If you have a Mac laptop or iMac with a damaged or disabling monitor, but you are sure that your computer is still working, repair may not be required to extract all data or continue to use it.
(In fact, without a paid AppleCare + for Mac plan, the cost of repairing a monitor often far exceeds the value of a Mac, unless a repair shop can find a refurbished or salvaged monitor. It may be cheaper or not much more expensive to just buy a used Mac. of the same vintage with a working screen.)
Use an external monitor to keep it alive or extract data
All Mac laptops and iMacs in recent years support an external monitor, although the specific adapter and type varies based on the age of the Mac:
Decide your Mac model and what type of monitor and cable you need.
Turn off your Mac if it̵
Attach the monitor.
Start Mac. If you are lucky, the screen is activated with screen mirroring, so you can see exactly on the screen what would appear on the internal screen.
If the external monitor displays the image of another monitor instead of a mirror on the internal monitor:
See if you can bring up the Monitors preferences panel and check the Mirror Monitors box in the Events tab. Even if you do not see it, you may be able to grab the top of the window with the cursor on the screen that is invisible to you, and drag it to the screen you can see! It’s a bit like the awful toy machines – but without being able to see the claw or the toy.
Close the computer cover with a Mac laptop, which can transfer the monitor to the external monitor. You also need an external keyboard.
Try restarting your Mac and then reset NVRAM or PRAM according to Apple’s boot instructions. This can switch to mirrored screens.
If any of these work, you can continue to use your Mac normally, or use the other monitor to manage data transfer from it.
Connect via screen sharing or VNC
macOS allows remote monitor access over a local network using Bonjour, but only if you have enabled Screen Sharing in the sharing settings pane. If you may have done so, follow these steps:
Turn on the Mac.
In the Finder on any other Mac on the same network, look in the Locations section of the sidebar of any window. Does the Mac name appear?
In that case, click on the Mac entry. Does the split screen appear at the top right of the Finder window?
If it appears, click on it and enter the account information in the Screen Sharing app that launches. You should now have access.
If screen sharing is enabled, if you have also clicked on Computer Settings and enabled a password for VNC viewers, you should also or instead be able to use standard VNC screen sharing software from any computer on the network (including a Mac), or one that can reach the network remotely.
Use target disk mode
If all else fails, target disk mode can save the day. This allows a Mac to mount as a hard drive on other Macs. Apple has a detailed set of instructions on the site, but the overview is:
Turn off the damaged Mac.
Connect it with the correct similar cable with the Mac you want to mount it on.
Restart your damaged Mac while holding down the T key.
If all goes well, your Mac with a broken screen will appear as a mounted drive on the Mac to which it is attached.
This Mac 911 article is an answer to a question from Macworld reader Meredith.
Ask Mac 911
We have compiled a list of the questions we are often asked along with answers and links to columns: read the super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If not, we are always looking for new issues to solve! Email yours to email@example.com including screenshots as needed and if you want your full name to be used. Not all questions will be answered, we do not respond to emails, and we can not provide direct troubleshooting advice.