A new MacBook Pro comes with either two or four external ports, depending on the model you pick. A new MacBook Air has a pair of ports. But those MacBook ports are only of one type: Thunderbolt, which is compatible with USB-C. A 24-inch iMac comes with two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports; some models also include two USB-C ports. You probably have devices that use USB-A, Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2, DisplayPort, HDMI, or something else. How do you connect these devices? With an adapter.
If you’re planning to buy a new 24-inch iMac, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air, make sure you set aside a considerable amount of cash for the adapters you need. Apple doesn’t include any in the box, except for a power adapter.
Your best bet is to get a combination dock, like the Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter ($60 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link). It connects via USB-C, and includes a USB-C pass-through port, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI port with 4K (30Hz) support. With this, you don’t have to carry around multiple adapters.
If you don’t want a dock, or you can’t find a dock with the mix of connections you need, Apple or another company probably has an adapter for you. We’ve come up with this guide to help you sort out what you need, and we link to the appropriate adapter in the online Apple Store or on Amazon.
Be sure to check the return policies; sometimes adapters from third-parties don’t work. Read user reviews whenever possible, and read the specifications to make sure the adapter can do what you need it to do.
If there’s a connection we missed, or you have advice on what adapters to buy, let us know on Twitter or Facebook.
How to connect USB-C devices
The Thunderbolt ports in the current 24-inch iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air work with USB-C devices, which have the same connector shape. If you want to use a USB-C device, you can just plug it into one of the Thunderbolt ports. No adapter necessary. Whew.
How to connect USB-A devices
USB-A is the USB connector with which you’re probably most familiar. It’s the USB connector that was on the previous MacBooks. (Terms like USB 4, USB 3 and USB 2 refer to the speed at which data travels through the connector.)
You can get a dock, like the before-mentioned Satechi. Or you can get Apple’s $19 USB-C to USB AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link.
If you need to connect multiple USB-A devices, get a USB-C to USB-A hub. Anker sells a USB-C to 4-Port USB 3.0 HubEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link ($25 on Amazon) that provides four USB-A ports.
How to connect micro B SuperSpeed devices
This connector is often used with external storage devices. You’ll need a new cable, like the $15 StarTech USB C to Micro USB CableEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link.
The name of the cable is confusing, because it could be mistaken for micro USB. But if you check the product page on StarTech’s website, you can see a clear shot of the micro B SuperSpeed connector on the cable, which is quite different from micro USB.
How to connect an iPhone or iPad
For the iPhone and iPad, if you are still using the USB-A to Lightning (or 30-pin if you’re using an older device) cable that came with your device, you can get the USB-C to USB AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link mentioned above in the USB-A section.
Don’t want an adapter? Buy a $19 Lightning to USB-C CableEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link (1m). You can also get a 2-meter version for $29.
More recent iPhones and iPads include a USB-C to Lightning cable, and the iPad Pro includes a USB-C charging cable, so you don’t need the adapter for those devices.
How to connect the Lightning EarPods
There’s now a USB-C to Lightning adapter, thanks to the folks at Anker. It’s $25 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link.Remove non-product link This adapter has a female Lightning connector on one end, so you can plug in your Lightning earphones. The other side is a standard USB-C connector that you plug into your MacBook or 24-inch iMac.
How to connect headphones with a 3.5mm headphone plug
You’re in luck. The MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and 24-inch iMac have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Just plug it in and you’re good to go. That was easy.
Now, say you need a second headphone jack. You can use a splitter, like the Belkin Speaker and Headphone 3.5 mm AUX Audio Cable Splitter ($5 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link). The $12 Belkin RockStar 5-Jack Multi Headphone Audio SplitterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link plugs into the headphone jack and adds five jacks.
How to connect Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 devices
Older versions of Thunderbolt have a different connector than the Thunderbolt connector on the current MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and 24-inch iMac. The adapter you need is Apple’s $49 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link.
How to connect an external display
This one can eat up a chunk of your budget, because there are so many different types of display connectors. Be prepared to buy several adapters.
DisplayPort and mini DisplayPort
To connect to a DisplayPort display, you need a USB-C to DisplayPort cable or adapter. Amazon sells the Cable Matters USB-C to DisplayPort Adapter cableEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link for $18, and it supports 4K video at 60Hz.
To connect a display with mini DisplayPort, you need an adapter like the Answin USB C to Mini DisplayPort adapter ($18 on AmazonRemove product link).
Apple offers the USB-C Digital AV Multiport AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link, a $69 device that also provides a USB-A port and a USB-C port that’s for charging only. Be warned: Apple released a new version of this adapter (model number A2119) in August 2019 that supports HDMI 2.0. The older version (model number A1621) supports HDMI 1.4. When shopping, check the model number (at an Apple store, you likely will get the new model). Apple has a support document that details the differences between the two adapters.
If you don’t want to spend that much, you can get an adapter that’s just a USB-C to HDMI adapter, such as Anker’s USB-C to HDMI Adapter ($17 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link). We really like the Nonda USB-C to HDMI Adapter ($18 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link). When shopping for such adapters, look out for at least 1080p support. The Nonda adapter has 4K video support.
Cable Matters has a 6-foot USB-C to DVI Adapter ($20 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link). They also sell 3-foot ($19) and 10-foot ($23) versions.
To connect a VGA display, Apple has a USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter ($66 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link). In addition to a VGA to USB-C connection, it also provides a USB-A port for connecting a USB device, and a USB-C charging port to keep your laptop battery happy.
On the more affordable side but without the USB ports is the Benfei USB-C to VGA Adapter, which is available on Amazon for $13Edit non-product linkRemove non-product link.
How to connect to ethernet
You’ll probably use Wi-Fi most of the time, but using an ethernet connection has its advantages. To connect to an ethernet network, you need an adapter like the Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter, which is available on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link for $27.
How to connect SD cards
If you use a DLSR or other type of stand-alone camera, it might have a way to transfer your files wirelessly. If not, you need an adapter to access the SD card, like the Cable Matters Dual Slot USB C Card Reader ($10 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link).
If you have a USB-A card reader, you can try using the Apple’s $19 USB-C to USB AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link, or get a USB-C dock.
How to connect FireWire devices
If you have a FireWire to USB-A cable, you can try using Apple’s $19 USB-C to USB Adapter. If you have a device with a FireWire 1394 4-pin connector—it was commonly used on video cameras and looks like this—and you need a way to connect, you can try using a USB-A to FireWire 1394 4-pin cable ($8 on Amazon) with the Apple’s USB-C to USB Adapter.
Trying to connect FireWire 400 and 800 devices gets iffy. Apple has a Thunderbolt to FireWire AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link for $29, but it has a older Thunderbolt connector that doesn’t plug into the Thunderbolt port on a new MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or 24-inch iMac.
You could try daisy-chaining adapters, but that’s always risky and may not work, not to mention potentially bad for the adapters. Plug the Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter into Apple’s $49 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link and then plug that into the Mac.
How to connect a printer with USB-B
Many printers nowadays have wireless support, so there’s no need for a cable. But maybe you have an older printer, or you find wireless printing unreliable. Most consumer printers have a USB-B port. It’s a squarish connector, much different from USB-A or USB-C.
You need a cable like the Cable Matters USB C Printer Cable, which has a USB-C to USB-B connection. A 1 meter cable is $7Edit non-product linkRemove non-product link; other lengths are available.
If you already have a USB-C to USB AdapterEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link, you can take the USB-A to USB-B cable that came with your printer and plug it into the adapter. Then you plug the adapter into the laptop.
How to add a classic MagSafe power connector to the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro
The power adapter that comes with the new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air doesn’t have a breakaway MagSafe connector. MagSafe was a laptop lifesaver in instances where someone tripped over the power cable.
But you can still add a MagSafe connector. Tesha’s USB C Magnetic Charger Charging Cable ($20 on AmazonEdit non-product linkRemove non-product link) is a power-only cable that has an adapter that acts like a MagSafe connector. It is available in silver or black.
◊ Apple Card Monthly Installments (ACMI) is a 0% APR payment option available to select at checkout for certain Apple products purchased at Apple Store locations, apple.com, the Apple Store app, or by calling 1-800-MY-APPLE, and is subject to credit approval and credit limit. See https://support.apple.com/kb/HT211204 for more information about eligible products. Variable APRs for Apple Card other than ACMI range from 10.99% to 21.99% based on creditworthiness. Rates as of April 1, 2020. If you choose the pay-in-full or one-time-payment option for an ACMI eligible purchase instead of choosing ACMI as the payment option at checkout, that purchase will be subject to the variable APR assigned to your Apple Card. Taxes and shipping are not included in ACMI and are subject to your card’s variable APR. See the Apple Card Customer Agreement for more information. ACMI is not available for purchases made online at the following special stores: Apple Employee Purchase Plan; participating corporate Employee Purchase Programs; Apple at Work for small businesses; Government, and Veterans and Military Purchase Programs, or on refurbished devices. iPhone activation required on iPhone purchases made at an Apple Store with one of these national carriers: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or T-Mobile.
* Monthly pricing is available when you select Apple Card Monthly Installments (ACMI) as payment type at checkout at Apple, and is subject to credit approval and credit limit. Financing terms vary by product. Taxes and shipping are not included in ACMI and are subject to your card’s variable APR. See the Apple Card Customer Agreement for more information. ACMI is not available for purchases made online at special storefronts. The last month’s payment for each product will be the product’s purchase price, less all other payments at the monthly payment amount.
To access and use all the features of Apple Card, you must add Apple Card to Wallet on an iPhone or iPad with the latest version of iOS or iPadOS. Update to the latest version by going to Settings > General > Software Update. Tap Download and Install.
Available for qualifying applicants in the United States.
Apple Card is issued by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Salt Lake City Branch.
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Adapters for the Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C port on your Mac
Learn about different adapters for the Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C ports on your Mac.
The adapters and cables in this article work with these Mac computers:
- Mac models introduced in 2016 or later with Thunderbolt 3 ports or Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. These ports support both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C connections.
- Mac models introduced in 2015 or later with USB-C ports. These ports support USB-C connections.
To find the right cable or adapter for your Mac, check the connector on the end of the cable meant to plug into your computer.
If you're using a Thunderbolt 3 cable, such as the Apple Thunderbolt 3 Cable with your display or other device, it will connect to your Mac without an adapter.
The Apple Pro Display XDR and LG UltraFine 5K Display use Thunderbolt 3.
If you're using a USB-C cable, such as the mophie USB-C Cable with USB-C Connector with your device, it will connect to your Mac without an adapter.
The LG UltraFine 4K Display uses USB-C.
Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2
If you're using a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 cable with your Apple Thunderbolt Display or other device, use the Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter.
Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 are not the same as Mini DisplayPort . They have the same shape, but use different symbols on the cable and port.
If you're using a Mini DisplayPort cable with your display, use a USB-C to Mini DisplayPort cable, such as the mophie USB-C Cable with Mini DisplayPort Connector. Check with its manufacturer for compatibility with your Mac and display model.
Mini DisplayPort is not the same as Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 . They have the same shape, but use different symbols on the cable and port.
If you're using a DisplayPort cable with your display, use a USB-C to DisplayPort adapter or cable.
If you're using a DVI cable with your display, use a USB-C to DVI adapter or cable. Check with its manufacturer for compatibility with your Mac and display model.
Information about products not manufactured by Apple, or independent websites not controlled or tested by Apple, is provided without recommendation or endorsement. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance, or use of third-party websites or products. Apple makes no representations regarding third-party website accuracy or reliability. Contact the vendor for additional information.
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