The new MacBook Pro comes with two or four external ports, depending on the model you pick. And the new MacBook Air has a pair of ports. But those ports are only of one type: Thunderbolt 3, which is compatible with USB-C.

But 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 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 AmazonRemove 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. You can also use the quick link list below to jump to the info you need.

How to connect:

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 3 ports in the 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 3 ports. No adapter necessary. Whew.

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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 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 AdapterRemove non-product link.

apple usb c to usb adapter Apple

Apple USB-C to USB Adapter

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 HubRemove non-product link ($18 on Amazon) that provides four USB-A ports. 

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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 CableRemove 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.

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How to connect an iPhone or iPad

If you are still using the USB-A to Lightning (or 30-pin, if you’re using an older iOS device) cable that came with your device, you can get the USB-C to USB AdapterRemove non-product link mentioned above in the USB-A section.

Don’t want an adapter? Buy a $19 Lightning to USB-C CableRemove non-product link (1m) . You can also get a 2-meter version for $29.

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How to connect the Lightning EarPods

There’s now a USB-C to Lightning adapter, thanks to the folks at Anker. It’s $30 on AmazonRemove 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.

anker usbc lightning audio

Anker’s USB-C to Lightning Audio Adapter

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How to connect headphones with a 3.5mm headphone plug

You’re in luck. The MacBook Pro and MacBook Air comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack. Just plug it in and you’re good to go. That was easy.

macbookpro 13 tbolt3 ports Apple

The MacBook Pro actually has a headphone jack. Really, it does.

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 ($6 on AmazonRemove non-product link). The $12 Belkin RockStar 5-Jack Multi Headphone Audio SplitterRemove non-product link plugs into the headphone jack and adds five jacks.

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How to connect Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 devices

Older versions of Thunderbolt have a different connector than Thunderbolt 3. The adapter you need is Apple’s $49 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 AdapterRemove non-product link.

apple adapter Apple

Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter

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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 cableRemove non-product link for $17, and it supports 4K video at 60Hz.

To connect a display with mini DisplayPort, you need an adapter like the Belinda USB C Type to Mini DisplayPort/Mini DP Adapter Cable ($19 on Amazon).

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Apple offers the USB-C Digital AV Multiport AdapterRemove 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. If you shop in person, you can check the box for the model number, and at an Apple store, you likely will get the new model. But if you shop elsewhere, you could end up with the old model. Apple has a support document that details the differences between the two adapters.

apple usb c digital av multiport adapter Apple
Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter

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 ($13 on AmazonRemove non-product link). We really like the Nonda USB-C to HDMI Adapter ($18 on AmazonRemove non-product link). When shopping for such adapters, look out for at least 1080p support. The Nonda adapter has 4K video support.

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Cable Matters has a 6-foot USB-C to DVI Adapter ($20 on AmazonRemove non-product link). They also sell 3-foot ($19) and 10-foot ($23) versions.

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To connect a VGA display, Apple has a USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter ($69 on AmazonRemove 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 Simple.Fly USB-C to VGA Adapter, which is available on Amazon for $13Remove non-product link

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How to connect the MacBook Pro to ethernet

You’ll probably use Wi-Fi most of the time, but using a wired 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 AmazonRemove non-product link for $27.

belkin usbc ethernet adapter Belkin

Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter

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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 AmazonRemove non-product link).

cable matters dual slot usb c card reader Amazon

Cable Matters Dual Slot USB C Card Reader

If you have a USB-A card reader, you can try using the Apple’s $19 USB-C to USB AdapterRemove non-product link, or get a USB-C dock.

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How to connect FireWire devices

Ugh, this one could be a problem. Apple has a Thunderbolt to FireWire AdapterRemove non-product link for $29, but it has a older Thunderbolt connector that doesn’t plug into the Thunderbolt 3 port on a new MacBook Pro.

apple thunderbolt to firewire adapter Apple

Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter

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 AdapterRemove non-product link and then plug that into the MacBook Pro.

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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 $7Remove non-product link; other lengths are available.

cable matters usbc usbb cable Amazon

Cable Matters USB C Printer Cable

If you already have a USB-C to USB AdapterRemove 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.

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How to add a MagSafe power connector to the 13-inch MacBook Pro

The power adapter that comes with the new MacBook Pro plugs into a Thunderbolt 3 port. Sadly, there is no breakaway MagSafe connector. MagSafe was a laptop lifesaver in insetances where someone tripped over the power cable.

But you can still add a MagSafe connector to the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Griffin’s BreakSafe Magnetic USB-C Power Cable ($20 on AmazonRemove non-product link) is a power-only cable that is used to charge the laptop. It includes an adapter that acts like a MagSafe connector. Our review of the BreakSafe covers how it works with a 12-inch MacBook, but the breakaway connector should work the same way for the new MacBook Pro.

However, Griffin specifically states that the cable works with the 13-inch laptop; the company doesn’t say it’s compatible with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That’s because the cable is rated at 60 watts, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a 61-watt power adapter. The 16-inch MacBook Pro needs more wattage than the Griffin cable is designed to handle.

There’s also the iSkey Magnetic USB C Adapter 20Pins Type C Connector that is $25 on AmazonRemove non-product link. It has an adapter that you plug into the laptop’s USB-C port, and then you plug the USB-C charging cable into a part of the adapter that can break away. What’s cool about the iSkey device is that when you don’t need to charge the laptop, you can plug in a USB-C device instead of the charging cable.

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Author: LaraZ