Using Older Apple ADC Displays with Mac Pro

Many Apple customers, it seems, are starting to unload their old Power Mac G4s and G5s in favor of the new Nehalem-based Mac Pro. However, for those who are still using a trusty, older pinstripe/plastic Cinema Display (17 or 22-inch), a special converter will be necessary.

Back in 2000, Apple thought it would be really cool to reduce cable clutter for displays, so the company conceived of a combination DVI, power and USB to come up with a 30 pin (3 x 10) connector called the Apple Display Connector. The end of the cable attached to the monitor looks like this:

ADC conn.

Apple Display Connector (ADC) 2000-2004

It seemed like a really good idea at the time, and the video cards in Apple's Power Mac G4s and G5s had corresponding ADC connectors on the back. (Note: the connector is circular on both ends.) In time, Apple decided, probably based on customer push back, that selling monitors that wouldn't fit PCs and had non-standard connectors wasn't a good idea.

Unfortunately as well, computer technology changes faster than excellent LCD Cinema displays wear out (reduced brightness), and so many users who've migrated from older Power Mac G4s and G5s and want to use that ADC-based Cinema display will have to buy a new cable adapter.

Cinema Display (2000)

Apple (Plastic) Cinema Display (ADC) 2000-2004

The bad news is that ADC carries power to the display and DVI (with pins 3 x 8) does not, so it's not a simple matter of using one one those small, in-line adapters like Mini DisplayPort to DVI.

What you'll need instead is Apple's DVI to ADC Adapter which retails for US$99.00. It is a monster power supply and adapter measuring almost 5 x 5 x 1.5 inches. You plug your old ADC-based display into it, and out comes DVI-D (single link) which plugs into the Mac Pro or Mac Mini (with an additional DVI to Mini-DVI for the latest Mac mini model, supplied). See the diagram below.


Connecting the DVI to ADC Adapter (Credit: Apple's Product Manual)

Because power must be supplied to the display, the Apple DVI to ADC adapter must be plugged into a wall-outlet, surge suppressor, or UPS. Make room, because it's quite a bit larger and warmer when powered than the MacBook power supplies you may be using.

Here's what the output connector looks like: DVI-D single link, which is satisfactory for the older Cinema Displays.


The DVI-D connector that connects to Mac Pro

Several Apple customers have reported good success with this setup. If you don't want to spend extra money for a new display for your Mac Pro -- or you want to be able to use your older pinstripe/plastic Cinema Display as a second display -- this setup should do the trick.

Final note:  Ted Landau (and a reader below) have pointed out that there's an additional solution: The Dr. Bott DVI to ADC DVIator.