We’ve previously discussed how users can hide the menu bar in OS X El Capitan, but a commenter on that article was also curious about how users can move the dock to a second display. This has been possible in OS X for many years, but the changes to the dock and menu bar in recent versions of the operating system make it worthy of another look. So, if you’re new to OS X or just brushing up on your Mac skills, here’s how to move your dock and configure your primary display in OS X El Capitan.
There are many different multi-monitor configurations supported by OS X, and while the steps discussed here will focus on a dual-display configuration, they can be applied equally to other setups. That said, our example setup for this tip is a Mac with two external displays, with the display on the right configured as primary.
Starting with OS X 10.9 Mavericks, OS X will show the menu bar by default on all displays (prior to Mavericks the menu bar only appeared on the primary display), but the default location of your dock and the appearance of desktop icons (if enabled) will tell you which monitor is currently configured as your primary display.
To change this up — for example, if you wanted the monitor on the left to be your primary display — head to System Preferences > Displays > Arrangement. This window will show you the layout and relative resolution of all monitors currently connected to your Mac, including the built-in display on a MacBook, with each monitor represented by a blue rectangle icon.
One of the display icons will have a white bar at the top, representing the menu bar. This depiction is a holdover from older versions of OS X which did not display the menu bar on all monitors, but it helps us identify which monitor is currently set as the primary display.
If you’re connecting many displays to your Mac for the first time and you aren’t sure which icon in System Preferences corresponds to which physical monitor on your desk, simply click and hold on one of the icons and a red border will appear around the monitor it represents.
While not directly related to this tip, once you’ve identified all of your Mac’s displays, you can click in the blue area of any display icon and drag and drop it in the appropriate relative position to rearrange your virtual display configuration to match the actual layout of your physical monitors.
Continuing our example, to set the monitor on the left as the primary display, click and hold on the white bar at the top of the right icon and drag and drop it on the left icon.
When you release the white bar on the left display icon, all of your displays will briefly dim to black. When the desktop reappears, your new monitor — in our example, the one on the left — will now contain the dock, active application windows, and any desktop icons.
If you don’t like this new arrangement, you can always revert to having the right monitor configured as your primary display by heading back to System Preferences and dragging the white bar back to the desired monitor icon. Other than the brief period in which the displays dim, your changes each time will take effect immediately so there’s no need to reboot or log out in order to see your multi-monitor Mac setup configured with a new primary display.
Move Only the Dock to Another Monitor
Starting with OS X 10.10 Yosemite, there’s a new method for moving just the dock to another display without making changes to your primary display in System Preferences. To try it, simply move your mouse or trackpad cursor to the very bottom of the display where you want your dock to appear and hold it there. After a brief moment, the dock will slide down and out of sight on your primary display and then slide up into view on your other display.
As you can see in the screenshot above, our example Mac now has only the dock on the left monitor, while the desktop icons and active windows associated with your primary display configuration remain on the right monitor. Once the dock is located on your desired monitor, you can easily reposition it to the left, right, or default bottom of the screen as needed.
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