Before they went Retina, iMacs could be used as displays in Target Display Mode. Is this possible with the new Touch Bar / USB-C MacBook Pros (late 2016) via the USB-C ports? They don't have a Mini DisplayPort-style Thunderbolt 1-2 port, and the support article about connecting various things to the USB-C ports doesn't mention an iMac. Neither does the article that explains what can and can't be used with the USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How do I connect my Mid-2010 iMac to my Late 2015 Macbook Pro – Allan Dec 7 '16 at 18:12
  • While not an exact duple - 2015 vs 2016 Macbook Pro, it's essentially the same question with the same answer - you need a thunderbolt port/cable. In this case, you need a USB-C TB to TB. – Allan Dec 7 '16 at 18:14
  • 1
    @Allan No, it's different because of the new ports. There are nontrivial questions about what you can and can't plug into those USB-C ports with various adapters. See the two support articles linked in the updated question. There's no explicit confirmation anywhere on the internet but here that an iMac in Target Display Mode works with the 2016 MBPs. – Tom Hamming Dec 7 '16 at 20:41
  • It not a "new" port. You are confusing the connector type (USB C) with what's on the connector (Thunderbolt). The requirement to use an iMac as a Target Display is another Mac with a TB connection. – Allan Dec 7 '16 at 21:48
  • 1
    @Allan ok, perhaps "new plug" is more accurate. Either way, the fact that we're having to clarify this is evidence that this question doesn't duplicate the one about the 2015 machine. The question is really about what adapters and cable types are necessary between an iMac and USB-C. – Tom Hamming Dec 7 '16 at 21:51

Don't confuse a USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 port with USB only as the new MacBook Pro do have thunderbolt and not simply USB-C. The new MacBook Pro can output to a Mini DisplayPort target display mode compatible Mac with either a cable that connects directly or an adapter to the existing cable you would have used with the Mac.

I would probably go with a USB-C to MiniDisplayport and use the display port over USB-C protocol since that cable is less expensive than a thunderbolt adapter and would also work with a MacBook (non Pro and non Thunderbolt) or other USB only device. There's probably no speed benefit of thunderbolt for this application.

If you wanted thunderbolt - then you'd get Apple's Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter - $30 on sale this month and use any standard thunderbolt cable. I used to believe all iMacs that support Target Display mode will take mini display port signal in - but some people report you need thunderbolt for some Macs. I have no reason to doubt them - so be sure you can return a DP cable if you buy one for this. Some iMacs support both thunderbolt as well as mini DP. Not all iMacs with either port support Target Display mode - especially the new 4k and 5k iMacs - they don't support any video input so you would need a software screen sharing solution for them.

  • The question is specifically about an iMac in target display mode...do you know of documentation of what signal an iMac expects for Target Display? – Tom Hamming Dec 8 '16 at 5:15
  • @TomHamming Specifically I'll address that - I've added that portion to my answer. From Apple's table you can determine what you need based on which specific iMac you want to connect to. You might need two solutions if you need to connect to any iMac possible. – bmike Dec 8 '16 at 15:23
  • 1
    I'm going to dispute the notion that "All iMacs that support Target Display mode will take mini display port signal in". Anecdotally I have found this not to be true - anecdotally I had to purchase a Thunderbolt cable (rather than the cheaper option) to make this work. It may be an off-brand cable YMMV issue. – Oskar Austegard Jun 15 '17 at 20:28
  • 1
    @OskarAustegard Thank you - I have edited in some caution and removed the “all macs do” – bmike Jun 15 '17 at 22:07

My 13" 2016 MacBook Pro drives my late 2009 27" iMac's display using a third-party USB-C to Mini DisplayPort adaptor.

  • Can you confirm that it's a Mini DisplayPort and not Thunderbolt? It's the same physical plug but different signal. – Tom Hamming Dec 7 '16 at 22:28
  • Yes, the iMac predates Thunderbolt, and the adaptor is a Mini DisplayPort adaptor, not a Thunderbolt adaptor. – Mike Scott Dec 8 '16 at 6:36
  • Can you share details of the adaptor/lead? – LC1983 Feb 14 '17 at 15:20
  • This is the Amazon UK page I bought it from: amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B017OV622M/… – Mike Scott Feb 14 '17 at 18:43

Yes. I have gotten this to work with a 15" Touch Bar MacBook Pro (Late 2016) and a 2011 27" iMac. You need the USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter and a Thunderbolt cable. It will not work with a Mini-DisplayPort cable, which is the same physical plug but not the same protocol.


Yes, I have connected my Late 2016 Macbook Pro using a USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter (from Apple) to my Late 2012 27" iMac using a Thunderbolt cable (from Apple). Target Display Mode works the same as with my previous MacBook Pro (Late 2013).

The only issue so far is that the volume slider won't appear on my Touchbar for controlling the iMac's volume.

  • Can you confirm if, with this setup, the ports on the old iMac function for the MBP, or is purely display? I was hoping this may result in the SD card reader/etc working. – OldGreg Jan 18 '17 at 4:12
  • In TDM it only acts as a display + audio (out). – bouke Jan 18 '17 at 6:14

Yes, I'm successfully running a setup with a 2017 13" MacBook Pro and a 2011 iMac. The original Apple USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter works fine for Target Display Mode. Also the Touchbar volume slider works fine for iMac volume.

You must log in to answer this question.

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