Macbooks from early to mid 2009 can't output S-video

Disclaimer:  I am not a Mac guy. But I think I can still contribute with a possibly useful blog post. The purpose of which is that if you have a 2009 Macbook and you can't understand why your S-video connection won't work - read on!

Backstory: A friend had a Macbook - not a Macbook Pro, not a Macbook Air, just a Macbook. The vintage was as best as he could determine, early 2009. When he tried to use the Apple mini-DVI to S-video adaptor nothing happened. Nothing. Zero. Zilch, Nada. Nothing.

No amount of fiddling with inputs on the TV or dialog boxes on the Mac would change the outcome either.

Additional Datapoints:
  1. Repeat with two other TV's and S-Video. Same result.
  2. Same Macbook worked fine going to another TV using VGA output.
Working Hypothesis: Some Macbooks cannot be persuaded to output S-Video.

Confirmation of Working Hypothesis: Can be found here in this Apple support document. It says "However, these MacBooks do not work with S-video output or composite output using the mini-DVI to Video adapter." in referring to "The MacBook (13-inch, Early 2009) and MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2009)".

So Macbooks from early to mid 2009 apparently have a hardware issue that keeps them from succesfully outputting S-video even if one has all the required connectors. It just can't be done. 

Workarounds: Looks like your choices are VGA and DVI - per the same Apple link "These MacBooks continue to work with the popular DVI and VGA video formats through the use of the mini-DVI to VGA and mini-DVI to DVI adapters."(In the case of VGA, this same computer that couldn't output S-video was successfully outputting VGA so this has already been confirmed. Have to take Apple's word for it as far as DVI.)

Possible Explanation: Not sure, but one poster here suggested it had to do with a switch to the Nvidia GeForce 9400M GPU's in the aforementioned Macbook models. 

Conclusion: If you're trying to get S-video to work on a vintage 2009 Macbook and you think it's due to something you're dong wrong - it's probably not - it's probably a well known hardware issue. Best bets are VGA or DVI - using the appropriate adapter.


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