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Find out how to simply add a second Thunderbolt monitor to your M1 Mac Mini

Mac Studio Display

Screenshot: Apple

The debut of Apple’s M1 chips felt like one of many greatest game-changers within the client PC market in many years. Abruptly, this SoC (System on a Chip) supplied a less expensive strategy to deal with computing duties that will in any other case require PCs costing a number of instances as a lot. I, for one, proceed to make use of an M1 Mac Mini as my major photograph and video enhancing system. That call is what launched me to the one very unusual downgrade the M1 Mac Mini obtained, in contrast with its Intel-powered predecessor: its decreased Thunderbolt show outputs. 

Earlier-gen, Intel-based Mac Minis might help two Thunderbolt exterior shows. Thunderbolt is a show protocol that makes use of a particular class of USB-C cables to ship a video sign, and generally energy, to an exterior show. It has been an enormous promoting level for Apple’s MacBooks and Mac Minis lately, because of the simplicity, flexibility, and spectacular resolutions it supplies. 

That is why it was such a shock to me, and plenty of different unsuspecting Mac Mini consumers, after we found that the seemingly better-in-every-way M1 Mini had been dropped from supporting two Thunderbolt shows to only one. 

Additionally: Apple M1 vs. M2: M1 Professional, Max, and Extremely are nonetheless extra highly effective

Certain, the diminutive PC does come geared up with an HDMI port as effectively. However what about people upgrading from an Intel-based Mac Mini who have been already utilizing two Thunderbolt shows? Or these, like me, who had wrongly assumed when inserting an order for the brand new Mac Mini that it might help two shows? Sadly, Apple has by no means offered an answer, except you wish to improve to a way more costly, M1 Professional- or M1 Max-powered system just like the Mac Studio. So, it is as much as us to discover a strategy to make up for the M1 Mini’s problematic downgrade. Apple may hope you may drop tons of, or hundreds, extra on an upgraded Mac to energy your secondary Thunderbolt shows. I am going to present you how one can do it for lower than $30.

Find out how to add a second Thunderbolt show to your M1 Mac Mini

Mac Mini with adapter and cables

My private Mac Mini with the required HDMI-to-Thunderbolt adapter (backside left), its included USB-A-to-Micro-USB cable (high left), and the Thunderbolt Three cable we’ll be utilizing to hook up with our monitor (proper).

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Supplies wanted:

  • An M1 Mac Mini
  • Two Thunderbolt-enabled shows
  • An HDMI-to-Thunderbolt adapter 

Estimated time:

5 minutes

Estimated price:

$30 (assuming you have already got the Mac Mini and shows wanted)

Step 1: Purchase the specialised adapter

An HDMI to Thunderbolt adapter with all required cables inserted

The adapter we’ll be utilizing with its everlasting HDMI cable (high), in addition to a Micro-USB energy cable (left) and Thunderbolt Three cable (backside) inserted.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

On-line retailers are drowning in Thunderbolt (USB-C)-to-HDMI adapters. These convert the USB-C ports present in each MacBook and most different slim-and-light laptops into video outputs by adapting them to the HDMI protocol. Nonetheless, it is solely not too long ago that I’ve begun seeing adapters that do the alternative: convert an HDMI-enabled supply right into a sign usable by screens with Thunderbolt inputs. I selected to create a full step for the act of merely shopping for the adapter due to how simple it’s to be confused by poorly written product listings or imprecise language in tech specs.

The adapter I selected for my very own setup was this one: 

I’ve seen different fashions accessible on the market on Amazon and elsewhere. However, in the event you store for a type of, be very cautious to be sure you’re not shopping for one of many extra widespread USB-C-to-HDMI adapters, as they’re ineffective for our function at present. You’ll be able to sometimes acknowledge the right adapter kind by the truth that it requires 5V energy enter, normally by way of a Mmicro-USB cable, and mentions that the USB-C facet of that is an output, not an enter

Step 2: Join the adapter to your Mac Mini

The rear inputs of a Mac Mini with the required cables inserted

These are the 2 connections you may have to make on the Mac Mini facet of issues: HDMI for video and USB-A for powering the adapter.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Upon getting the adapter you want, the following step is to connect it to your Mac Mini system. First, insert the included HDMI cable into the HDMI port on the rear of your Mini. Then, insert the USB-A-to-Micro-USB cable right into a free USB-A port on the again of your Mini and into the DC5V (or equally named port) in your adapter. If you do not have a free USB-A port in your Mini, you too can plug the USB-A finish of the 5VDC energy cable right into a powered hub or perhaps a 5V plug-in energy adapter. So long as it receives the required 5V of energy to finish its conversion course of, nearly any supply ought to work.

Step 3: Join the adapter to your Thunderbolt monitor

The Thunderbolt input highlighted on a Samsung M7 43" monitor

That is the place the Thunderbolt enter is positioned on my Samsung M7. It will fluctuate between monitor fashions.


Likelihood is in the event you’ve made it this far, you’ve got already received two Thunderbolt shows and two Thunderbolt cables. If not, you may want a Thunderbolt 3 (or newer) cable, just like the one beneath:

Thunderbolt Four cables will even work, however they’re costlier, and there isn’t any extra profit from utilizing them on this scenario. As soon as you’ve got received your Thunderbolt cable, insert one finish into the port on the adapter and the opposite finish into the Thunderbolt enter in your monitor.

Step 4: Choose the right supply in your monitor

With the entire crucial {hardware} attached, you are nearly able to get pleasure from your new dual-monitor setup. The final step is to ensure your just-connected monitor is ready to the right enter. Keep in mind to search for the Thunderbolt enter, not HDMI. Though the Mac’s HDMI output is getting used, the monitor will detect it as a Thunderbolt enter because of our adapter’s conversion.

If you happen to’re utilizing one thing like one of many Apple screens talked about above, which has solely a single Thunderbolt enter, this would possibly not be crucial. Nonetheless, in the event you’re utilizing one other producer’s monitor, like my Samsung M7, chances are you’ll want to modify to the enter manually. Often, this may be achieved by tapping the Enter button in your distant or monitor itself and following the onscreen menus. 

If you happen to’re within the particular 43-inch M7 show I exploit, it may be discovered beneath, alongside the smaller 32-inch variant: 

From right here, you need to be capable of use the newly linked show like some other Thunderbolt monitor, with the one exception being that it will not obtain any energy from the Mac Mini.


Sure. Disregarding something that will void your warranties or produce unreliable outcomes, the one different verified method so as to add extra shows (greater than two) to your Mac Mini is to make use of a specialised Thunderbolt dock. These gadgets, relying on their particular configurations, can output video to HDMI, DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt. Nonetheless, they are much costlier than the adapter talked about above, require extra desk area and extra connections, and is perhaps overkill for anybody simply wanting so as to add a second Thunderbolt show they’ve already received. 

That stated, if you wish to flip your Mac Mini into the guts of a large, multimonitor workstation, we have included some hyperlinks beneath to choices for Thunderbolt docks that may allow you to just do that.

For probably the most half, no. If you happen to’ve received a 4K Monitor with each an open HDMI and Thunderbolt enter, use whichever is extra handy to your particular setup. The one exception to that is when you have a Thunderbolt-enabled monitor that exceeds 4K. The Mac Mini’s Thunderbolt Four output can help resolutions of as much as 6K. Nonetheless, its HDMI output maxes out at 4K, even when it is being tailored to Thunderbolt. 

If you end up on this scenario, remember to use the MIni’s sole Thunderbolt video output in your 5K or 6K show, and the HDMI output (adapter or not) for a secondary 4K show. That is solely more likely to have an effect on a really small subset of customers, as most screens and televisions nonetheless high out at 4K decision.

Completely! Probably the most well-known of those are possible Apple’s personal choices. Its not too long ago launched Studio Show and older, costlier Professional Show XDR each completely depend on Thunderbolt for his or her enter. Making an attempt so as to add the comparatively cheaper Studio Show to their techniques might need tripped up some Mac Mini customers who did not understand the M1 Mini was restricted to only one Thunderbolt monitor. 

Shows with Thunderbolt inputs are additionally made by Acer, Samsung, LG, Viewsonic, and plenty of others. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of these will even embody HDMI and/or DisplayPort inputs alongside Thunderbolt.

Extra how-tos

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