My wife recently upgraded to a new Mac Mini M2 Pro from her 27” iMac (2109). Apple wasn’t offering much for her iMac on trade-in, so we decided to convert it into an external 5K display, just like I did for my display work.
The iMac (2109) 5K display is slightly different from the iMac (2014) 5K that I converted previously. The 2019 is capable of DCI P3 Color so I wanted to try a different driver board than the one I worked with previously which required two DisplayPort cables in order to achieve 10 bit color. This will be her main display for specifically for design work, so I decided to go with the R1811 driver board which also required a separate constant power board, DZ-LP0818 to maximize display brightness.
Disclaimer: While I do have experience building electronic stuff and taking apart electronic equipment, I’m no expert. If you decide to move forward with this project, understand that you may irreparably damage your iMac in the process. I accept no responsibility for any damage that occurs to you, your iMac, or any other parts or tools you might use for this project. You accept any and all risk to yourself and your equipment by following the guide below.
Full disclosure: Purchasing any of the items using some of the links below will give a small percentage of the sale to my wife.
Note: This guide isn’t the only way to VESA mount a converted iMac external display. There are many others that have successfully done this have shared their advice, configurations, and builds using 5K iMac and LG Ultra Fine displays, so be sure to do your research before starting1.
All of this seemed easy enough, but she also wanted the iMac display mounted on her existing Ergotron VESA arm. So I needed to figure out how to convert the iMac so that it could be VESA mounted. I quickly learned that there isn’t any kit to convert the iMac (2019) to a VESA mount (although the iMac Pro has one for some reason).
I perused the MacRumors forums and saw some creative ways others were able to VESA mount their converted iMacs. One forum member did it by using a K&M VESA plate, but when I went to purchase one, it seemed like no one on the planet had them in stock. I searched everywhere and even (gasp) called shops to see if it was available. Most said it would take three months to get them in. I was just about ready to give up on this, until I had a revelation. After staring at a photo of the K&M mount (see below), I realized that I could make something similar if I could find a VESA plate that had some holes in the middle of it. The key for this to work is the two protruding bolts on the plate that need to go through the rear slot of the iMac display once all of its guts have been removed.
The unobtainum K&M VESA adapter plate.
After a lot of searching, measuring things out in my head, and consulting my friend who does engineering, I settled on the HumanCentric VESA Mount Adapter that was originally designed for the iMac 24 Inch (Aluminum) and iMac 27 Inch (2009, 2010, 2011). Normally, this mount wouldn’t work with iMacs made from 2012—2019 because Apple changed the way the stand connects to the display. But since I’m gutting the iMac and keeping only the chassis and display, this mount would probably work. I needed to consult my engineer friend to make sure the bolts would support the display. After explaining what I was going to do, she felt it would be fine. It had what I was looking for: it looked nice, it had some structure to it, and most importantly, it had two holes in the center of the VESA plate that I could put long bolts into.
Human Centric VESA mount for older iMacs.
Once it arrived, I took some measurements of the two holes in the middle of the VESA plate and found that they lined up and fit perfectly into the slot where the iMac stand used to be. I went to my local hardware store and picked up two long stainless steel bolts, a pair of washers, and lock nuts. Installing the mount to the back of the iMac was very easy, and the finished product looks like it was made for the iMac.
Here are some photos of the Human Centric VESA mount being installed.
This is the inside of the iMac chassis, where the stand is attached. The entire contraption that has three torx screws on each side was removed.
The Human Centric VESA mount lined up perfectly and allowed two bolts to pass through the chassis.
I placed the Human Centric VESA mount onto the back of the iMac, then passed two long bolts through the slot of the chassis where the iMac stand used to be.
You can see the bolts passing through the chassis.
A better angle.
Here’s how the VESA mount is bolted in through the slot where the iMac stand used to be. I used two wide washers and locking nuts to secure the VESA mount to the chassis. Be careful not to over tighten the nuts or you may dent the chassis! Tighten it just enough so that it will not move.
I used a wide washer and locking nuts to secure the VESA mount to the chassis.
Here’s what the iMac display looks like attached to the Ergotron arm.
A little messy, but this was taken right after attaching it to the arm.
Some considerations if you’re planning to VESA mount an iMac
If you want to do something similar to this, be sure that the VESA arm you have can support the extra weight of the iMac chassis. Most displays are made of plastic and are much lighter. My wife previously purchased the Ergotron arm to use with a Wacom Cintiq, so it was made to hold a lot of weight.
After doing this, I believe you can use just about any VESA mount adapter plate that matches the VESA pattern of your arm. You could probably even make your own if you have a drill press. The most important thing is to ensure that you’re able to secure it to the iMac chassis using hardware that will hold the plate firmly.
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