How To Use an iMac as a Monitor for PC

The iMac features one of the best displays on the market, and if you are lucky to have a 4K retina monitor, the vibrant screen is likely to make your workflow more pleasant. On top of that, you can use Target Display Mode to connect a MacBook with a late 2009 or mid-2010 iMac.

But is it possible to use your Mac as a PC monitor?

To answer the question right away – yes, it is possible to use your iMac as a PC monitor. However, you do need a compatible iMac and PC, plus a special cable/adapter. This article will provide a step-by-step guide on how to do it, as well as an overview of the necessary gear. Without much further ado, let’s dive right in.

Requirements

The first thing you need to do is check if your iMac can be used as a secondary monitor. Take a look at the ports, and if your iMac features a Thunderbolt or Mini Display Port, it can be used as a monitor. However, things might not be as simple as that, so check out the compatible models.

  1. Late 2009 and mid-2010 27-inch iMacs featuring Mini Display port
  2. Mid-2011 and 2014 iMacs featuring Thunderbolt port
    requirement

Certain other models up to late 2014 might also be used as a secondary display. However, the late 2014 5K retina iMac doesn’t offer Target Display Mode usability. As for the other requirements, you also need a PC that features a Mini Display or Thunderbolt port.

If your PC doesn’t feature these ports, you can use an HDMI or Display port with a suitable adapter. For example, you can use an HDMI to Mini Display adapter or Mini Display to Display Port adapter. Of course, Mini Display, Thunderbolt, or HDMI cable is also required.

Setup Guide

Step 1

Turn off your iMac and PC and plug the cable into the Thunderbolt, HDMI, or Display port on your Windows laptop or desktop. Then plug the cable into the Thunderbolt or Mini Display port on your iMac.

setup guide

Note: If you are using an adapter, connect the cable to the adapter first, then insert the male end into the Mini Display/Thunderbolt port on the iMac.

Step 2

Turn on both the iMac and the PC and hold Cmd + F2 or Cmd + Fn + F2 on the iMac keyboard to trigger Target Display Mode. In a few seconds, you should be able to see the screen of your PC mirrored on the iMac.

Screen Resolution Concerns

In general, setting the video output to 2560 x 1440 on your PC should match the screen resolution of an older iMac (2009, 2010, 2011, and some 2014 models). However, Apple introduced 4K retina displays across the 27-inch line in 2014. These iMacs have a native resolution of 5120 x 2880 which might be hard to match if you are using a laptop. Plus, Target Display Mode might not be available.

If you want to check the iMac’s resolution, click on the Apple logo in the taskbar, select “About This Mac,” and choose the Displays tab.

screen resolutions concerns

Note: Screenshot was taken on a late 2015 iMac just to exemplify the explanation above.

iMac as a Second Display

Regardless of the iMac model you have, it can be used as a second screen for your PC. In other words, you can mirror the PC display to an iMac even if it’s the latest 5K. But you should know that the iMac needs to run Windows 10 Home or Pro for the trick to work.

We won’t delve into technicalities about running Windows on a Mac, because that topic deserves an article of its own. Suffice to say that there’s a way to run both Windows and macOS on the same machine.

Step 1

Make sure your iMac is booted in Windows and connected to the same network as PC. It doesn’t really matter if it’s Ethernet or Wi-Fi, though Ethernet tends to be more stable.

Go into Windows Settings (on iMac), choose System, and select “Projecting to this PC” from the menu bar on the left.

Step 2

Under “Projecting to this PC,” click on the first drop-down menu and choose “Available everywhere.” Select “First time only” under “Ask to project to this PC.” It is not necessary to “Require PIN for pairing,” so you can keep the option off.

At the bottom of the window, make sure you give your computer a name, especially if you have multiple machines at your home.

Step 3

Move onto the PC and access the Action Center from the bottom-right corner. Select the Project tile and choose “Connect to a wireless display.” The PC looks for available displays and your iMac should appear in the results. Click on the iMac and your PC display flickers as it adds another display to the system.

Step 4

You might need to go into Display Settings and change the resolution so it appears the same on both machines. For example, if you are mirroring to a 5K iMac, the resolution of 2560 x 1440 should work fine, but this depends on the exact iMac and PC model you are using.

iMac and PC: Is It a Happy Marriage?

If you have the right devices and cables/adapters, using an iMac as a PC monitor is pretty easy. For those who are confused by iMac release years and specs, the thin ones usually don’t feature Target Display Mode.

Although you may have difficulty connecting the two if certain criteria are not met, for those with the proper cables and the Target Display Mode equipped, you can use an iMac as a monitor for a PC. Having dual monitors can make gaming, working, and homework much easier so it’s certainly worth a try.

Have you tried using your iMac as a PC monitor? Would you be willing to install Windows on your iMac to use it as a second display? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Finalization Note: The first two are images of my Macs and they are just there to display HDMI and Thunderbolt ports. Some PC laptops have a similar design as a Macbook, so I think the second image should work fine. The third one has a disclaimer underneath and I think that should suffice as well.

10 thoughts on “How To Use an iMac as a Monitor for PC”

Avatar WANG JIAYI says:
Notice!
It only work with HDMI to MiniDP Cable and not working MiniDP to HDMI Cable !
They are different !
Avatar Ghostly Friend says:
Hi there, I just want to repeat here what I heard from Apple Support, what they state on their website, and from personal experience: a connection between a Windows PC and iMac will NOT work, whatever configuration of (expensive) adapters and cables you use. The target display mode is only meant for Apple to Apple. NOT for Windows to MacOS.
Avatar Scotty says:
A very specific set of 2009 and 2010 iMac models with a (Mini DisplayPort w/ Audio) can be used as monitors for any devices that have a Displayport output. If the iMac has a Thunderbolt port then it can only be used by Apple products. See my comments below for details.
Avatar Andrew says:
Hi, I have tried to connect a Lenovo T460s running windows 10 to a late 2009 iMac 27″ using a Thunderbolt to Mini Displayport cable but haven’t managed to get the iMac into Target Display Mode. Any ideas?
Avatar Nath says:
i have the same problem. i have an acer travelmate, and i am using a HDMI to mini display port. i use a late 2009 iMac 27″ and also can’t get the mac into target display mode. i think the problem is in the cord, as it was a cheap one off ebay
Avatar Bob says:
So I have to buy an additional Windows 10 license to use the iMac as a monitor? I realize it’s a nice monitor but mine is 9-10 years old and only 21.5″ so this doesn’t seem like a wise investment, money or time.
Avatar Mindy Catlett says:
I have a 2010 iMac and all of this did not work. I cannot get the Target display to come up. Is there another way?
Avatar Scotty says:
Mindy, et al., I have a late 2009 27″ iMac that I use as a monitor for PCs that are running Windows or Ubuntu Linux. The iMac is running macOS High Sierra 10.13.6, which is the last possible macOS version for the machine.
(Important!! If your iMac has a Mini Displayport/Thunderbolt port then you can only connect other Macs. PCs only work with iMacs that have Mini Displayport only video ports.)

There are some strict rules to make this work:
1. The host PC must be outputting the video signal through a Displayport (or Mini DP). It absolutely will not work with video from an HDMI port or a DVI port and a passive cable converter. I use a Displayport to Mini Displayport cable.
2. Also, an Apple keyboard must be used to type Cmd + F2 or Cmd + Fn + F2 to enter into Target Display Mode. To use a non-Apple keyboard then a virtual keyboard program must be used. I use Karabiner-Elements and a normal keyboard.
PCs can only use Target Display Mode with compatible iMacs by following those two rules.

Notes: The iMacs backlight cannot be controlled while using Target Display Mode. In order to adjust brightness a program like http://jonls.dk/redshift/ must be used. I believe that volume can be controlled by the host PC, but I haven’t done it in awhile so I’m no longer sure.

(Lastly, there is a chance an HDMI port will work by using an active HDMI to DP converter, but I have never tried it. Active HDMI to DP converters are relatively expensive and relatively rare. If you want to try an active HDMI to DP converter then be extra careful to purchase the correct device; if you are searching for an HDMI to DP converter there will almost always be DP to HDMI converters in your search results. An active HDMI to DP converter must be externally powered so usually the converter will have an odd-looking USB cable that must be plugged into a nearby USB port. If it isn’t an externally powered active HDMI to DP converter then it definitely will not work.) Finally, if you’re looking at your screen, Thanks for Watching!

Avatar Eugenio Davolio says:
Thank you Scotty, super-detailed comment!
Did I understand correctly that there’s no way I can output the video signal from the HDMI port of my HP (Windows 10 Enterprise) to the Thunderbolt port of my iMac 27 mid-2011 in order to use it as second monitor, correct?
Also because I browsed through hundreds of cables and adapters from HDMI to Thunderbolt and only found cables exclusively working from the Thuderbolt to the HDMI which is the exact opposite of my goal…
Sorry if I’m confused and thank you for any additional hint.
Avatar Scotty says:
Eugenio, yes, you did understand correctly.

It is not possible to use your iMac as a monitor for your HP. A simplified rule is:

Any iMac that has a Thunderbolt port cannot be used as a monitor by non-Apple products.

There is no cable or adapter that will make it work; don’t waste time or money trying.

If you did have an earlier iMac without a TB port then you would need an active HDMI to DP adapter to make it work.

(I do not guarantee that an active adapter will work, but it’s the only possible way I can think of to use an HDMI signal. Hopefully, someone that can definitively answer the adapter question will respond in the future.)

Avatar Eugenio Davolio says:
Thank you again, Scotty. Argument closed :(
Avatar Christian says:
I have Windows 10 installed on an external SSD (using bootcamp) and wireless display works perfectly with an iMac late 2013 running Windows 10. Using mouse and keyboard from iMac to drive the PC. Slight lag but is perfectly alright for office use.

Thanks a lot for the info.

Avatar Casper Lange says:
Anyone got option 2 to work. I am running Catalina with parallels for Windows 10. When I choose the option Projecting to this PC, I see a notification that Miracast is not supported. When I run dxdiag from the command prompt and save the report, it says Miracast: not available. What do I need to get this to work?
Avatar Adam G says:
The HDMI to mini display port cables available to buy suggest the go from the mini display port to HDMI, and not the other way round. I have assumed that such a cable will not work but can you confirm please as I cannot find a cable that goes from HMDI to mini display port anywhere online.
Avatar Andy Humphreys says:
Hello, Can I go the other way? I use a PC with 2 monitors. I also have a refurbished mid 2011 iMac running High Sierra, 3.4 GHz i7 with a Thunderbolt port which I want to use more. Is it possible to connect the iiyama Prolite E2607 to it as a second monitor?
Thanks. A. Humphreys
Avatar Cary Cronenwett says:
Hi. I just built my first pc and want to use my imac as a second monitor (27″ late 2013) I have followed instructions but can’t get into target mode. I tried going through steps connecting via mini display cable and via hdmi w/ mini display/ thunderbolt 2 adapter. No joy. The next configuration to try is usb(c) with an mini display/ thunderbolt 2 adapter. I thought I’d ask some questions before spending the money. I read that an imac in target mode requires a thunderbolt 2 signal and usb(c) isnt compatible. However, you make it all sound so easy. Have you in fact, gotten this to work? Thanks in advance.
Avatar Harry says:
Hello Cary,

Same question here. Have you been able to make your PC work with iMac? I failed when using mini-DisplayPort to HDMI cable.

Avatar Casper Lange says:
I failed to use iMac late 2012 as monitor for a windows 10 PC. I used PC -> USB-C to Thnderbolt 2 adapter -> Thunderbolt 2 cable -> iMac. Target mode is not invoked using Cmd+F2 orCmd+Fn+F2. Apple support says that this only works from mac to mac, not from windows to mac.
Avatar MIck Rowan says:
I have been chasing the elusive 2010 iMac as a killer monitor for PC almost since I bought it new nine years ago. For a variety of reasons it just has not been possible but I want to do it now more than ever! Just built a bare minimum budget gaming PC and need a monitor. Boot Camp is already installed with Windows 7. I bought a display port > thunderbolt cord but no luck yet. So close!
Avatar Tim says:
I’m running a mini displayport to mini displayport cable from my MSI laptop to a 2009 27″ iMac and it’s working well except for the screen has a yellowish cast

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