How to Use the Right Connector to Hook Up Devices to Your Mac - dummies

How to Use the Right Connector to Hook Up Devices to Your Mac

Industry standard jacks, holes, and connectors on the back or side of your Mac (depending on whether you have a desktop or laptop) may look odd, but you can’t live without (most) of them. These common ports and connectors are your bridge to the devices and peripherals that want to have a relationship with your Mac.


Older Macs have a phone jack that is identical to the wall outlet where you plug in a regular phone. You connect a phone line to this jack to use a dial-up modem to the Internet. In this speedy broadband era, though, Apple no longer considers dial-up modems standard issue on newer Macs. However, if you encounter the rare situation where dial-up is your only option, Apple does sell optional USB dial-up modems.

The end of the cable that plugs into an Ethernet jack looks like a phone jack on steroids. In fact, Ethernet and phone cords are easily mistaken. Ethernet’s main purpose is to provide a fast outlet to the Internet or your office computer network.

You’ll typically use a USB port to connect peripherals to your Mac, but you may also use the following connectors:

  • Video output jack: Connects a Mac to an external monitor for, say, giving classroom presentations.

  • External Apple monitor: Apple’s own proprietary jack for connecting one of its own monitors.

  • Lock: Found on laptops, the tiny hole where you fit in a Kensington Security lock cable. With one end securely attached to the computer, you loop a Kensington cable around the leg of a heavy desk or other immovable object.

  • Headphones: For playing games or taking in tunes without bothering anyone else.

  • Video out: Sometimes known as DVI output or Mini-DVI output ports. You can use optional adapters for connecting the computer to a TV, DVD player, or projector. That way, you can watch a DVD in your Mac on a large screen. Adapters may support VGA, S-video, and composite video connections.

  • ExpressCard slot: Add memory card readers or TV tuners. The slot has started to replace the PC Card slot you find on older Mac notebooks.