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I have a laptop with macOS Monterey (12.1) with an external screen. I only ever use this laptop connected to this screen, but I take it off every day after work. I also use Yabai, a tiling window manager for macOS.

Every time I disconnect and reconnect the HDMI cable, windows move around and get rearranged as workspaces appear and disappear. I then have to manually put all the windows back on the right workspaces and in the right organization. I have to do this for about 20 windows, every day. This is very annoying.

I would like to make it so macOS always thinks that my screen is connected, regardless of whether the HDMI cable is plugged in the dongle, so nothing changes when I take it off or on (I wouldn't have access to my off-screen windows when the screen isn't connected, but that's fine). Is that possible somehow?

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Yes. You will want a professional grade, powered EDID emulator to correctly handle all cases across sleep / wake / restart.

If you don’t need that level of detail, a simple non-powered passive ghost adapter can work very well and if you buy three for $8 to $12 you will have spares if one fails or arrives DOA. Search for HDMI dummy plugs and be sure you understand return policies / buy from someone you trust.

For your specific case an active EDID pass through might bring you stability, but I think automating your setup with a tool like moom or divvy might work better if you can’t script your chosen window manager.

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