How do I rotate my Mac's screen? For working on spreadsheets or Word docs I often feel it would be more useful to have the display in Portrait orientation.
For certain apps, games and functions (such as writing code, digital art, or when using a PC as a status-update screen in a public space), it makes sense to rotate your Mac's display. A landscape-orientation (frequently widescreen) display is good for most tasks but not all, and turning the screen round and using it in portrait orientation can be a useful option.
Physically, turning round the display is obviously just a question of accessing the screen mount and rotating it if this is possible, but you'll also need to access the software settings and tell Mac OS X (or macOS) to output the graphics in a view that's rotated 90 degrees clockwise or anti-clockwise (or even 180 degrees, if for some reason you want to use your display upside-down). Fortunately this part of the process is very straightforward, and we walk through this process below.
Be aware that not all monitors can be rotated, and in our experience this only works for external monitors - you can't rotate the built-in display of a laptop, for example. But then again, there aren't a lot of situations in which you'd want to.
How to rotate the screen on Mac: Settings
1. Open System Preferences (you can click the Apple logo at the top left of the screen and select 'System Preferences…' from the dropdown menu, or select its grey-cog icon from the Dock assuming you've not removed it). Select Displays - the first option on the second row.
2. Under the Display section (make sure this is highlighted blue at the top, rather than Color), there's a option labelled Rotation, which defaults to Standard. Change this to 90 degrees to rotate your screen clockwise one quarter-turn.
(Note that if you've got two screens then two windows will appear at this point: one for each display. You can rotate each one separately if you wish and the hardware supports it.)
Generally speaking, the Rotation field appears if your hardware supports this feature, and is hidden if it doesn't. If Rotation isn't listed under Displays then you're probably out of luck.
However, in earlier versions of Mac OS X, the Rotation field doesn't appear automatically. If it's not appearing for your display, try holding down Alt and Cmd when you click on the Displays section of System Preferences or, if this doesn't work, holding down Alt and Cmd when clicking on System Preferences itself from the Dock (after closing it down first). MacTip says this works on OS X 10.6.6, so it may be worth a try if you haven't updated OS X for a few years.
How to rotate the screen on Mac: Hardware
Be careful with your display when rotating it. It's important to ensure that it won't overbalance and that a different orientation isn't likely to place undue strain on the mounting - not all displays, and not all display mounts, are designed to be rotated to this extent. If in doubt, check the documentation online.
If the mounting mechanism isn't up to the job, it may be worth considering a new monitor. For our detailed buying advice on that front, see Best screens & monitors for Mac.