One Desk, One iMac, One Macbook - can they coexist?

ok, I currently have my desk at home set up with 2 monitors, an OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock, and Magic Mouse/Trackpad wired into the dock.

I have a personal 2015 Macbook 15 " and also my employers 2016 Macbook Pro 15"

When I work from home 2-3 days a week, I can unplug the cables that connect my personal Macbook then ( with some USB-C dongles ) connect my employer’s Macbook to my docking station and displays. It works pretty well.

But, I’m planning on replace my Macbook with an 2019 27" iMac soon, so I need to figure out how to handle sharing the desk with the iMac and 2016 Macbook. I could use the MacBooks built in display, but I’m a lot more productive ( 50% more!) when I have 2 large displays and a non-butterfly keyboard to work with .

Have any MPU users ran into this problem? How did you handle it?

Note that I originally thought the iMac supported target display mode, and that was going to be my solution to use the iMac as display. However, I have read that that feature was dropped with 2015 and later iMacs.

Do you need software from the MacBook or just files?

For my work, I have to use my work Macbook, everything is very locked down with multiple VPN’s, ssh keys , certificates, and even software that authorizes my work computer to be on the network, not just my user account. So yeah, I can’t do my work on another computer.

How about remoting in to the laptop from the desktop?
(Sounds like it might be too locked down for that.)


Like @JohnAtl said, you could use Jump Desktop or Screens to remote into the work MBP if it isn’t too locked down.

Rather than the iMac, would one of the new Mac mini’s work for you? You can spec them up pretty high. That would let you keep using external monitors and swapping them back and forth with the MBP.


You folks are too quick! :slight_smile:
Agree with @JohnAtl - VNC sounds like an option
Agree with @ChrisUpchurch - I’d look at Mac Mini

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I also agree with @JohnAtl & @ChrisUpchurch’s suggestions.

If a new monitor was part of the objective then it may be worth looking at some of the LG’s or Dells, some monitors have a KVM function built in. I did a quick google to check I was correct on that & found this video which demo’s it nicely:

Thanks for the replies . I knew that it was a long shot, but yeah I’ll try and figure something out. If I had more room i’d set up another desk.

Too bad Apple removed target display mode. My new 2019 iMac that I ordered arrived in a few days, so I’ll find a spot for it .

As someone who is in the info security realm, I’d strongly recommend against using screen scraping tech or RDP. If they can even be launched on the work laptop, they also have huge vulnerabilities that are often exploited by attackers. There’s a reason the laptops are locked down: to keep company information and data safe and to limit where and who can access them, and often to maintain compliance with laws. In this case, a separate monitor is the beat approach, and the one that doesn’t risk violating the terms of your employment. Let me know if I can provide any further detail. Thanks! Dan

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I didn’t find a good solution. Right now when I work from home, I

  • disconnect my external monitor
  • Move the iMac off to the right side of the desk
  • Move external monitor to the middle of the desk
  • Place work laptop on the left side of the desk
  • Plug in Macbook Pro power adapter
  • Plug in usb c to thunderbolt adapter
  • plug in ethernet to thunderbolt adapter to that
  • Plug in USB-C to USB/Plug/HDMI adapter ( it has 3 ports not adapter )
  • Plug external monitor
  • plug in usb apple keyboard
  • turn on apple trackpad that I bought just for my work laptop.
  • Plug in speaker stereo cable if I want good audio for music, web conference meetings,etc
    Once all this is done, I’m ready to login into my work laptop, connect to VPN, and get to work!

Even when my Macbook Pro 2015 was my main Mac, I still had to do some adapter swapping to get my work laptop ( 2017 ) to connect to everything , but it was easier and I had 2 displays.

If I want 2 displays with my current setup, I need another Thunderbolt to HDMI/Displayport adapter and a stand for the work laptop to hold it in a vertical clamshell config ) Picture of my current work laptop setup