When connecting an external non Apple Display to my macbook air with an VGA to thunderbolt adapter the external display won't show my Desktop. Instead it will only show for a second my desktop and then go black.


My mac knows that there is a display connected as I can see from the display settings.

When not mirroring my Desktop I can actually move my windows over to the second display, but the actual display stays black, just plain black (but it is still on and active as I can see from my display status light).

I was able to reproduce and log the problem in console. The log shows following actions:

  1. I am logged into my account and plugin the VGA to thunderbolt adapter cable with the external display connected
  2. My MacBook Air notices that a second display has been plugged in and switches it's display mode.
  3. My external display shows for a moment my desktop and the turns black, but stays active (The external display status light indicate this to me) as if it would be still showing my desktop

Console Log error black display @ pastebin.com

I was also able to log what happened when my external display would finally start to show my desktop. If I am not mistaken I have just plugged out the VGA to thundebolt adapter and changed from mirrored display to not mirrored. This is what I have been doing afterwards:

  1. Plugin the VGA adapter cable with connected display
  2. The extended desktop shows up on external display

Console Log display recognized @ pastebin.com

Temporary solution

  • Fiddling around with mirroring and not mirroring the display can sometimes solve the problem
  • Pulling out the VGA to thunderbolt adapter and plugging it in again can sometimes solve the problem
  • Plugging out the electricity for the external display can sometimes solve the problem
  • All actions above combined in different order can sometimes solve the problem
  • 1
    This just started happening to me too, after being fine previously. Might be a recently-introduced bug. I did make a change recently, though; I used to have the energy saver set to never put the monitor to sleep, and recently changed that to sleep after 30 minutes. It started after that, so I suspect that may be the real cause in my case. When I reconnect the DisplayPort cable, the monitor will wake up and then instantly go back to sleep. I haven't found a way to fix it short of a reboot. It doesn't happen consistently. Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 1:14
  • My second screen had been indicating that nothing was connected. The display of my desktop reappeared when I restarted my Macbook Air with the external display connected and on.
    – user53521
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 20:43
  • I can't answer your question because I have no reputation on this part of stackexchange. Anyway, what works for me is the following: Unplug the mini display adapter from your MBA, and unplug the VGA or DVI from the adapter. At this point your screen will probably tell you something like that it will go into sleep mode. Now plug the VGA or DVI back into the adapter, and then plug the adapter in your MBA.
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 8:24
  • Yes plugging out the power cord and HDMI cord, and plugging them back in solved the problem for me. Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


Solution: Buy a new Display, the old one seems to be broken

I tested my laptop with another display and there weren't any problems with other displays so my conclusion was that the display has to be the error (the display is old and used up).

NOTE: Sorry that I didn't answer my own question, I forgot about it.

  • I have the same problem. Exactly how you stated it , with chances that it becomes fixed for a short time as you stated. have you solved this? I haven't solved this problem yet
    – user50930
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 5:24
  • 1
    this happened to me before, and took me sometime to realize that it is because of the display being broken. Since the screen appears for about 2 secs then disappears again. But yes, when I changed the display/monitor, it got fixed.
    – gasapladev
    Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 8:18

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