Using Older Apple ADC Displays with Mac Pro

| How-To

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.

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I thought about doing this, but, WOW!, are there ever a lot of bad reviews for this product posted at the online Apple Store.


Coincidentally, Any Dundee Mac users who happen to have both a DVI Mac and an ancient ADC display but no adaptor (if such a person exists), might want to head down to the Claverhouse charity shop, where they have been trying to flog a boxed Dr Bott DVIator for months, it’s now going for a mere tenner (originally an optimistic ?40), which is way better than being fleeced by Apple.


I thought about doing this, but, WOW!, are there ever a lot of bad reviews for this product posted at the online Apple Store.

The complaints seem to be mostly:

The price
The power switch on the screen no longer powers the cpu up and down.
USB is sometimes flaky.

Others seem to be one offs that may not apply to anyone else.


What’s wrong with purchasing a $15 adapter (which is about an inch long piece of plastic, NOT something the size of the Mac mini itself)? It works well.

Anyone can buy this adapter. Mail order required since Apple nor anybody else around here carry this needed adapter).


@DB - nothing at all wrong with the $15 solution except that the adapter is for Firewire.

If your problem is, in fact, ADC and DVI then you need an ADC-and-DVI solution. Apple’s worked OK for me.


Sigh..what I need is a ADC ->DVI adapter to use a DVI monitor on the stupid adc port on my G5 :(

John Martellaro

Savenger:  I think I saw one from Gefen that does that.  I can probably find the URL again…


My work has several of these adaptors, and they work well with one caveat.

After a few years (where few is anything from 2 to 5+) they fail, and when they do your Mac will get almost through the boot-up process and then mysteriously do a soft power-down.  This happens if the monitor cable is connected to the computer, regardless of whether USB is plugged in.  At this point, the only way I know to fix it is to replace the adaptor.

The adaptor works with Windows boxes (with USB and DVI) and Macs, and I’ve personally never had any issues except when they fail as described above.  However, my workmates report that the front buttons don’t work any more with their Mac laptops - I don’t know if this is related to different drivers for Intel or different drivers on 10.5 (I was using 10.4 with a G4 laptop and it all worked as expected).

Curious thought: has anyone used a “failed” adaptor through a DisplayPort to DVI adaptor?  Does the system still self-power-off with this extra level of indirection?


I looked at Dr. Bott’s site and saw a DVI to ADC connector designed for Scavenger’s application. However, it does not supply power so how can it be used to drive a ADC monitor with a DVI computer?

John Martellaro

Scavenger wants to do the opposite:  drive a DVI monitor with a video card that has ADC out.  That’s a lot easier because the monitor has its own power supply.


In answer to John M., yes I know. My question was in reference to the main story which implies that Dr. Bott has a solution to the problem of mating a new mac to an ADC monitor. On Dr. Bott’s site, I saw only unpowered ADC to DVI adaptor.

John Martellaro

I looked at a larger image of the DVIator.  It appears the Dr. Bott photo shows the connector to power, but not the power brick itself.  I could be wrong.  Ted Landau may know more.


Gefen sold the DVIator also that allowed you to use a ADC monitor on a DVI port, also with a power brick. They now have this box:


Apple no longer supports a number of legacy monitors with the release of Mac OS X.9. See the following article.

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