My MacBook Pro Goes Multimonitor: 4 Monitors At Once!

Four Monitors, One MacBook

After nearly two years of leaving my desktop and a 3 monitor setup behind, I’m back to 3 monitors + 1, four screens in total, all running from my MacBook Pro.

My My Multimonitor Setup: Three Screens For One Computer post explains how I used to run three monitors from my Windows XP desktop. When I made the leap to a MacBook, I had only one external display port — so I could only run one external monitor.

That’s been OK for the most part. My external monitor was a big Dell 24″ widescreen running at 1920×1200 resolution. I’d usually use it for running my Windows XP installation on my MacBook “up above” with my Mac programs (usually just Firefox) running “down below.” My Mac & Windows Under VMware – Awesome! post has more about this.

Still, it has felt cramped at times. I’ve missed my three monitor setup and have even pondered leaving the Mac entirely to get back to it (see Time To Leave The Mac?). I knew there were some solutions for the MacBook, because I’d explored some options early on, as outlined in my Multiple Monitor Solutions For The MacBook Pro post. But I just never got any of them going.

Greg Boser inspired me by getting his MacBook running dual external monitors. Using a Matrox box, he got two screens running off his MacBook Pro. I talked with him a bit about it by phone, and later that day at Fry’s Electronics, there I saw the Matrox — the “triple head” version designed to run three monitors. I’d never seen these in stock before. I grabbed one to try it out.

Well, it works, sort of. You plug one end into your MacBook’s external display port. That runs into the Matrox box. Then the Matrox box has three outputs, one for each of up to three monitors.

All my monitors were recognized, but the Matrox thought they were all one big screen. That was a pain for various reasons.

For one, if you’re like me and running Windows through VMware, there’s a handy “full screen” mode. But using that mode on any one of my three external monitors caused the Windows screen to run across all of them. After all, as far as Matrox was concerned, the three monitors were all the same.

OK, just run my Mac programs on the external monitors? Sure, except you know how with the Mac, the menu bar for a program runs at the top of the screen, rather than at the top of a particular program’s own window as with Windows? This meant my menu bar ran across all three screens. So if I needed it, I had a long stretch waaaaaaay over to the left-most screen.

Really, the killer reason I returned the Matrox box was because my screen resolution dropped. I have three external screens. One is that widescreen 24″ directly in front of me. Off to either side are two square 20″ displays that can run 1600×1200 resolution.

The Matrox box couldn’t understand that one was a widescreen. As far as it was concerned, I had to have three monitors that were all the same size, and it was going to pretend they were, even if they weren’t. Worse, when running three monitors, you can’t get resolution better than 1280×1024 per monitor, in most cases (a few graphics cards will support 1680×1050 — the full rundown is here).

The drop in resolution meant I was losing a lot of screen real estate, which was the reason for wanting to increase the number of external monitors in the first place.

I went back to Fry’s far more educated about the need to know the maximum resolution that an external monitor adapter could drive. Looking around on the shelves, I found a Diamond BVU195 USB-DVI adapter. The box said it worked with Macs and could drive the resolutions I wanted. So I purchased two of them – $70 each, $140 total versus $340 for the Matrox box.

Want buy the Diamond or Matrox online? Here are links to Amazon with my affiliate code, so yep, I earn something off of these:

(I must also include this Fry’s digression, for Fry’s fans. Feel free to skip this paragraph. Fry’s also currently has a $10 rebate going on, making them $60, if you believe rebates ever work. Plus, the price is actually $65 each at Fry’s right now, so that’s $55 with rebate. But due to the unique nature of Fry’s, that $65 price didn’t ring up on the register. It came up as $70. Asking why caused the clerk to take me on a hike across the store to see the price marked on the shelf. It was $65, as I had said. Then a second person was enlisted to override the system. All along, he kept telling me I could have the $65 price only on one, as these were currently only one to a customer. That’s not true — it’s the rebate that’s limited to one per household. But then, a third customer service person was enlisted to try and fix the mess the second person was making in trying to override the system. End result: me saying you know, I’ll spend the extra $5 to $10 I was going to save just to get the heck out of the store.)

When I got home, I plugged them both into my external USB hub. Then I plugged the cable from each of my square end monitors into each box:

Diamond BVU191 USB-DVI adapter

As for my middle monitor, I plugged that directly into my Mac’s built-in external display port. And?

And nothing. The Mac didn’t see them. And the CD-ROM enclosed didn’t have any drivers. And the sparse printed instructions didn’t mention the Mac at all.

Dammit. But there it was on the box. They were supposed to support Macs. So I went back to online product page (that I linked to above), found the support area and downloaded the drivers that clearly said Mac OS. And got nothing. No drivers. However, there was another sparse manual in what I downloaded that mentioned Mac support — saying to get the drivers from the DisplayLink site.

Well, I didn’t even know what DisplayLink was. I guess it’s a standard for multiple monitor support. So I headed over and found the Mac page. In turn, that sent me to a forum page where, if you scroll down to the very bottom, you get the latest driver. Not very reassuring.

And yet, it worked. It worked marvelously. Once the drivers were installed, and I rebooted, my Mac saw my two additional monitors. I had three external monitors running in total, plus my laptop display (1440×900 resolution on a 15″ screen) as well.

It’s awesome. It really is. Each of my four screens is seen independently by the Mac — and can be independently controlled. My laptop screen:

Color LCD MacBook Display Settings

My widescreen external:

DELL 2407WFP MacBook Display Settings

And what I see for each of my monitors on the sides:

DELL 2001FP MacBook Display Settings

I can arrange them however I’d like. My current setup is shown at the top of of this post (and shut up. I know my desk is a mess. Let’s not even get into how in doing all this, my laser printer fell on the floor and now probably has to be replaced. Don’t. Go. There).

Here’s the Arrangement screen from the Display control in System Preferences:

MacBook Display Arrangement

Want your menu bar for a program on a particular monitor? Just click on the thin line I’ve pointed to below and drag it to the monitor you want:

MacBook Display Arrangement

I wish you could put the dock on an external monitor, but I haven’t found a way to do that.

So far, the monitors run great. The two through the USB adapters feel ever so slightly sluggish — really not that noticable, and I’m pretty happy. I did find that Skitch, my screenshot application for the Mac, crashes if I try to shoot using the USB monitors. But so far, that’s the only glitch.

I briefly tried testing whether I could link either of the USB adapters to VMware, so that I could extend my Windows desktop to them. That kind of freaked out my monitors. I might play with this more later. But if use use Unity mode in VMware, then you can put a Windows application on any of your monitors, not just within the one running Windows. Of course, I find Unity mode to be sluggish — but I might play with that more, also.

Meanwhile, I still debate the PC versus Mac choice. If Mac made a laptop with an Intel i5 or i7 quad processor, problem completely solved. I’d feel I had enough horsepower to run both operating systems super well. But VMware on my existing MacBook still does the job pretty well, and this solves the other major issue that was making me think I needed to jump to a desktop — more monitors.

Another wish would be if Mac simply made an iMac in a 24″ size that had i5 or i7 processors. That’s only possible for the 27″ iMac — and that’s simply too big. For me, it wouldn’t allow room for monitors on either side, and I don’t want one monitor on just one side, as I find ergonomically, it helps to move my head all around.

Really, my MacBook setup is great. I get my email right in front of me on my laptop screen, “down below.” I’ve got room to read and write within a browser directly in front. And I’ve got monitors giving me room for additional reading or other tasks to either side. I just want more power!

For more on what I’ve written about multiple monitors, especially tips on using them in Windows, see my Multiple Monitors archives.


Comments

  1. says

    I wonder if it’s an OS thing then, because it does on mine. I’m running 10.6.2 Snow Leopard and have an external 30″ Dell. Both my system bar AND dock are on the external monitor.

  2. says

    Great post… thx for sharing the tips.
    @Brandon: I am on 10.6.2 as well and when I move the “white bar” – I only get the system bar moved to the desired monitor NOT the dock. Dock is still resident on my MBP, which kinda sucks…

  3. says

    What I shld do is edit my previous post, but don’t have an option.

    Anyhow, I figured my issue. My “dock” was set to “Left” and not “Bottom” thus staying on MBP. I adjusted it to “bottom” and voila – it works like a charm. Awesome!!! I am gonna point to this post from my blog as well.

  4. dogooder says

    Very cool. I need to try something like this on my “new” Powerbook G4, which I just bought to replace by fried Powerbook. (I still have the Toshiba tablet, and I’m loving Vista [yes, strange but true] but I just couldn’t stay away from MacOSX). Which Fry’s did you go to? I went to the one in Anaheim and didn’t find all of what you listed above; maybe I need to try the Fountain Valley store.

  5. David says

    Thanks for the post!

    I run Snow Leopard 64-bit.
    Any solution to make it work with the diamond adapter?

  6. Rich says

    I just got my Diamond BVU195 and thanks to your sharing your expertise I installed and configured in less than 5 minutes! FYI dont even bother with the CD that comes with it. Go straight to the DisplayLink site and download the mac driver, install and enjoy. My read is DisplayLink makes the magic chip inside the Diamond device and hence the USB driver for it. Also reading the DisplayLink info, no 64bit driver yet, and also no Open-GL etc support as of this date. DisplayLink appears to have many other cool applications using thier chip, I cant wait until next Christmas! Thanks Danny!
    (ps. works with OSX 10.6.2 (Snow Leopard) w/17″ macBook Pro (32bit) and two 24″ LCDs Dell & HP)

  7. says

    I am really glad you posted this, very helpful. Which stand are you using for your three monitors? I am assuming you had to use a usb hub, did that effect the quality at all? Do you know if the Diamond usb adapters work with the usb ports in the mac keyboard?

  8. NYC Chris says

    Wow, this could almost be a perfect solution for me! Did you ever get it working in fullscreen with VMWare? And can you run VMWare windows and have it span over 2 or 3 monitors?

    BTW: Your setup looks pretty nice :D

  9. Joel says

    Love the set-up… just picked one up from UPS for my mbp with a broken screen to run on a 24 inch samsung and a 19 inch westinghouse. The one issue though is that I’m not able to change the color calibration on the 19 inch which is connected via the bvu195. Any ideas why the color calibration for this monitor wont work??

  10. Joel says

    Also, when i had it plugged into the graphics card, the 19 inch was looking great after i’d customized it… so I know its not lacking in that department

  11. says

    I just found out what causes the dock to anchor in the laptop LCD… I just moved into a temporary office and until now had my laptop and Dell LCD side by side. My new temporary desk is much smaller, so I have the laptop in front of the 30″ Dell and just below it. When I changed my monitor configuration so I could move my mouse down from the 30″ into the laptop LCD it automatically changed the dock location to anchor at the bottom of the LCD.

    I guess Apple figures you can’t have it both ways, you can’t anchor something to the bottom of your display if you can scroll right through to another monitor. If you want to move the dock to one of your large displays, move the LCD out to the side of one of them and the dock should move to whichever display has the menu bar.

  12. says

    I really appreciate the post, I’ve been seeking something like this for ages as I’m doing the big ‘oh no, leaving the pc world after 12 years because i need to do video production and well.. it’s mac land’.. the macbook pro’s don’t seem to be too gutsy, but I need an on-road solution.

    It’s really a toss up between getting a fast mb pro or getting an i7 with a radeon 5870, 12 gig of ram and 3 samsung p2350′s (I’ve got one already running as the second monitor to a fujitsu lifebook t2010).

    Due to starting up on-location video recording, I need a home setup to process and operate final cut pro, I’m thinking this monitor setup is the only way to go.. I like your dells, the x 1200 res. is a big thing I’m noticing compared to x 1080 on the p2350 I’m typing on right now.

    Cheers again

  13. Aaron Wood says

    Great article Danny, thanks for the info. I also tried the matrox with a macbook pro and was very disappointed.

    I have one question about the Diamond though. You mentioned you couldn’t put the dock on one of the external monitors. Were you just referring to the monitors hooked up via the Diamonds? What about the monitor that is connected directly to your laptops display port / monitor out? This would be a deal breaker for me. Thanks for the help,

    - Aaron

  14. says

    NYC Chris, I finally tested fullscreen in VMWare across multiple monitors. Under View, in the menu options, there’s a setting called Use All Displays In Full Screen. Do that, and all your monitors get used by VMWare as separate monitors for Windows. IE, in my setup, switching to that meant all four monitors worked as four separate monitors in Windows. I could move around between them. But personally, I didn’t like this, as I wanted at least one monitor to still show my Mac side.

  15. says

    Aaron, I can’t put the dock on any of the external monitors. This is apparently because they are “above” my laptop display, and Apple has decided that the dock, like water, must always flow to the lowest point as Brandon Eley above describes. But I’ve gotten used to it now.

    NYC Chris, I also played with putting VMWare into Unity mode, so that each application works within the Mac environment. Allows me to put different Windows applications on different monitors along with my Mac ones. But Unity is so very slow, at least for me.

  16. Leo Chan says

    Hey Danny,

    Thanks for the post. It really shed a lot of light on the subject, cuz the triplehead2go is expensive, and feeling a bit spoiled if i got it.

    But i did want to ask and be grateful if you could answer:

    I am setting my own home recording studio, trying to run 3 external monitors, but i have read that the displaylink drivers are laggish, but that was a few ago with their 1.0 driver beta, but now at 1.5 beta, is good enough for me to run, say, logic pro, and for it not to lag? like is it actually usuable for music editing purposes? Or is it just for web browsing cuz the lagging is so bad?

    Would really appreciate it if you could let me know.

    Appreciation high five.

    Leo

  17. says

    Leo, I’ve found very little lag on my Diplaylink monitors. I can’t tell if that would be impacted by a heavy graphics intensive program, however. But the USB adapters are pretty cheap — get them from a place that allows returns, and you can test and be sure.

  18. says

    @Joel, I’m having the same issue… anyone know of a solution? The color between these monitors isn’t a match and it’s really annoying not being able to change it :(

  19. says

    Danny – Thanks for the this post and the detail you went through. I got this setup working in 30 minutes once the Diamond adapters came in the mail. I am also using a DVI to HDMI adapter to a run that goes to the other side of the room (primarily VLC for my movies). If in Boston, beers on me. – Scott

  20. says

    Sweet. Damn, now I have to go buy a third external monitor. And the Diamond converters. And a bigger desk :)

    But seriously, thanks so much for all these great tips. I now won’t have to spend as much time setting up my MBP 17″. Too bad I won’t be able to use this setup (in switchover mode) with my Dell 17″ laptop too.

  21. says

    Oh, and I had to laugh when you mentioned your Fry’s experience. That is one absurd store. Every time I go there, they have trouble taking my money, and always have to get a manager to do what the lackey cashier doesn’t have the know-how or authority to do. Now I try to go there with cash instead of debit or credit card.

  22. Bob Chung says

    How do the Diamond adapters work if you shut the lid on your Macbook Pro? So if I have two Dell 24″ monitors and I close the lid on the laptop will display preferences just show my two 24″ monitors and nothing else?

  23. DD says

    Does this work with 2 Apple Cinema displays (24″ and 30″)? I’d like to connect them to my Macbook Pro unibody. Will this work or will I need something else?

  24. says

    @Bob Chung,

    I’m also wondering the same thing. I’m interested in running two 24″ Dell Monitors off the MBP, however I’d like to keep the lid shut. I know with one external monitor this works fine, however that’s through the DisplayPort, I wonder if having it through USB would affect it.

    Thanks for the site post, great information. I’m going to be trying this very soon.

  25. says

    As soon as I can get hold of my 2nd external monitor (which is at work), I’ll give it a try on my MBP and see what happens if the lid gets closed.

  26. says

    @Kevin – post back how the Iomega one works. The Diamond one is a little slow (tolerable) and it’s drivers are still buggy. Will randomly freeze from time to time.

  27. Kevin says

    Will do, just need some cash for the 2nd monitor :) Also I guess it is IOgear not Iomega for those keeping score at home. Any word on what happens when you close the lid on a setup like this?

  28. says

    Ok, so today I grabbed a Diamond BVU195. I had an extra Acer H233H at the office, and also another at home. So one 23″ runs from the mini display port, and the other via the Diamond USB-to-DVI converter. After I installed the DisplayLink driver, everything worked fine.

    When I closed the lid of my MBP, the two externals turned off. When I flipped back up, the laptop screen was black and the two externals worked. The status bar and dock moved to the left-most screen (USB-2-DVI), as did the apps I had on the laptop screen.

    The config I had before closing the lid: L-M-R (with USB-2-DVI at L; laptop at M). To get the laptop screen back on, I did a “Detect Displays”. What happened is that all windows at L came to M.

  29. says

    @jon solson: According to the DisplayLink PDF, it does work with MacBook Air. In fact, in their example, they add 3 displays to the Air, using a “standard powered USB hub.”

    Misc: I’m also controlling a Hi-Res Dell 17″ (1920×1200) PC with the same keyboard & mouse as my MBP 17″. To do that, I’m running Synergy+/ QSynergy on both laptops, and I have an IOGear USB-based KVM switch (4 computers; Mac, PC). So with this setup, the Diamond BVU195 & 2 external 23″ monitors, I can easily work on both laptops with out a lot of flipping back and forth. The only keyboard change I do is if I want to see both 23″ screens with the MBP.

  30. Bob Chung says

    @ Danny

    How do the Diamond adapters work if you shut the lid on your Macbook Pro (AC Powered of Course)? So if I have two Dell 24″ monitors and I close the lid on the laptop will display preferences just show my two 24″ monitors and nothing else?

  31. says

    The performance on these has me concerned. I’ve been running two 23-inch monitors using the setup described here for a few days. Periodically the screens will go black, then come back on, or they’ll start repainting REALLY slowly. One time the repainting was so slow that I had to unplug both external monitors, wait for OS X to push everything down to the internal laptop monitor, and continue using only that.

    This doesn’t *always* happen, but it happens enough that I’m wary.

    Just to clarify, I’m running two external monitors through the Diamond adapters, running the adapters into a 7-port Belkin USB hub, then running the hub into one of the laptop’s USB ports.

  32. says

    I think I have the latest DisplayLink drivers; I only set up the monitors this past weekend, so at least a week after the newest drivers came out. So the drivers are probably not the problem.

    It seems like the USB hub may be one of the problems. I came into work today, where the laptop stayed overnight, and nothing connected to the hub was powered on — not the monitors, not the mouse, not my iPhone. I’ve heard from others that USB hubs are very unreliable, and this seems to confirm it.

    I’m using a 7-port Belkin hub. Has anyone else had bad experiences with this one, or good experiences with others?

  33. Dave says

    All, I had a similar experience with the Matrox. Sent it back and went with the Diamond solution. The only negative I have is that the calibration profiles for each monitor respond differently between the one connected to the mini diaplaylink port and the one connected to the Diamond adapter. Nothing I have tried can seem to get them calibrated the same, and for my photography workflow this is a bit of a pain. If anyone has any ideas please let me know. I use an EyeOne to do custom display calibration.

  34. Justin says

    Is there anywhere other than Fry’s that I can buy the adapter? The Diamond BVU160 if that is still around. There isn’t a Fry’s around me and I’d like to see if I can get buy it without having to ship.

    Thanks!

  35. says

    You said one of your wishes was the MacBook Pro to come with an i5 or i7 processor, well your wish has been answered as they are available as of today and yes I did order one myself (hope there is enough left for ya)

  36. says

    DJ ZAh- are you going to try to hook up multiple monitors on your new baby? Is so, please let us know how it turns out!

    Anyone- do you expect the multi-monitor setup to work “that” much better on the new i5 or i7? Was it a USB hub issue or a graphics card issue causing the slow response/frustrations?

    Think I’ll pick up the 15 inch 2.66GHz very soon!

  37. Mohk says

    First, excellent post. I have been wanting to do something like this for months now. However, I am still left with a few questions.
    I have a unibody Macbook Pro 13″, 2.26 GHZ intel core 2 duo processor with 2GB and a NVIDIA GeForce 9400m.

    I currently have a 32″ samsung LCD and I am planning to purchase 2 more 20″-23″ LCD monitors. I was wondering if this is too large of a range to run this setup? Also, does the macbook pro run hot? Or does it stay fairly cool?

    Would it be more optimal to purchase a desktop windows or mac instead of running it off a macbook? Lastly, does anyone know if the new 27″ Imac will run 2 external models like this setup?

    If anyone knows the answer to any of the above questions that would be great.

  38. E R says

    Great post! The Diamond device is unfortunately not possible to ship to my destination in Denmark, Europe. Darn. Back to looking for at functioning device. Thanks.

  39. Troy says

    @Danny:

    I just bought a Diamond BVU195 and have a very similar monitor to yours – a Dell 2407WFP-HC.

    I got the latest driver from DisplayLink’s site and made sure that everything was hooked up properly, but my monitor stays completely black, as if it’s in Power Save mode (in fact, it may be). My Macbook recognizes the monitor, and I can even move the mouse cursor off the main screen onto it, and see the edge of the red box that indicates the monitor when I hover over its icon in the Displays pane of System Preferences. I can do everything short of seeing a picture on the screen.

    According to what my monitor is telling me, everything is hooked up properly, but it’s not receiving a display signal. I tried the adapter on another monitor and it worked fine. I can’t find anything in the Dell monitor’s menu that lets me toggle Power Save mode or anything else that might be preventing it from receiving a signal.

    Did you happen to have a similar experience with your setup, or do you have any guesses about what I might need to do to kickstart a picture? I put in support tickets with DisplayLink and Diamond, but have yet to hear back on either.

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

  40. says

    My Dell monitor has a button that allows me to rotate through the input source, kind of like this —>[ ]

    Maybe you’re set on an input of VGA while the card is kicking out a digital signal? Try toggling the input slowly through each option, that’s my best guess.

  41. Troy says

    @Danny:

    Thanks very much for your reply! Unfortunately, I’ve already given that a try. I confirmed that the input source was set to DVI while hooking the adapter up directly through a DVI cable that I also tested to be good. I also cycled through the inputs slowly just to be sure, but no luck.

    One thing I haven’t tried yet is using the VGA adapter to see if an analog signal to the monitor will work. I guess that’s worth a shot. Still no replies from DisplayLink or Diamond…

  42. says

    Danny, thanks for sharing. Great posts.

    Re your dock, here’s the trick. If you set it to “LEFT”, it will go to the left side of the left most screen. Same for right = right side of right-most screen. But you put it to the bottom, it will go to the LEFT-most, BOTTOM-most screen.

    So…to get it to go to the left upper monitor, you’d have to sacrifice your laptop’s primary “lower” position, and set it off to the side somewhere (kind of making it the fourth right side screen). Then the dock will appear on screen 1 at the bottom. One trick I use is if I’m using a larger screen or two externally and am not using clamshell mode with my laptop (it heats up too much) and want the dock on the big screen, I’ll change the screen alignment so Big Screen = left side, laptop = positioned so that it’s upper left corner touches the bottom right corner of screen 1 leaving only a one pixel tunnel for the mouse to “break out” of the big screen and into the laptop screen (that’s off to the side off my desk and not being used.) That stops inadvertent mousing over into the unused screen. That also lets the dock sit at the “leftmost/bottommost” screen (i.e. screen 1 – the large screen.) Hard to describe in words. Play with it and see if you get what I mean.
    Optionally put the dock on the LEFT side and it will move to the upper left screen 1 automatically. Voila. Problem solved.

    Troy

  43. says

    Awesome article, thanks a lot. I’ve been searching for this solution for a while now.

    I just installed the Diamond BVU195 on my MacBook Pro using the latest DisplayLink driver. Worked great. I’m running one 19″ widescreen from the MacBook and a second from the Diamond.

    Regarding the lag issue, it was pretty bad at first when I connected the Diamond through my USB hub. I then connected it to my Mac directly and that made a considerable difference, bringing the lag down to a tolerable range. If anyone finds as solution with almost no lag at all, I’d love to hear about it.

    I’ve read some comments asking about whether this will work on a Mac laptop if the Mac’s lid is closed. It does on mine, both closed and open.

    Anyway, thanks again man. I was about to drop a couple hundred on a Matrox so you definitely saved me some cash. Cheers!

  44. Remco says

    Great article! I am thinking of buying a 13″macbook pro with 2 external screens.

    Is the solution working reliable enough ? We have two dvi over usb adapters at work for windows but they run too hot and sometimes do not work ok.

    I can only ask my boss if it works 100% ok….

    please let me know…

  45. says

    It has worked great for me, for months. I moved from a MacBook to a Dell XP machine, but the setup’s the same — and the adapters aren’t super hot.

  46. says

    Just got BV195, everything works great except I can feel a little sluggish on the second external screen, acceptable!

    Thanks for the great article!

  47. says

    Just wanted to poke and update to this post stating that DisplayLink now has beta drives which support 10.6 Snow Leopard in 64 bit mode. They seem to work fine.

    Also noticed that color calibration doesn’t actually work. I’ll need to bring my Spyder from home and see if that works.

  48. Rick says

    I was inspired by the four monitor set up. I have a MacBook Pro running the OSX 10.6.4 . I added three Samsung Syncmaster EX 2220 from Costco ($179 ea.). Then two Diamond BVU195 from Fry’s. Proceeded to download the drivers from Display Link, the recommended 64bit. Changed the Mac settings to the 64bit. It did not work. After two days of research and testing the following solution works perfectly: Rebooted Snow Leopard 10.6 from the original disk, then downloaded the other Mac drivers from Display Link (Mac driver 1.5). I have added VMWare Fusion 3 in seamless mode. I am using this system for research and full time stock trading. It works flawlessly. Perhaps this solution may help with some of the other challenges.

  49. Ian says

    No one here seems to surprisingly have asked the one simple question I’d like to know about this… How does VIDEO (streaming or otherwise) play on the monitor connected to the USB/DVI adapter? What I would like to do is close my Macbook Pro lid (mid 2010 displayport/i5), attach a 30 inch Cinema Display via the Mini Displayport to DVI adapter, and then a 22 inch LG flat panel via the Diamond adapter and keep streaming videos running over there. Will this work or will the audio be out of sync, will be there noticeable lag in the video etc?

  50. Martin Finkelstein says

    I would like to connect two external VGA monitors in dual from the MacBookPro. The Diamond BVU195 is for a DVI monitor. Any way to get this to work to 2 VGA monitors?

  51. says

    I just bought one of these for my MBP after reading this post :) . The only issue I have is that using this consistently heats up my MBP by close to 10 deg celsius. The MBP isn’t the coolest laptop to begin with and this puts it in ‘close to being cooked’ category.

    Does anyone else have this issue?

  52. Martin Finkelstein says

    my MBP does not heat up at all. I recently bought it and am running 10.6.4 and I am very happy that it works.

  53. treyy says

    Anyone running this on the newest MacBook Pro’s? I just ordered a 15″ MacBook pro with the I7 core and was planning on using these adapters. However there seems to be a review on Amazon that says these adapters don’t work on the new macbook pros if you move the dock to a different display and have to reboot without the monitors connected.
    Here is the link:
    http://www.amazon.com/Diamond-BVU195-Display-Adapter-included/product-reviews/B002GHBW4S/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?ie=UTF8&coliid=&showViewpoints=1&colid=&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending
    It is a post by J. Purdy.

    Wondering if anyone else has run into this issue with the new macbook pro’s?

  54. says

    Thanks for sharing Danny, I might be getting a couple of these soon.

    Just thought you’d like to know, I have licenses for and constantly switch between Parallels, VMware Fusion and VirtualBox, and I have to say that, surprisingly, VirtualBox, the free, open source solution actually runs much smoother/lighter than the other two. Now, it doesn’t support the crazy video acceleration that VMware/Parallels do, but I don’t do gaming, so I don’t care. For what I do care though, which is running/testing business software and web development, it’s fantastic.

  55. Auction Supplies says

    That’s a great post. I have the MBP with the i7 processor and use two external monitors now – thanks to this post. It’s not as much screen real estate as you have – but it does the trick.

    Thank you so much for writing this detailed instruction set – as I would have probably given up trying to get this to work!

    Thanks again!

  56. says

    I didn’t know that you could configure all four screens different with different resolutions … that could solve one of my problems with not being able to fit every screen on my desk. Have you seen any wall mount brackets for monitors?

  57. Pat says

    Hey guys

    I just finished installing my 3 monitors with monoprice adapters (47$ each) on my Macbook 2.2 black and it worked like a charm… even videos are ok for now.. see the installation : http://flic.kr/p/8sHxTu

    3 Acer 23inches : 1 on the mini-dvi macbook adapter and 2 on 2 usb to dvi monoprice adapter

  58. says

    This is a sweet setup. I notice that you have the monitors mounted. What are you using? I’m an avid traveler so the less weight, I want to know about! thanks for the informative info & tips. also, i’m pretty new to external monitors & the mac.. are there many restrictions?

    ps Pat very nice!!

    Thanks!

  59. Pat says

    In my case i used 1 desk mount bracket (http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=109&cp_id=10828&cs_id=1082808&p_id=5400&seq=1&format=2) with a good old piece of wood on which i used for the middle monitor a low profile bracket (http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=109&cp_id=10828&cs_id=1082802&p_id=6429&seq=1&format=2) and for each side monitors tilt and swivel brackets (http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=108&cp_id=10828&cs_id=1082802&p_id=3005&seq=1&format=2)

    The whole thing cost me only 30$, way better than the 200$ solutions…

  60. says

    damn man
    3 external monitors to a macbook pro
    i wonder if my 13″ MBP will be able to run it perfectly w/o lag.
    i thought of upgrading it to 8GB ram thou :D :D

  61. elisa says

    I have a macbook pro 13″ that I use for work and it’s been killing me to use the laptop screen as my second monitor! I got the diamond adapter and only installed the drivers for mac (didn’t even open the cd) and it works like a gem! So now i have two external monitors (finally) and the laptop screen…now to figure out how to run the macbook with the lid closed….anyone know how?

  62. Mike says

    Thanks for the post. I was wanting another display.

    I just hooked up the BVUMD3 I bought and wanted to let everyone know that it seems to be working great.

    Diamond still doesn’t even link to the displaylink site or provide their own Mac drivers which is silly. I submitted a trouble ticket and they say they are working on it.

    The 1.6 beta drivers from displaylink ( they seem to be the manufacturers of the chipset inside the Diamond ) that I’m trying out work so far. Its not perfect. Creating a color profile doesn’t work properly but I can always plug the display into the mac directly, set it up, and then move it off to the Diamond. I’m not sure if this is unique to the BVU or if the models you used have that defect as well. I’ll try out the 1.5 drivers and see if that fixes it.

  63. abc123 says

    I’m trying to figure out how to run the system with the laptop closed. I’m using a bookendz docking station…can someone help?

  64. cjflory says

    Great post! I have a few questions, though.
    1. Does this affect the refresh rate? If so, what is the maximum?
    2. Has anyone compared this Diamond solution to alternatives? If so, I’d like some input on which solution is best.

    Thanks for the post. Very informative!

  65. says

    Danny I wanted to thank you for making me realize what a dummy I had been. I was rattling my brain cells trying to find a way of doing the same thing and it was your post that made me remember the USB – VGA thingy I used to use on an old PC laptop. I’ve since been over to Amazon and parted with a few of my English pounds…

    Cheers. Great explanation by the way.

  66. denise says

    I’ve recently set up my office along these lines–two monitors, one 15″ Macbook Pro. A couple of discoveries (since people keep referencing this awesome post)
    1. I had to go to Systems Prefs > Energy Saver and turn OFF Automatic Graphics Switching. Until I did that, my laptop display wouldn’t work when it was disconnected from the other monitors. This was the case with the 1.5 and 1.6beta Displaylink drivers. The displaylink forums have many folks who have reported this issue–it’s unclear when they’ll address this.
    2. A couple of folks asked if you can shut the macbook lid and use the external monitors. Yes, you can. When you initially shut the lid, the computer will go into sleep (power-save mode). At that point, send the computer a wake signal with your mouse or an Apple remote (leave the lid closed) and it will wake the computer and the external displays. It takes a couple of seconds (that feel like forever) but works quite well.

  67. says

    Denise – good point about the lid. It would be so easy for anyone who has not done it before to be tempted to open the lid to check everything was working, or to open the lid because it looks like nothing is happening. When I first set-up my single external screen (using the mini display port – now on my way to 2 external 24s), there was a few times when I’d give the mouse a wiggle and wonder if the computer was asleep or waking up.

    As you said: That few seconds can seem like forever.

  68. Ken Wilson says

    Hi Danny,

    Can you please help me determine if this adapter will work with the setup I have and if I’ll need any additional cables, etc.?

    iMac 27″ i5 Quad Core 2.66 ghz model (Late 2009)
    Two (2) 20″ Apple Cinema Displays (August 7, 2006 version)

  69. Rob Sherman says

    In case anyone is curious, I have a 17″ I7 Macbook Pro, unibody, mid-2010 (model 6,1) running 10.6.4 with all the latest updates as of October 20th. I too am using dual Diamond BVU195s with two Samsung monitors (T240HD, 214T) – I downloaded and am using the DisplayLink 1.6.3 (beta) driver and it’s working just fine for me with 1900×1200 resolution on MB and main monitor and I get 1600×1200 on other external monitor.

    If you go this route, and want to install the 1.6.3Beta driver, be sure to disable automatic graphic switching and reboot prior to install. Be safe and reboot once more after installing as well.

    I’ve also found through trial and error that you can in no way get your external USB monitors to stay on when you close the lid of the mac, even if you wake it up with keyboard or mouse, it will just keep going to sleep. You MUST have at least one monitor plugged into the Mini Display port if you want your monitors to stay on with the MB lid closed.

    Videos, flash and youtube all seem to work fine on USB monitors although the video does feel “not as smooth” as the MB itself but I think thats to be expected.

  70. Ken Wilson says

    I purchased two of these adapters and they work great with my new iMac 27″. I have noticed one strange error that happens somewhat frequently. The monitors will switch positions in terms of the virtual positioning and have to be switched back through system preferences. This happens when the computer is rebooted, but not every time.

  71. says

    Im using this right now on my mac book pro, but I’m using it to connect to my HDTV, but I’m using an HDMI adapter and not an DVI adapter I wasn’t even aware that you could connect three different monitors to your mac book pro, this type of stuff is the main reason why I’m not going back to PC’S, and no I dont want to start an arguement between macs and PC users, Just stating my humble opinions.

  72. says

    You can do all this with PCs, as well. In fact, the software for managing multiple monitors is a little easier with PCs. See my previous post:

    http://daggle.com/my-multimonitor-setup-three-screens-for-one-computer-76

    I’m actually using a 2010 MacBook pro now, but running Windows 7 on it through bootcamp, to do exactly what you see above. I switched over to Windows 7 because I still run a lot of Windows program but also because I felt managing multiple windows was easier.

  73. says

    “You can do all this with PCs, as well. In fact, the software for managing multiple monitors is a little easier with PCs” pretty much ownd I stand corrected.

    I run alot of programs still on my PC but mainly use my mac, only go back to my PC when I absolutely have to run those programs, what I was looking for was a program that allowed me to run my PC from my MAC like in a Virtual Machine but I want to control my PC remotely. but thanks if I ever go back I will be coming back to this very useful thread.

  74. James B says

    Thank you very much for this page. I am running two external monitors off my MacBook Pro and this information was invaluable! I bought the Diamond 195 off of eBay and used the driver you list on this page. Fantastic!!!

    I am running Snow Leopard to answer the last post though it was a year ago so I’m sure they figured it out.

  75. Nano says

    Epic thread, folks. NICE!

    Anyone have any insight on whether the BVU195′s or BVUMD3′s will support 1920×1200. Looking to push two Dell U2410′s and the MBP all at Max Res.

    2 @ 1920×1200 via the Diamond adapters and the MBP @ 1440×900.

    TIA

    -nano

  76. says

    @Nano: I have two of BVU195s running two 23″ monitors that are 1920×1200 — but only if I use an HDMI cable. (I also have 2 1920×1080 21.5″ monitors on my MBP17 as well.) When the two 23″ monitors are attached to the two BVU195s, I only get 1920×1080, so I’m not 100% sure, but my guess is that you should be okay. The max screen IS on the packaging (which I’ve tossed), so you can double-check.

  77. Rob Sherman says

    I easily got 1920×1200 on a Samsung t240hd 24″ using a Dvi cable on my BVU195. The packaging on the BVU195 even stated support for 1920×1200. I wish they made more monitors now that support that resolution they all seem to focus on just 1920×1080 these days.

  78. Nano says

    Thanks for the input. I did see the specs at the Diamond site, however they don’t explicitly list 1920×1200 (16:10) as being supported. So I figured I’d ask the folks who are in the know, the people who are actually using the product.

    Just trying to sure up the compatibilities before I drop some cash on hardware.

    For computing, I am a fan of 16:10 at high resolutions. The Dell panel I am looking at (see previous post) has a native resolution of 1920×1200, which of course is 16:10.

    1920×1080 (16:9), while a suitable res. for movies and other video or game content, is not what I am looking to push to these displays.

    My question still stands:
    Has anyone successfully used either the BVU195 or BVUMD3 to support a resolution of 1920×1200 (16:10) ?

    Thanks for your experimentation

    -nano

  79. Nano says

    Disregard my last post. Mr. Sherman provided the answer I was looking for while I was typing up the post. Excellent news! Thanks for the input sir!

    -nano

  80. P. Hillman says

    To DylzGuy,

    We use “Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection”. It lets you have one of your Mac monitors be your PC. Both Mac and PC must be on ethernet. You can also use VNC programs link Vine. PC must be setup to allow remote connections.

  81. Steve says

    Hi Danny,

    Saw your post and have a quick question. Have you tried using the mac video out as well as the two Diamond boxes to add even another monitor? I only need 3 monitors in my setup and thought I could use the standard video out plus one of the USB boxes.

    Thanks,

    Steve

  82. Rob Sherman says

    Steve,
    I managed to do my setup like that, although I ended up using the video out for my main monitor (to hold the dock and menu bar) and used the diamond for one other monitor since I only needed two. I used this setup so I could close the lid on my mac preventing it from sleeping. More details on my blog post:
    http://cfdad.com/2010/10/20/macbook-pro-i7-with-multiple-monitors/

    - Rob
    I happily refer to and link to Danny’s blog post for original ideas.

  83. Ashman says

    Great thread, just curious though, could I use a regular adapter for the mini display port > DVI and one of these Diamond adapters for my two external LCD monitors, or would I need to use two Diamond adapters?

    Thanks

    AM

  84. says

    You need one adapter for each monitor beyond what you power with your mini-DisplayPort. So two monitors, one off your mini-DisplayPort, then you only need one more adapter.

  85. Ashman says

    I just bought a hengedock and I am hoping that I can utilize my two external monitors while the macbook is in the hengedock, as far as you know, there should be no problems using monitors connected to the Diamond adapters when the macbook is closed?

  86. JCDrew says

    Okay… so… I moved to the Mac world about a year ago after mental beating from my son who works for Apple. I kept telling him that I couldn’t go to Mac because I had so many engineering programs that only ran on Windows. Well.. I had another infamous Windows crash and I was DONE. I bought the fastest Macbook Pro with 8G and off I went. This is running Snow Leopard 10.6.5. I ran with VMWare Fusion for close to a year, and then it blew up.. suddenly the image was taking up 300GB of my hard drive! Continuous calls and forum searched left me numb… nothing worked. I downloaded Parallels 6 and have found it MUCH faster and it has a LOT more features. So far, it’s been far superior to Fusion.

    Also, I ran with 2 monitors for about a year, and then I read your posts today, and now I’m running 3 monitors… 2x24in wide screens and the macbook. One 24in is using a mini display port to VGA and the other is using the Diamond BVU195 with the VGA adapter.. both are at 1920×1200 resolution. The links to the BVU195 driver worked like a champ, and I’m using my 3D cad tools just fine… great solution! (okay, yes, I understand I need to go to DVI for these monitors.. I need to go back and get the cables!) THIS ROCKS!

  87. JCDrew says

    Kamil –

    I ran with two monitors for quite a while (a year) with no problem.
    Monitor #1: MacBook Pro’s monitor
    Monitor #2: 24″ LCD using the apple mini-port display to VGA display adapter (the same one in your post above).

    When I added Monitor #3, all I did was add the BVU195 (got it at Fry’s). It came with a VGAHMDI adapter also, so I plugged that into it and used the HDMI cable to connect to the 3rd monitor. I am using a matching 24″ monitor (already had it) for #3. I would suggest using the same manufacturer of LCD even it you can’t get the exact same monitor. Why? Color matching from screen to screen.

  88. Kamil says

    Unfortunately I have 2 different monitor brands. I don’t have money now for new LCD. The choice of “2 monitors I have and Diamond BVU195″ I think is the best.

    I will write how it works when I will get my Diamond BVU195.

  89. says

    Great post. I just received my second LED 23inch monitor and Diamond adapter. Rendering and refresh rate is kind of slow on the Diamond though. I connected the monitor I do most graphical stuff and coding on to the mini display port, the other one to the Diamond, I use that monitor mainly for browsing and testing web applications. The speed is ok for that and the combined setup works very sweet! The laptop display is for my shell and database stuff.

    Thanks, my workplace is a little more efficient now (no more cmd-tabbing through all my open apps anymore)

    Rob

  90. JCDrew says

    I’ve noticed the same thing with the BVU195… it’s a little slow sometimes. I do my email on it, and other non-intensive things. I do my CAD and graphics work on the mini-display port monitor.

    Another thing I noticed with the BVU195… about once a day, that screen will blank out for about 2-3 seconds and then return without issue. Kinda strange, but it always comes back up so I haven’t spent the time trying to figure out if it’s the BVU195 or the monitor… or the USB port…

  91. Philip says

    Hi,great article…I was wondering if you can adjust your setup to one large multi-monitor screen if you wanted?
    I need this type of setup and I have a new (late2010) macbook pro17″. I am trying to run matrox triple head but there seems to be an issue with running windows7 through the triple head. I’m losing too much screen resolution,otherwise it doesn’t seem stable at the high resolution i desire.

    Sounds like your setup might be better if could get a single large screen setup. Thank for any help.

  92. Greg says

    I just read this entire thread as I am setting up my 2 x 23″ Apple cinema displays today. One on the Display port and one on the BVU195. I just wanted to add for those trying to get two USB connected monitors to work in clamshell mode, you can try the free Caffeine app. It prevents your macbook from going to sleep no matter what.

    It places a small coffee cup icon in the menu bar, and when you click it so the cup looks full, your macbook will not sleep not matter what.

  93. David says

    Great post and feedback from people all over. One thing that I noticed while using my multiple monitors and that is a bit annoying is that, for example, I bring up a new Finder window ( using OSX 10.6+) the finder window always reverts to popping up to the laptop screen as opposed to screen I’m currently working on which can get a bit frustrating. Anyone else notice this or have suggestions for solutions?

  94. Joshua Pech says

    What’s up with the “1152″ vertical the product advertises? Does it support proper 1200 or not? Anyone have some info on this?

  95. says

    Thanks for posting these instructions. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how hard it was for me to find how to do this. My productivity is soaring with my three screens. Much appreciated.

  96. Bob Swantek says

    So has anyone confirmed if this does or does not work with lion 10.7+?

    I ask because I was using my iPad as an external monitor but with the Lion update it killed that functionality, so naturally I purchased 2 monitors and didn’t think about not being able to split them with a Y cable.

  97. says

    Hi Bob,

    I am smoothly running 3 screens on OSX Lion. Not using the IPad as a separate monitor though.
    You do have to install the beta DisplayLink drivers, the ‘stable’ drivers are not supported in Lion.

    Good luck

  98. Tom Harrigan says

    I’m running this on Lion as well. Point of note: I don’t have an option for screen rotation on the monitor running through the Diamond adaptor. Hopefully they have this option once the stable driver is released on Lion.

  99. James Hastings says

    You can rotate the display. Hold down option+command when opening system preferences and also when selecting displays. Works in 10.7.1.

  100. says

    Hi!
    Amazing post!
    Finally got all my stuff from amazon (the diamond adapters were the last to arrive, of course)
    When I went to download the link for the drivers, they’re noting problems with Lion. I just installed it a month ago, and if I open safari it seems to stop my keyboard from working.
    anyone have a workaround for this, or anyone else noticing issues with Lion?

  101. says

    Thanks Danny. Just loaded the latest Mac driver, Lion compatible, restarted, and it’s magic. Appreciate you’re effort is sharing your experience. Regards, Paul.

  102. jim says

    I just bought the Matrix bvu 195 and hooked it up to my lion mac mini server. I downloaded the latest beta software for lion from the display link site, and it works great. I have 3 dell 1600×1200 monitors running.

  103. says

    Thanks for this article! I’m running a 2011 MacBook Air (latest HW refresh) 13″ with i5 and 4GB (which I much love – highly recommend to anyone considering one!!!!). Running lots of VirtualBox VMs. Bought the Diamond BVU195 on this recommendation, had to download the beta Lion driver from displayport.com, and everything installed flawlessly. It’ll take a little getting used to my 2 externals (using DisplayPort as well) above, with my laptop centered below, but really appreciate your experience!

    I stretch my VM across both externals, to have multiple Visual Studio instances. And running SecondBar. Note – I only get SB on one of the externals. Doesn’t bother me, but if any of you use SB, I thought I’d mention. Didn’t see any config for using SB on multiple externals.

  104. Jerry Drew says

    Have been having trouble with the beta driver from displaylink when using it on Lion. Sometimes you can’t DROP on a drag and drop function, and other times you can. After uninstalling the beta driver, the problems have gone away. I think others have seen this too. Looking forward to the final driver so we can get back to multiple monitors cleanly.

  105. Michael says

    Thanks Danny. Great blog post. I have just got my second external monitor going on my mac following your easy instructions.
    Cheers, Michael

  106. Pablo says

    Thanks for the post. Very helpful. I now have two external monitors hooked up (one through Diamond 195 and one monitor straight into the Macbook Pro’s thunderbolt connection), with the Macbook acting as a third monitor. Everything works well (even without any noticeable delay for the Diamond monitor) but with one problem. When I’m away from the computer for a while and it goes to sleep, I have to reboot the computer in order to get the Macbook to re-recognize the diamond monitor.

    Any ideas for fixing this?

  107. says

    @Pablo… everything worked fine for me for about 18 months, and then I upgraded to Lion. DisplayLink still has a ‘beta’ tag on the new driver, but I think what you’re seeing is part of their problems. The same thing happens to me, but in order to get the monitor connected to the DisplayLink adapter to come back on, I simply power cycle the monitor (just front panel button, not the power cord). It seems to do it for me.

  108. says

    Pablo, I’ve found that when I’m running Windows 7 through Boot Camp on my MacBook, if it goes to sleep, all the external monitors using the Diamond adapters fail to wake. My solution has been to never let it sleep, sadly. If I go away for an extended period, I use Hibernate. And when I wake it from Hibernate, I have to unplug the USB adapters until I see the Windows loading screen come on, then I quickly plug it in. A pain, but it works.

  109. says

    Thanks man – and you all commenting here. I just switched from MacBook Pro + 1 external monitor to 2 monitors connected to my laptop, and all your suggestions worked fine. And don’t worry if your workspace is a mess, I feel you. I try to keep mine clean, but it’s like fighting against nature’s forces – clutter finds always his way back!

    And… Hi! Danny and Barry – I wasn’t expecting to find you here! =)

  110. says

    I mean, of course I was expecting to find you on daggle.com, specially Danny! I meant I wasn’t expecting to find the multiple display solution right out of your blog! Thanks again! =)

  111. Dan says

    I’m running a Korg Kontrol 49, a usb hub for my keys and mouse (which has 2 slots left i can use.

    I think you see what my issue could be here already…

    Is this setup going to lag out bad if i try to run these display adaptors on an external usb hub?

    Any experiences out there?

  112. Mike says

    Ok, it’s been about 2 years since the last update, and I just found your post. I have a MBP and want to go from a 1 ext+ monitor setup to the 3 ext+ setup you have. Have you found any better solutions than the one you have posted about?

    TIA