How do I connect dual screen setup on a Mac Mini?

Mac Mini: Late (2012) Apple Cinema Display 27" Apple ThunderBolt Display 27"

ThunderBolt Port: Apple ThunderBolt Display 27" Tried two different Kanex XD units and did not work. Kanex XD: Mini display port female to HDMI female converter to HDMI cable to HDMI Port on Mac mini.

Does anyone have a link to a converter that work or an option to hook up?

2 Answers 2


With the two monitors you have listed, it's not feasible (most definately, not economically).

  • The 27" Apple Cinema Display requires miniDisplay Port
  • The 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display can only support another Thunderbolt display. From the Thunderbolt Display User Manual:

    Connect Thunderbolt-compatible devices for high-speed data transfer, or connect another display that uses Thunderbolt. This Thunderbolt port is not compatible with DVI, VGA, or DisplayPort displays or adapters

The Thunderbolt Display must be used with the Thunderbolt port and cannot be converted from HDMI. This is a limitation you can't overcome because these are two completely different signals.

For the Cinema display, you need a mini DisplayPort (DP) which is not available if you plug in the Thunderbolt Display.

Daisy Chaining

You can't. The Thunderbolt Display will only daisy chain to another Thunderbolt Display.

Using a Dock

You could use a dock like the OWC 12 Port Thunderbolt 2 Dock that has multiple TB ports out that includes support for video.

The problem with using a dock like this is two fold:

  1. It's already obsolete technology. You're using tech that's already 5 years old and has already been surpassed by Thunderbolt 3. This product will soon be EOL'd if not already.
  2. It's expensive. You're looking at spending about as much for a new monitor to get an obsolete device to connect obsolete monitors.

Bottom Line...

You are going to spend more than the Cinema Display is worth in adapters only to end of with EOL'd products. (IMO) Your best bet is to sell your Cinema Display and use the procedes to get a newer, modern display that has multiple input formats like HDMI and DisplayPort. This way, you can avoid all of the extra, unnecessary signal conversions and you end up with a monitor that will last you at least several years.


Edit: I made a mistake, you can't daisy chain the Cinema Display to the Thunderbolt Display. See @Allan's answer above. The rest still stands.

You need to daisy chain the displays.

Though finding information on this isn't the easiest, Apple did use to put this right on their features page.

Thunderbolt technology in Mac mini is phenomenally fast. It features two 10-Gbps channels for data transfer. That’s up to 12 times faster than FireWire 800 and up to 20 times faster than USB 2. But beyond speed, Thunderbolt gives you unprecedented expansion capabilities. You can daisy-chain as many as six Thunderbolt devices — including two Apple Thunderbolt Displays — to a single port. And since Thunderbolt is based on DisplayPort technology, Mini DisplayPort devices like the Apple LED Cinema Display plug right in, too.

This is probably the easiest and cheapest way to use multiply Thunderbolt displays too.

Why other things won't work

Just to be thorough, I'm going to do a quick run down of why you won't be able to use some other solution besides this daisy chaining.

Solution 1: Just plug one of those cheap Mini DisplayPort to HDMI converters in!

These cheap converters use what's known as DisplayPort++, a method by which DisplayPort actually send out an HDMI signal instead of a DisplayPort one. This means that the adapters can be "passive" and just change pins around, rather than having fancy (and expensive!) conversion circuitry to actually convert the video in real time. This means though that the adapters aren't bidirectional, and you can't convert from HDMI back to Mini DisplayPort.

Solution 2: Use a fancy active adapter

There are active HDMI to DisplayPort adapters that don't use DisplayPort++. However, if the price didn't put you off (they're usually $50-150), the HDMI port on the 2012 iMac only supports up to 1920x1200. You could try using SwitchResX or mac-pixel-clock-patch-V2 to force the resolution up, but it's expensive and prone to failure.

Solution 3: Use an MST hub

Ignoring the fact that you have a Thunderbolt display (which requires Thunderbolt and not Mini DisplayPort), MST isn't supported on macOS. Sure, you could bootcamp all the time, but then what's the point of having a Mac?

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