2
    Uh, I think this is false information. As far as I know the Apple Cinema Displays and Thunderbolt Displays DO NOT have built in graphics cards. And I don't believe you can daisy chain up to 5 displays. apple.com/displays/specs.html
    – pknz
    Jan 6, 2014 at 0:12

check this out http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/mac/ dunno if this helps greetzz

  • Welcome to Ask Different! While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes.
    – grg
    Mar 3, 2014 at 20:07

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