FAQ: Can I use my existing iMac as a display for a new 2018 Mac mini?

redheeler

macrumors 604
Original poster
Oct 17, 2014
7,397
6,965
I’ve been seeing this question asked a lot following the launch of the 2018 Mac mini, so I decided to create this thread to help answer it.


iMac (27-inch, Late 2009)
iMac (27-inch, Mid 2010)


Will it work: Yes
What you need: USB-C to Mini DisplayPort adapter and Mini DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort cable, or a USB-C to Mini DisplayPort cable (like this one).


iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011)
iMac (27-inch, Mid 2011)
iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2011)
iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2012)
iMac (27-inch, Late 2012)
iMac (21.5-inch, Early 2013)
iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2013)
iMac (27-inch, Late 2013)
iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2014)


Will it work: Yes
What you need: Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter and Thunderbolt cable. Can be labeled as either Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2, it doesn’t matter.


All Older Models
iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2009)
iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2010)


Will it work: No
Explanation: Target Display Mode was introduced on the 27” iMac from 2009 and 2010. There are network-based solutions, but these will never work as well due to latency.


iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)
iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Mid 2015)
iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2015)
iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, Late 2015)
iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2015)
iMac (21.5-inch, 2017)
iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, 2017)
iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2017)
iMac Pro (2017)


Will it work: No
Explanation: Apple removed Target Display Mode from the original 5K iMac due to technical limitations, and has yet to bring it back. There are network-based solutions, but these will never work as well due to latency.


Q: How do I enter Target Display Mode on the iMac?
A: Press Command-F2 while logged in to the iMac (may work at the account selection screen as well, but not at the lock screen).

Q: How do I enter Target Display Mode on the Mac mini?
A: The Mac mini should automatically recognize the iMac just like any normal standalone display.

Q: Does the iMac have to be powered on for Target Display Mode to work?
A: Yes. An iMac in Target Display Mode will use more energy than a modern standalone display.

Q: Will the iMac's keyboard and mouse pass through to the Mac mini? Will the ports pass through?
A: No. If you want to use the iMac's keyboard and mouse, you'll need to unplug or unpair them from the iMac and plug them into or pair them to the mini (and you'll still need a keyboard connected to the iMac to hit Command-F2 when necessary).

Q: If the iMac has a bad graphics card or hard drive, will that cause problems?
A: It might. Target Display Mode requires the iMac to be booted into MacOS with a functional graphics card. The OS doesn't have to be on the internal drive, so an external drive can be used to boot the iMac.

I recommend checking out the official Apple support page on Target Display Mode if you still have any questions.
 
Last edited:

pwrtrader

macrumors newbie
Nov 23, 2005
9
3
Assuming you're able to get the iMac setup going from the start (command- F2 on the imac) and then switching the keyboard/mouse to the mac mini, will the imac display then be able to go to sleep and wake up as if a stand alone monitor would?
 

redheeler

macrumors 604
Original poster
Oct 17, 2014
7,397
6,965
Assuming you're able to get the iMac setup going from the start (command- F2 on the imac) and then switching the keyboard/mouse to the mac mini, will the imac display then be able to go to sleep and wake up as if a stand alone monitor would?
Yes, the iMac display goes to sleep and wakes up like a standalone monitor while in Target Display Mode, but the iMac stays running all the time (just with the display off). At least that's the case with my Mid 2010 27" iMac.
 

thehighwaystar

macrumors newbie
Aug 2, 2018
16
3
My two cents: it seems all Not Retina displays cause a lot of "unconfortable" reading due some updated font management on Mojave. In fact, if I could ask for something or someone who tried that , I would like to know how unpractical - and , if , possible - would be to downgrading new MM2018 to High Sierra . A new device mixed with a stll not mature OS seems to send people to wrong ways to settle down occasional errors.