Is there a way to specify what resolution I want my external monitor to be?

I have been looking around the internet for a few weeks, but I have not found a solution that works.

The native resolution of the external monitor is 1440x900, but that does not show on the list of resolutions on the list. With "Option" pressed when pressing "Scaled" the best fit I get is 1280x768. There are higher options available, but not in the 16:10 scale, so the monitor rescales them and they do not look nice.

When I boot in Boot camp (Windows 8.1) Windows picks up the monitor right away, knows what resolution it should be, and sets it to 1440x900, so I do not think there is any issue with the hardware.

The resolution on the MacBook's monitor is 1280x800. I thought that maybe it was trying to keep the two monitors to a similar scale, so I tried setting the resolution of the external monitor with the lid closed, but the results where exactly the same.

I don't think it is an issue with hardware (it works in Bootcamp), but basically what I have is, 13-inch MBP (mid 2012). It has the mini display port, and I am using a VGA adaptor (Monitor is VGA only).

Is there anything else I can try, even if I need to go into a settings file and manually add possible resolutions?

  • As a last resort I swapped my VGA cable with another one that I saw laying around, and that actually worked, as soon as I plugged it in The screen came on at 1440x900. May 23, 2014 at 7:15

3 Answers 3


You can try Display Maestro :

Unlock all display resolutions Display Maestro gives you full control over attached displays, allowing the usage of all available resolutions and bit depths. This is done by ignoring the operating system setting of hiding potentially unsafe resolutions.

Restore legacy depth modes It is ideal for running legacy games which require 256-color mode and do not automatically switch the screen depth for you. Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard removed the ability to set 256 color mode manually using the built-in preferences pane, but the feature is now available here in Display Maestro!

Light-weight and background-friendly Display Maestro is a small application which can be configured to launch during login, and sits quietly in the menu bar. Upon exit, it will also automatically revert your display back to the resolution chosen before it was launched.

  • I installed this to give it a try, however the resolutions on the list are the same as the ones I have in System Preferences. 1440x900 is not there. I will look around their help etc and see if maybe I am missing something. May 22, 2014 at 15:01

If you want your external monitor to run at its native resolution, choose Best For Display instead of Scaled.

  • Setting to best for display sets it to 1280x1024, which is not the native resolution of the monitor. May 23, 2014 at 5:14
  • I see that swapping the VGA cable worked. Probably a broken pin or one of the component wires within the larger cable had broken (resolution, make, model, etc. are transmitted on particular pins not related to the display of the actual image on screen).
    – samh
    May 23, 2014 at 16:32
  • thank you. I did not know that. I think it is the last time I get a monitor cable at a cheep shop. May 24, 2014 at 17:49
  • smh, "best for display" puts my monitor at 800x600 (even though the native res is 1440x900)
    – ryvantage
    Aug 10, 2014 at 21:24

The problem was a cheep VGA cable.

Replacing the cable sorted out the resolution.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .