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TIL how to get my 7-year-old MacBook to Run External Monitors

vickilanger profile image Vicki (she/her) ・3 min read

For a while, I've wanted to set up my laptop with a pair of monitors to make work a bit easier than just working on a laptop.

Now, this may seem easy, but my 2013 Macbook Air is old enough that ports have changed. Getting adapters for the old Thunderbolt 2 port is not so easy.

Try all the Cables!

Anyway, my laptop has Thunderbolt 2 and USB. The monitors have VGA, DisplayPort, and HDMI options.

The first thing I tried, based on a forum that suggested this, daisy-chaining the 2 monitors together than just hooking the one to my laptop. I tried all combinations possible and none worked.

I even asked on the apple community page and they told me this wasn't possible. Though, I persisted because I saw several people say they had it set up that way.

Splitter Adapters (Psst, 3rd time's a charm)

After trying all the cables, I tried to get a Thunderbolt 2 splitter because USB ports need to be available for other things.

Attempt 1

So, I ordered a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Monitor Splitter based on a review of someone saying they were running 2 monitors from their 2013 Macbook Air.

You guessed it, it definitely didn't work. Why didn't it work? It probably didn't work because it was for a Mini DisplayPort and not Thunderbolt 2. Though, it did mention MST which seemed to be a thunderbolt thing.

Attempt 2

The next adapter I purchased was a StarTech.com USB 3.0 to Dual HDMI Adapter.


Epic fail on my part, this one was for Windows only. I didn't realize it until I couldn't install the .dmg for the drivers. Oops

Splitter Adapter Attempt 3

Woohoo! It works! Honestly, I didn't think the monitors would work running from USB ports. I don't know why I thought that, but I'm glad I was wrong. The combination of a J5 Create (JUA365) and a USB hub is perfect.

On top of that, the readme for the adapter was fantastic and easy to understand.

How to close the laptop?

I thought it was gonna require messing with settings to use just the monitors with the laptop closed. Turns out, it was super easy. Just close it.

screenshot of discord message from me: Apparently using my MacBook with external monitors and closing the laptop is as easy as just closing the laptop. I thought about trying that earlier today, but thought for sure it couldn’t be that easy. I’ll try in the morning

I was told to make sure the hinge, where the vent is, is not on a solid surface and has room to breathe.
screenshot of discord message from me: just try to keep the...crack? elevated. I majorly overheated mine once by keeping it closed and flat on the table. The vents are in the crack.

A happy side effect of closing my laptop: now I get to see all the stickers!

What's Left?

Now I just gotta hide the wires. I think all the wires on the desk are going to get hidden behind the monitors. That should work.

Oh, I also need to return all these failed attempt adapters. They were all > $50.


TL;DR
For my mid-2013 Macbook Air, the j5 create jua365 adapter is what allowed me to run 2 external monitors and the laptop screen. It also allows running the 2 monitors with the laptop closed.

screenshot of About this Mac popup: macOS Catalina 10.15.7, MacBook air (13-inch, Mid-2013)


Btw, I was blackmailed into writing this post.


Now, I think I deserve this doggo pic. I wrote the post, doggo pic pretty please????! :D

Discussion (1)

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Kshitij Chawla

Blackmail?? That is a simple business transaction!!!