Pro Tip: Rotate your monitor and use it vertically in macOS

There are certain situations where you may find it favorable to have a second monitor rotated vertically. Below you will find how to turn your second screen vertically, and also adjust the macOS to work with it.

Doing this may require a little work to get the screen working on its side, both physically and in software. But it is possible with most monitors.

One of the most obvious benefits for turning a monitor is to increase desk space. You also won't have to turn your head as far viewing from side-to-side. In addition, if you do a lot of text-heavy work, being able to see a document fill up most, if not all of the display can be very useful.

You'll want to make sure the monitor can support this and can be viewed at reasonable angles while on its side before making any massive changes to your setup. It would also be wise to invest in a new stand. Some monitor stands offer some display rotation capabilities, and many monitors instead have a stand or a foot that doesn't allow for rotational adjustment at all.

On the software side, there's a few things you need to do within macOS, both in managing the rotation and the displays positioning within the desktop itself.

How to rotate a monitor in macOS

  • Open System Preferences, then Displays.

  • Select the settings window for the monitor that is rotated. It will usually appear in the middle of the rotated display.

  • Click the dropdown box marked Rotation, and select either 90 degrees or 270 degrees.

  • On the Confirm new display setting pop-up box, click Confirm if it has rotated correctly.

  • If you selected the wrong rotation option and your display rotates to be upside down, select Revert or wait for the countdown timer to conclude, then select the right rotation value.

In some instances, macOS will not correctly pick up the native resolution of the rotated display. To do this, click the Scaled option next to Resolution, then the correct resolution. If macOS only shows a few resolutions, and not the one you want, you can bring up the full list by holding down the Option key then clicking the Scaled option.

You will also have to make changes to the position of the monitor within macOS' desktop to match its physical location. This can be changed from the same Display menus.

How to arrange your vertical monitor in macOS

  • Open System Preferences, then Displays.

  • On the main display, select Arrangement.

  • Move the position of the vertically-oriented monitor in relation to the main monitor within the menu, to match the physical positioning as much as possible.

The macOS is working off the resolution values of the displays, rather than the actual physical dimensions of each screen, the display box representations in the menu won't line up exactly with reality. It's best to understand the boxes as a representation of the macOS desktop itself.

If you need to change which display is the main display, click and drag the white bar from the current main display box to another display within the menu.