If you have a Mac laptop or iMac with a display that is damaged or no longer turns on, but you know that the computer is still working, a repair may not be necessary to extract all the data or continue using it.
(Without a paid AppleCare+ for Mac subscription, the cost of repairing a display can often be much higher than the value of a Mac, unless a repair shop can find a refurbished or repaired display. It may be cheaper or not much more expensive to just buy a used Mac. buy the same vintage with a working monitor.)
All Mac laptops and iMacs of recent years support an external monitor, although the specific adapter and type vary based on the vintage of the Mac:
Determine your Mac model and the type of monitor and cable you need.
Shut down the Mac if it is running. (If you can’t see the screen well enough to select Shut down, press and hold the power button until it turns off, which is about 10 seconds.)
Attach the monitor.
Boot up the Mac. If you’re lucky, the monitor is enabled with display mirroring, so you can see exactly what would appear on the internal display on the monitor.
If the external monitor shows the image of a second screen instead of a mirror of the internal screen:
See if you can open the Displays preference pane and check the Mirror Displays box in the Package tab. Even if you can’t see it, maybe you can grab the top of the window with the cursor on the monitor that’s invisible to you and drag it to the monitor you can see! It’s kind of like those horrible toy machines with claws, but without even being able to see the claw or the toy.
For a Mac laptop, close the computer lid, which may transfer the display to the external monitor. You also need an external keyboard.
Try restarting your Mac, then reset the NVRAM or PRAM according to Apple’s instructions at startup. This can switch to mirrored screens.
If that works, you can continue to use your Mac normally or use the second screen to manage its data transfer.
Connect via Screen Share or VNC
macOS allows remote screen access over a local network with Bonjour, but only if you’ve turned on Screen Sharing in the Sharing preference pane. If you may have done this, follow these steps:
Turn on the Mac.
- Go to another Mac that is on the same network. In the Finder, look in the Locations section in the sidebar in any window. Does the name of the Mac appear?
If so, click the Mac item. Does Share Screen appear in the top right corner of the Finder window?
When that appears, click on it and enter the account information in the Screen Share app that launches. You should now have access.
If Screen Sharing is enabled and you also clicked Computer Settings and enabled a password for VNC viewers, you should also or instead be able to use standard VNC screen sharing software from any computer on the network (including a Mac ), or one that can. reach the network remotely.
Using Target Disk Mode
If all else fails, Target Disk Mode could save the day. This allows a Mac to be mounted as a hard drive on other Macs. Apple has a detailed set of instructions on its site, but the setup is:
Shut down your damaged Mac.
Connect it to the Mac you want to mount it on with the appropriate like-to-like cable.
Boot your corrupted Mac while holding down the T key.
If all is well, your Mac with a broken display will appear as a mounted drive on the Mac it is connected to.
This Mac 911 article answers a question from Macworld reader Meredith.
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