Does anyone know if it's only possible to add 3 external monitors if at least one of these is a thunderbolt display?

I'm asking since I would love to hook up 3 Dell monitors to my macbook at work. Connection options are HDMI, DP VGA and DVI only.

Currently I have one connected with HDMI and one with VGA - works both with the built-in HDMI port and the minidp -> hdmi adapter.

2 Answers 2


I've managed to get my hands on some screens now, and even though Apple representatives said it wasn't possible, it indeed is.

I have now 2 (two) Dell U2515H connected and a Lenovo at the same time. On top of that, the screen on the macbook pro is actually on.

The setup is as following!

MiniDP (thunderbolt) --> Dell U2515 DisplayPort MiniDP (thunderbolt) --> VGA adapter --> Lenovo VGA HDMI --> Dell U2515 HDMI

It also works with thunderbolt --> DVI and thunderbolt --> HDMI

I've attached a photo to documentate this functionality! Happy multi-monitoring!

Picture proof

  • I can hereby confirm that it does NOT work with an 13" macbook pro retina from 2013
    – Spriz
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:19

I have seen three monitors connected to a 2013 15" MacBook Pro. One was an Apple Thunderbolt display connected to the Thunderbolt port. The second was a display connected over either a DVI or VGA adapter plugged into the second Thunderbold port on the Mac, and the third was an HDMI connected directly to the HDMI port on the right hand side of the Mac. The secondary and tertiary displays were HDMI resolution displays

  • Yeah, I know that - but my problem is I don't want to use a thunderbolt display :-) This has to be done with 3 Dell monitors :-)
    – Spriz
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 7:35
  • 1
    I think you can do it... DVI, VGA, and HDMI are all generally limited to lower resolutions than what Thunderbolt can do... If you had two DVI/HDMI to Mini DisplayPort adapters you will be able to light up two displays - the third comes from the built in HDMI port Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 3:08

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