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Question: Connecting a VGA monitor to new Mac Mini?

I have a perfectly good LCD monitor that has a VGA connector on its input cable. I'm currently using it with an old iMac G4 (Gumdrop) via a mini-display to VGA adapter cable.

I'm replacing the old iMac with a new Mac Mini, which has only Thunderbolt and HDMI connectors available. The Mac Mini comes with an "HDMI to DVI adapter" (Apple's description), but I can't find any other information about that adapter on the Mac Mini description pages, nor can I find any photos of the adapter. I assume that the DVI side of the adapter is a standard DVI (F) female connector, which will accept a standard DVI (M) male connector.

Unless I'm missing something (definitely possible), it would seem that the most direct method of connecting the monitor would be to use a DVI (M) to VGA (F) adapter; plug the DVI side into the Apple-supplied HDMI to DVI adapter, and then use the VGA side of the adapter to connect the monitor.

I've read that some folks have had difficulty connecting VGA monitors to the Mac Mini — something about the HDMI signal not accurately translating to VGA with passive adapters. I don't know enough about it to say whether it's workable, but something doesn't add up. If Apple's HDMI to DVI adapter works then it should just provide DVI at the DVI end of the adapter. And if DVI converts to VGA (which it does...I've done it many times), how can the [HDMI to DVI] + [DVI to VGA] path not work?

Are there "different kinds" of DVI signals — namely, the kind that can be converted to VGA, and another kind that can't be converted to VGA?

Thanks in advance.

MPQuad-Core2.8GHz,32GB,23"CinemaHD-OTHER, Mac OS X (10.6.8), MacBook Pro 17"; 10.6.8; 2GB RAM

Posted on Jan 24, 2012 7:05 PM

Question marked as Solved

Jan 24, 2012 8:35 PM in response to freevito In response to freevito

Oops...never mind; I found my answer.

First, The Solution:

In case anyone else has the same question, the solution doesn't lie with the HDMI port at all. Rather, the Thunderbolt port is the way to go if you need to connect a VGA monitor. Thunderbolt is backwards-compatible with Mini DisplayPort. Apple's Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter is all that's necessary to connect a VGA monitor to the Mac Mini via the Thunderbolt port:


Next, Why HDMI Won't Work With VGA:

As it turns out, there really ARE different kinds of DVI. The kind of DVI signal that you get on the end of the Apple-supplied HDMI to DVI adapter is DVI-D (digital only). It's compatible with DVI displays, but it lacks the analog VGA signals, which are absent from the HDMI connector.

The "standard" kind of DVI (in the sense that it's the kind used on Apple's DVI connectors in the past) is called DVI-I (integrated), meaning it integrates both digital and analog signals. That's why a passive DVI to VGA adapter worked in the past.

Alas, HDMI is fully digital; it has no analog signal. So, while the Apple-supplied HDMI to DVI adapter will drive a DVI monitor, it doesn't carry any of the analog signal necessary to drive a VGA monitor, because the HDMI connector is lacking that signal in the first place.

Jan 24, 2012 8:35 PM

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Jan 2, 2013 11:27 AM in response to freevito In response to freevito

Thank you so much for this post - I'll have to try this.

I bought a new Mac Mini because I was excited about the HDMI hookup - only to be very frustrated that the HDMI image on my tv was HORRIBLE. I had my old mini hooked up to the same tv through VGA, and was hoping to be able to easily switch from one machine to the other through simply changing the tv's input from VGA to HDMI. Now, I think I'll have to get this adapter and try the VGA route for the new mini, which will mean cumbersome cable switching if I want to use the old machine again.

I really hope Apple can develop a fix for the poor HDMI picture quality of the Mini soon!

Jan 2, 2013 11:27 AM

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Apr 6, 2013 10:52 PM in response to Spirits In response to Spirits

Many TVs just have horrible HDMI pictures. I have multiple HD tvs, and some are just blurrier via HDMI than via VGA. No idea why. A DVI/Displayport signal has more density, but should support the same things, but the device has to treat the signal right. One of our HD tvs (one given to me by Microsoft, of all) is notably blurry on HDMI compared to VGA, and doesn't give the option not to display the tvsafe margins. But on VGA, it lets the connected device choose the exact pixels.

Weird, but not helpful, huh?


Apr 6, 2013 10:52 PM

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Oct 12, 2014 9:43 AM in response to freevito In response to freevito

I think we need to dig a little bit more in this issue.

I have an old (2010) Mac Mini, that I was using up to last week, with two monitors:

(1) Apple Led Cinema Display - 24" ===> Through MDP output.

(2) Packard Bell VGA Monitor (19"). ===> Through HDMI output using a KANEX ATV PRO HDMI > VGA converter.

Now I upgraded into a new Mac Mini, I7, 16GB RAM, and obviously replaced it just like it was... BUT:

The VGA monitor does not work with it. Apparently the monitor detects the connection, the computer detects something is being connected but NO-SIGNAL warning appears in the Packard Bell monitor. Tried unplugging and reconnecting with no good result. Then I started some investigation, and found that this adapter will not work, because this computer does not provide power in the HDMI connector, and therefore it will not work because it has no power to convert and decode HDMI signal...

So for all that people like me that is already using the thunderbolt output, this is not a solution. We do need something to walk around this issue. We do need some way to convert HDMI signal out of the Mac Mini 2012 or mid 2011 into a readable VGA signal. I do not beleave there are no devices at all that could do that process... So far I was not able to find anything acceptable.

(BTW) Cross checked HDMI converter still works in the old Mac Mini, but since I do not have any HDMI monitor or TV I cannot check if the HDMI por is working properly in the Mac Mini... 😟

Oct 12, 2014 9:43 AM

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Oct 18, 2014 1:54 PM in response to devnieL In response to devnieL

As previously discussed in the discussion the HDMI output on the 2012 Mini is digital only (DVI-D) while VGA is all analogue.

The only way from a DVI-D output is to use a converter like in the links I provided in my previous reply. A simple DVI to VGA adopter will not work,

devnieL wrote:

I have just tried a HDMI to VGA adapter and this doesn't work with the mac mini 2012 and the ASUS MX279, I will try with the thunderbolt to VGA adapter next weeks

Oct 18, 2014 1:54 PM

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Oct 18, 2014 2:10 PM in response to lllaass In response to lllaass

As far as I was able to research, the actual problem is not that simple.

The previous Mac Mini models (and also AppleTV) can convert through an HDMI > VGA converter (like this: http://www.kanex.com/products/item2.aspx?id=4852) and work perfectly fine.

Actually in this very moment I'm looking to my 19" monitor representing the desktop of my old Mac Mini (mid-2010 C2D) connected to the HDMI through that converter, while in the MDP output I have another VGA monitor through a MDP > VGA adapter.

Well, when I bought this new Mac Mini, I tried to use the same configuration that I had in the previous one:

Thunderbolt output > Apple Cinema Display 24".
HDMI > [KANEX ATV Pro converter] > 19" WideScreen 19:6 VGA monitor.

But it simply didn't work.

Then I started researching a little bit, and finally I found several comments out there explaining that this converter takes power from the HDMI connector that the Apple TV has but is not part of the standard, and the new Mac Mini apparently do not support that power supply in the HDMI port. Thus making this converter not to work appropriately. As a matter of fact, the Mac Mini detects that something is connected to it, the monitor detects that something is connected to it, but no signal reaches the monitor. This could be obviously a failure in the HDMI or simply an expectable correction to the HDMI into standards.

Have still to check it, but I have no HDMI TV at home, so I will try it at the store, to confirm the HDMI port is working ok.

The DVI > VGA adapter did not work even in the old Mac Minis, nor the Apple TV. That's because no analog signal is present in the HDMI, Illaass is absolutely correct at that point.

Oct 18, 2014 2:10 PM

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Question: Connecting a VGA monitor to new Mac Mini?