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