Getting That Second Non-Thunderbolt Monitor to Work on your MacBook Pro

The Problem

So, you know you want a second monitor on your MacBook Pro, you already have the beautiful 27” Thunderbolt monitor working, but when you daisy chain from that first Thunderbolt monitor to your own DisplayPort monitor it does not work (or at least very well).  In my case, it would come up 1 out of 10 times correctly, and the other times, it would come up in some kind of funky power saving mode. So, since I’m pretty new to the apple world, I decided to call for Mac Support team and explain my dilemma.  I got a very nice person who did some research and came back and told me that a Thunderbolt port is not meant to work with DisplayPort, just other Thunderbolt ports.  This means I can buy another 27” $1000 Thunderbolt monitor from apple, but my HDMI $150 monitor with the $10 DisplayPort to HDMI adapter will just not work.  Here is the article she sent me to: There is a huge thread about this issue already in the apple forums that you can read here titled “ThunderBolt + External Monitor = Mounds of Who”.

A Solution

While I was at a local Apple Store yesterday, I noticed they had a new Seagate adapter call the GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter that had two DisplayPort Connectors on it.  Someplace in the above thread I think I read that if you put a device between your real ThunderBolt monitor and your DisplayPort monitor that things will work as expected.  So, I put down my $189 for this  GoFlex adapter and it worked!!!

It’s hard to find online, but it was at the store. I now have two monitors working on my desktop with this cool little device, and when I purchase a Seagate GoFlex drive, I’ll be able to  have fast external storage as well.  Very cool

Other Points

I’m guessing any ThunderBolt device with two ports will do the job.  This one just seemed like it was almost affortable so I bought it.  BTW, don’t forget the $50 cable (like I did).  This dock does not come with anything but a power cord.



25 Responses to “Getting That Second Non-Thunderbolt Monitor to Work on your MacBook Pro”

  1. Ron Harland Says:

    Thanks! I’ve been struggling with this also. I may try and find a different dual port device, but this is a big hint.

  2. Carol Says:

    interesting to know, have you tested any other Thunderbolt devices?

  3. MacWinGuy Says:

    @Carol – No, just the GoFlex. It works for me so I’m stopping there.
    @Ron – good luck, if you find other devices that work, please post here

  4. JTC Says:

    How is this wired up? Does the FlexGo go before the Thunderbolt or after? If before, how do you have a sufficient number of ports? It appears that the FlexGo only has 2 TB ports. Thx!

  5. MacWinGuy Says:

    The FlexGo does not help. you need a drive (like the LaCie) which has two thunderbolt ports. The flexgo’s only have one which means it must be at the end of the line

  6. fo Says:

    So you mean I can BUY stuff and it will work! I don’t OWN enough stuff yet to have it work, I’m so happy I can BUY something I wouldn’t need otherwise to faosifjaöslkdfjasildjfoiw

  7. Jim Says:

    Awesome! This worked!!!! Thank you for writing this up!!!

    For those reading at home, note that The Seagate GoFlex Desk has exactly 2 Thunderbolt ports. So, one of the Thunderbolt ports has to be used for the “input” Thunderbolt cable, either from the laptop or from the Thunderbolt display.

    That leaves one Thunderbolt port exposed, and yes, I can confirm that this port allows me to plug in a Mini Displayport cable and connect my Dell Ultrasharp.

    But, this solution would NOT let you connect 2 Dell Ultrasharp monitors to a MacbookPro with just 1 Thunderbolt port. It literally serves only to overcome the ridiculous problem that Apple created by not making the Thunderbolt port on the Thunderbolt monitor be backwards compatible with MiniDisplayport.

    Again, a huge thank you to MacWinGuy.

  8. MacWinGuy Says:

    Thanks Jim! Great Info to know about the 2nd port on the goflex desk!

  9. Jman Says:

    I’ve done this but my last monitor is purple and green. Any advice?

  10. Omar Says:

    Will this work if I connect my dell laptop to this golflex device? I’m looking for a solution so I can use my work laptop with my iMac display. Thank you for the help!

  11. MacWinGuy Says:

    the goflex desktop has two thunderbolt ports so it works. the goflex adapter only has one so hit must be the end of the line.

  12. MacWinGuy Says:

    also, I don’t think the imac dislay can be used as an external monitor

  13. MacWinGuy Says:

    Omar: No, I don’t think you will be able to use your dell laptop. Just another thunderbolt or displayport monitor (but no guarantees)

  14. JimH Says:

    Hello.. can you please explain exactly how these are supposed to connect.. there are 3 main 4 components. Macbook Pro – Thunderbolt display – External Monitor and then the seagate adapter. what ports do all plugs go into to get all 4 working together???

  15. BrianM Says:

    Just for clerification on what Jim said earlier “It literally serves only to overcome the ridiculous problem that Apple created by not making the Thunderbolt port on the Thunderbolt monitor be backwards compatible with MiniDisplayport.”

    This is actually a fundamental Thunderbolt chip issue. Each thunderbolt chip only has one displayport output. With the Thunderbolt Display, it has one thunderbolt chip, which is already running the LCD in the TB Display, so in order to run another display, it has to go through another Thunderbolt chip before mini-displayport to DVI/VGA or DHMI can work again (at least this is what the documentation on Intel’s website indicates) The only way Apple could possible work around this would be to put 2 Thunderbolt chips inside the display.

    It is good to know that the theory is proven true by someone actually testing this. Going to have to pickup one of the GoFlex Desk modules myself.

    For JimH: you would go Mac to Thunderbolt Display to Seagate GoFlex Desk (to Mini displayport adapter) to last monitor.

  16. Jim Says:

    BrianM: Wow, interesting! Thanks for clarifying.

    As for the fact that you’re planning to go try this yourself, I guess I can happily report that I am 5 months in on my “2012 non-Retina MBP -> Thunderbolt Display -> Seagate GoFlex -> 27″ Dell UltraSharp” with no complaints. So, good luck, hope it works for you.

  17. JimH Says:

    Ok i’m sorry if I’m stupid but can someone please explain exactly how the connections are between the divides??

    How does the Macbook Pro connect to the TB display, to the seagate and to the external monitor?????? What cables are used to connect??

  18. JimH Says:

    Ok, let me explain how I connected mine, and what’s working, and if you all could help out I would REALLY appreciate it!

    (MacbookPro 13″ 2012) <- (Has TB cable from TB display and power plugged into it) output TB port on back of TB Monitor is going into seagate (top Spot) and MiniDisplay port to HDMI is connected to HDMI cable going to external monitor.

    What i'm getting now is the Monitor on the MBP black, and the TB display and the external (3rd) monitor working fine.

    What did I hook up wrong as I thought I should be able to drive all 3 displays? (MB Display, TB Display and 3rd monitor)

  19. dude Says:

    FWIW the seagate connector is a SATA plug, just stick an SSD in and you’re laughing or any other sata disk 🙂

  20. Jim Says:

    JimH I don’t know… that’s my setup (MacBook Pro 15″ 2012 is the only difference) and it works for me :(.

  21. Mike Says:

    The 13″ MBP will only drive 2 displays. If there are 2 external displays, the laptop display will go black – this is expected behavior as per Apple:

  22. Rik Says:

    Glad I found this website. Just bought a TB 27″ to connect with my MBP 17
    But I also want to Daisy Chain an extra Apple 24″ led cinema display. Not working as aspected. I just ordered the Seagate GoFlex and extra TB cable and hopefully I am up and running by tomorrow afternoon. Tnx a lot!

  23. Mike M Says:

    I’m planning on doing this:

    Macbook Pro (2011) -> Thunderbolt Display -> Non Apple Display. And according to the article above I can do that with the GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter between the TB display and the non Apple display. Yes?

    Buuuuttttt. I want the TB display in landscape and the Non Apple in portrait. Is that achievable with this setup?


  24. Sab Says:

    does anyone know if this method (using the go flex) will work when using bootcamp? i’ve just bought a second thunderbolt monitor which doesnt work in bootcamp and so i bought a displayport apple 27 inch display thinking that this would solve my problem. but alas, i think i’ve misunderstood (it seems you are using virtualisation on os x?) and want to be certain before returning the display port monitor.

    Thanks! 🙂

  25. Joe Says:


    I have been using a setup like this for a while now. I have an iMac with a VGA monitor attached to one thunderbolt port, the seagate adapter to the other and a dvi monitor coming off the second seagate thunderbolt port. Problem is, every time I restart the computer or it wakes from sleep, the seagate monitor is lost and the computer thinks I only have two monitors. This has happened for both mountain lion, and now mavericks. Any ideas?

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