OS X 10.8: Reclaiming “Detect Displays”

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If you visit System Preferences> Displays under Mountain Lion, you may notice something odd.

The familiar "Detect Displays" button isn't there anymore. Huh. Well, that was useful, and I'm sad to see it go.

No, I'm kidding. You can get it back, in a completely non-obvious way. "Detect Displays" is handy if you use different projectors, monitors, and the like; if something seems wonky or if a display just won't work properly, this feature is a great way to force your Mac to check and adjust its settings for those devices.

So to get it back, just hold down the Option key, and voilà—that fantastic button will reappear.

If you've already got an external display connected, you may see a "Gather Windows" button in that space instead.

Similarly, if you'd like to use the "Detect Displays" feature there, just hold down the Option key, and "Gather Windows" will change to that. Cool, right? Now we just need to figure out why Apple decided to hide that ability in the first place. My typical response to being confused by Apple's choices—shaking my fist at the sky—hasn't yielded results so far.

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I may be missing something. Detect Displays doesn’t seem to do anything. Opening the displays preference pane seems to suffice, as it puts a limited pane on every display.

Mike Howard

Sometimes the machine forgets there’s a display connected.

About Apple hiding useful & necessary buttons: ^&*!*@!!!!!!!!!. Please send them an angry letter. (how about the hide/show buttons on the Finder sidebar. Took me about a month to find them)


Took me a while to find some of my favorite trackpad features until I looked in Accessibility…

Lee Dronick

Currently I have no need for this, but a number of times I have been at a lecture or something where the presenter was rather technically inept.

Michael Smith 1

Hold down the Option key.

Sebastián Vox

Thanks a lot! I was just looking this option.
It’s working the same way in OS Mavericks.


...and people like to give Microsoft grief for removing the Start menu from Windows 8, until clamor forced them to put it back, more or less, into 8.1

There is no logical reason for hiding this occasionally used, yet technically essential feature.  When “de-clutter” = poorer usability, that’s usually a sign to leave something alone.

Never underestimate the desire of an engineer or a product manager to fart around with something that just works. (“This can’t *possibly* be working as well as it could, right?”)

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