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I usually add an external monitor to my MacBook Pro as a second monitor. The only way I've found to unplug it without switching off the MacBook (or putting it to sleep) is by simply unplugging the HDMI cable.

The screen goes dark for a second as the system brings all the open windows over to the one screen (since I'm using the additional display as a second monitor instead of mirroring).

I feel this may result in some problem some day.

Is there a better way of doing this, say from the System Preferences interface?

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This shouldn't result in a problem (and well-written apps will go back to their original monitor when it is plugged back in). System Preferences has no utility to disconnect monitors that are still physically connected.

One alternative may be to turn the monitor off: many monitors stop identifying themselves when they're off, so your Mac will think it's been unplugged without it physically being unplugged.

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    Nothing happens when I switch it off (actually it's still recognised by my Macbook Pro). – Joseph Victor Zammit Dec 12 '13 at 16:59
  • Some monitors do that, some don't. Unless someone pops in with a different solution, it looks like the only way to make the Mac not see the external monitor is indeed to unplug it. – CajunLuke Dec 13 '13 at 15:30

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