I purchased an awesome 24″ LCD Monitor by Asus, I didn’t spend much (except for the Apple Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable). The problem with OS X, is that once you have such a wonderful display you want to use it fully, and the Apple operating system works against you. In fact, by default the monitor enters as “secondary monitor” so you need to drag applications into it, and you don’t have the dock and the menubar there. This would be fine, if only the way to switch the primary monitor was easy to find.
I wanted to use the big monitor as primary monitor, and I couldn’t find how. I looked around on internet without any luck. I purchased an application, Multimon, from the App Store, but it wasn’t much of an help; $10 wasted.

At the end I found how to use the external monitor as Primary Display. Here it is how:

  1. Open ‘System Preferences’. I do that from spotlight (cmd+space then type ‘system preferences’)
  2. Choose Displays, and select the Tab ‘Arrangement’, you’ll see something like this:

  3. You see that the menu bar is set on the little display (the one of the MacBook). The menu bar also identifies the ‘Primary Display’, which also gets the Dock. All you need to do, to switch the primary display is to drag the menu bar on the other display. It is also written in the dialog, but who see that? After dragging the menu bar, the representation becomes like this:

    Now the primary monitor is the external one.

When the external monitor gets disconnected, the MacBook display returns to be the primary one. If you have much stuff on the desktop, it gets a little bit messed up, but you can rearrange that automatically, right-clicking on the desktop and doing a Clean-Up By Kind or by Name.

Notice that if you have a MacBook earlier than 2010, like me, the Mini DisplayPort doesn’t transport the audio signal, which has been added only later; so your external display will be mute.

Last advice: once you have a big external monitor, you’ll probably want to buy a Apple Wireless Keyboard and the Magic Trackpad. Both strongly recommended. (For the Apple guys: for this recommendation you owe me some gift!)

This would be the final result [1]:


  1. Beer not included.

One Response to “How to switch the primary display on OS X”  

  1. 1 Madhura

    Thanks lui ;) its very cool.

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July 2012
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