Instructions: Use the iMac as a Windows PC monitor

If you want to use an Apple iMac as a PC monitor, you can find step-by-step instructions here. Because some iMac models you can use the so-called Target display mode set up as a "target display", ie as a target display for an external device. It's basically pretty quick, but it requires a few prerequisites. In this guide you can read what you need to know about the topic and what the exact procedure is. Do you have any questions, tips or tricks on the subject in store? Then leave a comment;)

Instructions: Use Apple iMac as Windows PC monitor thanks to Target Display Mode. Here you will find the requirements, step-by-step instructions and tips for cables and adapters.

Instructions: Use Apple iMac as Windows PC monitor thanks to Target Display Mode. Here you will find the requirements, step-by-step instructions and tips for cables and adapters.

Use Apple iMac as a PC monitor: Here's how!

In an older manual, we already showed you how to do one use old iMac as Mac monitor can. At that time it was not yet clear to us whether and how the whole thing could also be transferred to a Windows PC. But now we have stumbled upon an opportunity that we do not want to withhold from you. To use the iMac as a Windows PC monitor, proceed as follows - and first have to answer a few questions ...

Do I have the correct iMac?

Not every Apple iMac is available for Target Display Mode. Look in the Apple menu under “About this Mac” to see which model you have. You can also see which operating system (Mac OS X, OS X or macOS) is running on it. And see what connections your iMac has on the back. Because the following requirements should be met:

  1. Apple iMac late 2009 or mid 2010 with 27 inch display and mini DisplayPort connection
  2. Apple iMac mid 2011 or 2014 with Thunderbolt connection
  3. The Apple computer has no Retina display
  4. It runs on the device maximum macOS 10.13 High Sierra
  5. There is a keyboard to enter a combination of keys at startup

Do I have the right cable / adapter?

In addition, your Windows PC or laptop should have a suitable video output, e.g. DisplayPort or Thunderbolt. With an adapter or a suitable adapter cable, you can also use the HDMI output to transmit the signal to the Thunderbolt or DisplayPort input of the iMac. 

When buying, make sure that it is an HDMI-to-Mini-DisplayPort cable or adapter. There are also “one-way streets” cables from Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI, with which you can connect MacBooks to external monitors, for example. So read carefully the product descriptions of the items with which you want to prepare yourself for the following procedure.

Counselor: Good and cheap (second) monitors for the home office

Connect Windows PC and iMac: This is how it works!

If your iMac is compatible, you have a suitable cable and are ready to transfer, then you're good to go. These are the step-by-step instructions in case you want to use the iMac as a Windows PC monitor:

  1. Switches both devices off (shut down completely)
  2. Plugs the cable into the Thunderbolt, HDMI or DisplayPort port on the PC
  3. Plugs the other end of the cable into the Thunderbolt or Mini DisplayPort connector on the iMac
  4. Turns on the PC and iMac
  5. On the iMac, press and hold cmd + F2 or cmd + fn + F2 immediately after turning it on

The key combination when iMac is started activates Target Display Mode, which means that the Apple computer can be used as a monitor for incoming video signals. You shouldn't have to choose anything now. The transfer should work directly (as soon as the PC delivers an image).

The correct resolution for iMac monitor mode

If you want to display the PC image perfectly on the more or less improvised monitor, then check the resolution of the screen in the above-mentioned “About this Mac” window in the “Display” tab after a regular macOS start. Most of the time, however, a resolution of 2.560 x 1.440 pixels should be sufficient. If your PC can provide a higher image output to get closer to the number of pixels on the iMac screen, that's all the better, of course. In the case of Retina models with 4K or 5K resolution, however, the target display mode may not be supported at all. 


Your experiences with the iMac as a PC monitor

Have you already tried the whole thing or played through the points indicated after reading this article? Then leave your experiences as a comment. Because we have not yet tested the procedure, we have only translated information from an English specialist website and added a few notes. So if you have practical experience, let us and all other readers participate :)

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  1. Dan says:

    it says that I can no longer use the iMac with macOS 10.15 as an ext. Monitor for a Windows 10 computer can use?

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hi Dan! Yes that's right. But you can reinstall the original macOS on the iMac. Here are the instructions.

      Or in short:
      Hold down Shift + Option + Command + R while booting. This installs the macOS version that came with the Mac, or the one that comes closest to it (if the original is no longer available)

  2. Rüdiger says:

    Hello, does anyone know where to get an HDMI to mini DisplayPort cable.
    Just find the other way.
    Can I then simply switch between macOS and Windows with a keyboard shortcut?

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