Fix A Missing Menu Bar After Connecting A Mac Mini Mid 2010 To HDMI



I did something last weekend that I know many of you may have done already. I dragged my Mac Mini into the living room and connected it to my large screen LCD TV. I ran into an interesting problem after doing so. My Mac Mini would not display the Mac OS X menu bar. It wasn’t visible, but luckily there is an easy fix for this problem.

I thought I’d share it with you, because moving the Mac Mini to the living room has been a great idea so far. This little problem and the solution for it is definitely a good one to keep in your favorite collection of tips.

I had expected everything to just work after I connected my Mac Mini (Mid 2010 model) to my Samsung 36″ LCD TV, but I was surprised that portions of the screen were missing along practically all four sides. However, the worst part was that the menu bar at the top of the screen was gone.

I experimented by trying the various display resolution settings, but I could not immediately find a solution. I did some research and found this Apple knowledge base article:

Here’s what it said about this problem:

What should I do if the Mac mini does not display on the full screen or does not display?

From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences, then choose Displays from the View menu.  Adjust the “Underscan” until the image fills the screen.

How do I open System Preferences if I don’t see a menu bar or dock?

On keyboards with brightness controls, hold down the Option key and the press one of the brightness keys (F1 or F2). This opens the Displays System Preferences pane.  You can also press Command-Shift-A to open the Applications folder, then double-click System Preferences.  Another method is to hold down the Command key and press the Space bar to activate the Spotlight menu, type “displays,” and then press Return.

The solution was to adjust the Underscan settings, which by default, were set to Off. I slid the settings for this option to the right about three notches and then I could see the entire Mac OS X screen. The important part was the menu bar, which was now fully accessible as well as visible.

The knowledge base article documents some additional information about displays that you might find handy later so be sure to check it out.

I hope you’ll find the solution to my misadventures this weekend to be helpful if you ever move your Mac Mini into the living room and hook it up to your TV. Now that it’s working I’m ready to explore the multimedia potential that the Mac Mini has after being inspired by several of my friends to look into it.

If you’ve got a helpful tip about using a Mac in your living room as a part of your home theater please share that tip by leaving it in a comment.

  • Ray

    thanx !

  • Steve_lemonguy

    I had a similar issue connecting my G4 Mac mini to LCD. The fix was different though. I had to change the setting on TV side, and made the resolution ‘point-to-point’.

  • Steve_lemonguy

    I had a similar issue connecting my G4 Mac mini to LCD. The fix was different though. I had to change the setting on TV side, and made the resolution ‘point-to-point’.

  • Steve_lemonguy

    I had a similar issue connecting my G4 Mac mini to LCD. The fix was different though. I had to change the setting on TV side, and made the resolution ‘point-to-point’.

  • Danjns

    the best software I’ve used is PLEX –

    much better than front row!

  • Travisgh23

    What is the benefit of connecting the mac mini to your tv as compared to just buying an Apple TV?

  • Luc Cesca

    The best fix should be to change your tv’s setting to “just scan” or the appropriate setting to show a full 1080p picture (without using overscan).  You also should be using this for bluray players and stuff unless you want to just down-sample your bluray playback as well.

  • Adam Rosen

    David, nice tip about using Option+F1/F2 to reach the Displays Pref Pane! 

  • TeddyTheBear

    Or go to the settings of your TV and disable scaling, overscan, underscan…, so you get an undistorted, unscaled and pixel perfect display without using underscan on your Mac

  • Mike Rathjen

    YES. Underscan should remain off. The real problem is your TV is overscanning a computer signal, which is stupid. Disable the TV’s overscan.

    You want a 1 to 1 pixel ratio. Underscan and overscan ruin this and cause your signal to be soft looking instead of nice and crisp like a monitor.

  • Francis Mariani

    I have this exact problem every time I connect my MacBook Pro to my Panasonic LCD. I thought this occurred because I have an older 720p 50″ – one that I think does not have a native mode, so this underscan information could be useful.

    Thanks for posting this.


  • Francis Mariani

    The only problem I have with the excellent Plex software is that every time I connect my MacBook Pro to my TV I have to fix screen width and height so it fits the whole Plex screen. This may be related to the underscan solution.


  • Samantha

    Option with just about any of the F keys will bring up the control panel (System Prefs). F1-F4 and F10-F12. Any F key that has an associated System Pref. 

  • djgrahamj

    David, you’re repeating yourself. Might want to watch that ;)

    Considering that Display Port, DVI and HDMI all carry essentially the same signals, I wonder why other Macs don’t have this underscan option. I connect my early 2010 Mini to my 50″ plama via a mini Display Port to HDMI cable and was lucky my screen had some adjustments to make it fit properly. Otherwise I would have loved to have had this option.

  • RobPungello

    Overscan really is a pain, and so far as I can tell, my TV doesn’t include an option to turn it off.

  • Jamie McFarlane

    I have a similar problem I was wonderinf if someone could help with. The screen on my 2006 MacBook just stopped working but the MacBook still works fine. I connected it to an external monitor but I can’t find any way to set that as the default screen because the MacBook still think it’s screen works so it just stretches the desktop but I want it to mirror. Anybody have any ideas or solutions?

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    I’ve yet to see an AppleTV that can play an optical disc or a data DVD that contains ordinary .avi, mpeg, h.264, mkv movie files.  Besides, a Mac Mini can play any file format you can throw at it by using MPlayerX or VLC especially if you have soft-subbed subtitles which most of my Asian dramas and movies have.  Short of having some Windows Media PC (which also support cable tuners) the Mac Mini is as good as it gets for an HDTV media player.

  • Mark Griffith

    Thank you! This was driving me nuts!