Fix: MacBook Air Not Detecting External Display

MacBook Air has a smaller display, which is not an ideal screen for content creators and designers. I have a 14-inches notebook, and I connected 24-inches external monitor. Many have complained about monitor detection in the macOS machine. Apple Silicon has changed the trajectory of the Mac’s and Intel’s fate. Let’s look at solutions to fix the external monitor issues.

Fix: MacBook Air Not Detecting External Display

Why won’t my MacBook Air detect an External Display?

What’s interrupting the external monitor from connecting with the Mac? We have compiled several reasons preventing the Air model from sharing the screen with the external display. Take time to read the causes and never make the same mistake next time.

Display Compatibility:

Modern monitors support notebooks, desktops, and minicomputers. Manufacturers have used the universal HDMI, DP, and Type-C (RARE) connectivity options. However, the external display on your desk isn’t compatible with Apple computers. Call the manufacturer’s customer care and take their suggestion.

Display Converter:

I always complained about the lack of ports on the Air notebook. Apple pushed the Thunderbolt technology as a viable all-in-one solution. The Cupertino-based company removed the essential ports from the notebook to cut down the weight and size. Furthermore, high-quality display adapters come around $50 – $100. The display adapter might be faulty or not working.

Display Limit:

Many programmers and video editors connect two or four displays in the Air model. Apple has set a limit on the number of monitors you can connect with the notebook. The entry-level model has an Intel Core i3 and an Apple Silicon chipset. However, the Apple M1 or later seems more powerful than the Intel Core i3 variants. I have shown you how many monitors you can connect in the Air model.

macOS Bugs:

Apple optimized the software for maximum performance, but it faces bugs & glitches from time to time. macOS is proprietary software. You can’t solve the software-related bugs and glitches since it’s a closed source. We can apply official solutions to get through it temporarily.

Incorrect Display Resolution:

My 18-inches, 24-inches, and 27-inches monitors support 1080p resolution. Meanwhile, the Windows notebook supports 1440p resolution. The macOS software made a mistake and could not set the native resolution for the external display. The monitor goes black when the display resolution doesn’t meet the native resolution.

Wrong Port:

MacBooks have various ports in earlier models. You should find a compatible port that supports the external display.

A. Mini DisplayPort

B. Thunderbolt 1 or 2

C. USB 4

D. Thunderbolt 4

Each of the connectivity ports has features and limitations.


Content creators leave the notebook in sleep mode and resume work the next day. The macOS software accumulates temporary files and junk over weeks. A computer ends up on the wrong side when multiple services clash. Shut down the Mac and let the machine sleep.

Fix: MacBook Air Not Detecting External Display

I have seen third-party tools and programs claiming to solve macOS problems. I recommend that readers stop relying on those useless programs and stick with the official solutions. Reinstalling the macOS software is the worst-case scenario. Back up the data using iCloud or an external drive. I rely more on local storage backup than cloud storage.

Reboot MacBook Air

The Air notebook hasn’t slept in ages. No one is against sleep mode, but you should allow the laptop to close its eyes once in a while. Let the internal components cool off and end the software session. Close all background programs, save the files, and copy the documents if needed. Shut down the Air model for a minimum of ten minutes.

1. Click on the Apple menu.

2. Click the “Shut down” option.

3. Click the “Shut down” button.

4. Let your laptop turn off.

5. Remove the charger.

Let your Air laptop sleep for a minimum of ten minutes. I request the readers to remove the charger and let the battery cool off. You should turn off the notebook twice a week and let it rest overnight.

Clean MacBook Air

Millions don’t clean their laptops and leave them as it is for a long time. Dust is the natural enemy of electronic components, and manufacturers provide dust-resistant technology as a feature. Many MacBooks models don’t have a dust-resistant coating on the external or internal components. Clean the entire laptop using a cloth, including the ports.

A. Buy a microfiber cloth.

B. Use cotton buds to reach thinner areas.

C. Clean the exterior using the dry fiber cloth.

D. Use the cotton buds to clean ports.

E. Clean the cables.

I forbid the readers to put the liquid on the microfiber cloth. I don’t recommend using water or 99% isopropyl alcohol while cleaning the notebook. Use minimum pressure while removing stains or dust from the ports.

Change Screen Resolution

External monitors have custom resolutions like 1080p, 1440p, 2k, 4k or higher. Set the display resolution manually from the settings. The monitor will pick up the signals immediately.

1. Click on the Apple menu.

2. Select the System Preference option.

3. Select Displays from the settings.

4. Choose the external monitor from the detected displays.

5. Choose a different resolution other than Default from the options.

6. Increase or decrease the brightness to send signals

The monitor should work smoothly with the macOS software.

Change Refresh Rate

The Air notebook detected the monitor and set the recognized refresh rate. Some software detects the devices, but they set an incorrect setting. Monitors don’t work when you modify the custom refresh rate. Note down the default refresh rate from the official website or the highest supported, and set it manually in the notebook.

1. Click on the Apple icon.

2. Choose System Preferences from the menu.

3. Choose Displays from the settings.

4. Choose the external display.

5. Click on the drop-down menu beside Refresh Rate.

6. Choose each refresh rate until the monitor wakes up.

Try 60Hertz, 59.99Hertz, 59.94Hertz, 75Hertz, 144Hertz, 165Hertz, 240Hertz, and 300Hertz.

I have suggested a few working default refresh rates.

Connect External Displays One-By-One

Charge the MacBook Air while you are connecting the external displays. The processor requires energy to transmit the signals and data to the monitors. Let me tell you how to connect the monitors without errors.

A. Remove all cables and dongles from the system.

B. Charge the notebook.

C. Shut down the Mac.

D. Turn on the power and log in.

E. Connect the first display directly via the Type-C port.

Set up the first monitor.

F. Connect the second display (adapter) and configure the external component.

Sometimes the Thunderbolt ports don’t detect two external connections same time. Many Air notebook owners rely on hubs or adapters to connect the external monitors. Restart the MacBook before applying the solution.

Daisy Chain Feature Not Supported

Many Apple M1 users connect the external display to edit the videos for social media and YouTube.

Daisy Chain is not available on lower-end Mac models.

The latest Apple M1 has one Thunderbolt support and can handle one DisplayPort 1.2 monitor.

You can buy DisplayLink adapters or hubs for early 2020 Air models. Connect multiple displays through the DisplayLink technology. Contact Apple customer care and ask them about the Daisy Chain feature.

Swap Cables

Many monitor cables have Type-C ports on both ends. The macOS software has some bug that does not detect the external monitor. You can try a workaround to resolve the issue until Apple releases a patch update.

A. Remove display cables and turn off the monitor.

B. Shut down the MacBook Air.

C. Remove the accessories.

D. Turn on the Air model.

E. Swap the cables.

F. Connect the display to the Thunderbolt port.

The macOS operating system will detect the monitor instantly. Configure the monitor settings according to your requirements.

Resetting External Monitor Settings

Many Mac owners don’t know this, but you can reset external monitor settings. Learn how to boot into safe mode, and reset the settings. Read the tutorial twice, then apply the solution.

Safe Mode on Intel-based Air notebooks:

A. Shut down the Mac computer.

B. Turn on the Air model.

C. Hold the Shift key immediately.

D. Release the Shift key when the login screen appears.

Safe Mode on Apple M1 or Later:

A. Shut down the M1 notebook.

B. Press and hold the power button until the Startup menu appears on the screen.

C. Select Startup disk.

D. Hold the Shift key and click on the Continue button.

Repeat the process twice if the Mac couldn’t boot into safe mode on the first attempt.

1. Click on the Apple icon.

2. Choose System Preferences from the menu.

3. Choose Displays from the settings.

4. Click Display Settings.

5. Select Default for display in the Resolution settings.

Restart the Air model.

macOS Software Issue

Many Mac users have faced external display problems after the software update. You can’t do much about the software because we cannot edit the code. We have to rely on Apple developers to fix the problem. Users have to wait for a while and let the in-house dev team take of the issue in the next update.

Meanwhile, you can downgrade to an earlier version or reinstall the OS without losing data. Create a data backup in an external storage and cloud storage. Let me show you how to reinstall macOS without losing data.

1. Restart the Air notebook in Recovery Mode.

2. The macOS Utility appears on the screen.

3. Choose Reinstall macOS from the options.

4. Click the Continue option.

5. Select the main drive.

6. Reinstall macOS.

The Recovery Mode reinstalls the operating system without touching the personal files. The advanced mode replaces current system files and settings during the reinstallation. You won’t lose any data after reinstalling the Mac software.

Bottom Line

Reach out to Apple customer care and monitor the vendor to resolve Fix – MacBook Air is not detecting external displays. I won’t name the monitor manufacturer, but many Mac computer owners have complained about compatibility issues. In the comment section, let us know how you resolve the MacBook Air external monitor issues.

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