Is there a way to remote login with a visual client to a MacBook, for example, with a higher resolution than the LCD attached?

Currently I tried VNC (with screen sharing) but that was limited to the resolution of the LCD. I also tried logmein but that had the same problem. I tried to use ssh+xming to the MacBook but that didn't seem to work either running applications seemed to start the displays on the remote machine rather than my client machine.

I'm used to using RDP with Windows which lets you specify whatever resolution you want since the server resolution doesn't matter if you are accessing remotely.

4 Answers 4


VNC is an interesting beast on OS X. In Lion, OS X finally gained the possibility of having truly virtual sessions, meaning that they aren't displayed on the console. This is accomplished by enabling VNC, and logging in as a user that is not logged in at the console. That new user will have a private session to work in, and the console user will go uninterrupted.

If you're unsure of what I mean by "console", the console is the one and only session that a user directly attached to the computer via keyboard/mouse/monitor can use. That is commonly referred to as the "console" or "physical" session.

Note that on all previous versions of OS X, logging in as an allowed user could only put you on the console session, possibly colliding with a console user if they were actively working on the system at the same time.

On any other operating system, you can set up a private VNC session using almost any resolution you want, within a certain realm of feasibility. This is unfortunately yet to be the case on OS X. VNC still seems to hook into the physical capabilities of the system, perhaps this happens because the video card is used to render the desktop session even when you're using it remotely. Rendering the OS X animations is very intensive, so offloading them to the video card and freeing up general CPU time is an ideal situation for pretty much anybody.

So the answer? I don't believe you can. You can turn it down via the System Preferences like usual, but the highest resolution you'll get is that which is supported by your video card.


I've found that I can attach my 1920x1200 resolution monitor momentarily to my normally headless MacMini, and it adds that resolution as one of the available ones. It will retain it in the list where it is accessible to VNC (Real VNC from Win7 PC), at least until you reboot the mini :(.

So, it doesn't seem like there's any reason why one should have to attach a physical monitor to get higher resolutions. There must be a place (a plist somewhere?) to add this resolution to the list? Perhaps where the default 3 resolutions are stored?

  • 1
    This doesn't really address the need to change the resolution higher than the attached display.
    – bmike
    Nov 28, 2012 at 23:42

The two popular RDP servers for OS X do exactly what you are asking for. iRAPP / iRAPP Terminal Server and Aqua Connect Terminal Server are RDP servers for OS X that allow you to connect to a Mac remotely from any system running an RDP client. For example: you can remotely connect to your Mac from Windows by running Windows' built-in Remote Desktop application.

  • iRAPP has shutdown and can no longer be purchased. I've contacted them and they refused to issue me a license in any manner (paying or just as a freebee since they're done anyways)
    – Allison
    Aug 28, 2016 at 22:16

This might help you. My development-work computer is an iMac sitting on my Baby Grand Piano. But for ergonomic reasons I prefer to work remotely from my old MacBook Pro 17” over home wifi to the iMac using Apple’s screen sharing app. Works fine but theres a niggle. My MacBook screen res. is 1920 x 1200 but the iMac is 1920 x 1080 maximum native. So for remote work my screen real estate is squashed. I get to use only 1080 lines out of the 1200 available on my MacBook Pro, with black letter boxing above and below the video. A waste. To my rescue comes a tiny product: fit-Headless by CompuLab for £21 - sold on Amazon. You plug it into the second monitor video port where it acts as a dummy second display with variable screen resolution options up to 4K. However on receiving it - I plugged it into my VDI port. It appeared in preferences as a second screen. BUT..... woe woe woe .. with all the options of screen res - going all the way up to 4K..... NO BLOODY 1920 x 1200 !!!! W T F !!! Googled around. And came across and downloaded demo of an app called SwitchResX which does all manner of things to do with monitors. It too had tons of resolution options BUT STILL NO 1920 x 1200 !!. BUT..... hidden away was a tab where you can set up your own custom screen res. So added one for 1920x1200. And HEY PRESTO ! for an extra £18 for SwitchResX I can now work remotely on my iMac from my Macbook at the same high resolution as my macbook. No letterboxing. More pixels to poke, drag and mouse around with.. HAPPY DAYS ! [ PS: these fit-Headless adapters are actually intended for people using Mac Mini’s as “headless” servers etc where they administer them remotely and don’t want to have an actual monitor attached. For example because it sits in a rack or on a shelf... ]

You must log in to answer this question.

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