It’s finally happened.
You have taken the plunge and bought a brand-new desktop computer with all the bells and whistles, but with all your resources spent on the new tower, you have decided to reuse your old monitor with the new computer.
When you get home, you have a moment of pause.
Will the old computer monitor even work with the new computer?
Will Any Monitor Work With Any Computer?
Yes, any monitor will work with any computer regardless of brand or operating system.
Modern operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and Mac are all coded to be compatible with any visual display device, such as a monitor or a TV, that can be connected to it.
This means that an Apple monitor can be used for a Windows PC and vice versa.
The information from the computer is relayed via a wired connection to the display device or monitor, which translates the code into visual representations.
How Do I Know If My Computer Is Compatible With My Monitor?
The main factor that determines compatibility between the computer and the monitor is the connection type that both devices use.
The connection cable runs from either the graphics card or the motherboard on the computer to the monitor to create a physical communication line between the two devices.
For the computer and the monitor to be compatible, this communication line must be complete.
Monitors use five primary connection types.
A video graphics array (VGA) cable is an older display cable standard that uses an analog signal for communication rather than a digital signal.
The digital signal from the computer must be converted to an analog signal through a graphics card.
The 15-pin VGA cable is connected to the graphics card and the monitor to complete the communication line.
VGA connections are limited on their resolution with a max of 1900 x 1200.
VGA connection ports, once the standard, are rarely seen on newer computers or monitors and are mainly used with CRT monitors.
The digital video interface (DVI) cable was developed to create a video connector which did not need translation from a digital signal into an analog signal.
There are three types of DVI cables: the DVI-I which can carry both digital and analog signals, the DVI-D which is strictly used for digital transmissions, and the DVI-D dual-link connector which allowed for dual streams to be transferred, increasing resolution up to 2560 x 1600.
DVI connectors were common in LCD monitors.
The DisplayPort (DP) cable is a video interface cable that can carry video and audio feeds to displays and was developed to replace the older VGA and DVI standards.
A DP 2.0 cable can handle resolutions up to 8K and uses a 20-pin connector.
The DP cable also comes in a mini version which was widely used by Mac computers and laptops.
The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable is the most common type of visual display connector used on monitors and TVs today.
This standard transfers video and audio data from the computer to the display unit.
The Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable can support up to 10K resolution with up to 48 Gbps of bandwidth for data transfers.
A USB-C cable, also known as a Thunderbolt cable with Apple products, was developed as an all-in-one cable that could connect a wide variety of peripherals including monitors to computer devices.
The USB-C cable can relay video feeds up to 8K resolution at 10 Gbps.
While the USB-C cable connector is beginning to gain traction in the PC monitor world, it is still not frequently found on many products except for Apple products which have embraced and rebranded the standard in their Thunderbolt standard.
Can I Use A New Monitor With An Old Computer?
Yes, you can use a new monitor with an older computer.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is the connection type.
If the new monitor does not support the connection type on the older computer, an adapter will need to bridge the gap.
There are a wide variety of adapter types which turn one connection type into another.
For example, an HDMI to VGA adapter will allow for an older computer that has only a VGA port for its video feed to be plugged into the adapter and converted into an HDMI signal.
Once the VGA cable is connected to the adapter, the HDMI portion can be plugged into the new monitor to display the image.
Cable adapters are available in almost any display cable configuration you can think of, such as USB-C to HDMI, DP to HDMI, or DVI to VGA.
This same process can be used to connect an older monitor to a new computer.
Another point to remember is that the computer tower and display setup is only as strong as its weakest link.
This means that, if you are trying to convert a VGA signal to an HDMI signal, you will not get HDMI quality output.
The adapter only translates the data it is fed.
It cannot turn a low-resolution feed into a high-resolution feed.
The reverse holds true as well.
If an HDMI signal is converted into a VGA signal, much of the HDMI quality will be lost in translation.
Imagine the cable carrying the data is a bucket and the data being sent is water.
Say you have a VGA cable that holds one cup of water, and you transfer that water into an HDMI cable that can hold one gallon of water.
When you pour one cup of VGA water into the HDMI bucket, you will still only have one cup of water even though the HDMI bucket can carry a lot more.
The same theory works in reverse as well.
Now you have a full one-gallon HDMI bucket, and you pour it into a one-cup VGA bucket.
Most of the water will spill out of the cup and be lost since the VGA cable is only able to hold one cup and not one gallon.
Does It Matter What Monitor I Get For A Computer?
For general computing purposes, it does not matter what monitor you get for your computer since any monitor or display device will work.
However, if you have specific needs, such as streaming high-resolution videos, editing media, or gaming, then you should invest in a monitor which can handle your demands as well as the amount of data being sent to it from the computer.
When choosing a monitor to fit your needs, first consider the video connection type your computer has.
If possible, it is always better to use a direct connection rather than an adapter to connect your monitor to your PC.
1. Monitor Size
Next, consider the size of the monitor.
If your monitor is located at a distance from your face, consider a larger monitor.
A larger monitor is useful for graphics-heavy demands such as video editing or photography.
A larger monitor could also be useful if you routinely have multiple windows open and visible at once.
There is, however, such a thing as too big.
Larger monitors can be too big for the eye to naturally take in without head movement.
Larger monitors viewed at a close range can also lead to eye strain.
2. Resolution And Aspect Ratio
Screen resolution and aspect ratio should also be considered when choosing a monitor.
The aspect ratio is the width-to-height ratio.
The most common aspect ratio on the market today is 16:9 due to television using the same ratio.
This allows for fullscreen viewing of programs without loss of picture on the sides or blank space on the top and bottom of the picture.
Old square monitors typically used an aspect ratio of 4:3 or 5:4, which would lead to a highly clipped image.
Some gaming monitors stretch the aspect ratio to 21:9 for super-widescreen viewing.
The screen resolution describes how many pixels, width by height, there are in the screen.
The more pixels there are, the sharper the image will be.
Monitors can have resolutions up to 8 or 10K in today’s market.
For most users, however, a screen resolution of this magnitude is excessive and can strain the eyes, especially with far-sighted individuals.
Other factors to consider include the refresh rate, the response time, the contrast ratio of blacks and whites, the color gradient, brightness, and viewing angle distortion.
When purchasing a new monitor, the key is to consider your current and future needs and choose a monitor which best suits those needs.
Can I Connect Any Monitor To My Laptop?
Laptops can connect to monitors the same way that computers connect to monitors and are compatible with any monitor with which it can create a solid connection.
One advantage of connecting an external monitor to a laptop rather than a desktop is the versatility of the external monitor.
An external monitor attached to a laptop can act as a direct mirror of the laptop or as an extension of the laptop screen.
With a direct mirror of the laptop, the external monitor displays the same information as the host laptop.
When the external monitor is used as an extension of the host laptop, it is as if your laptop screen has just doubled in size, and you can move windows onto the other screen, allowing for multiple programs to be fully opened and visible at once.
Can I Connect Multiple Monitors To My Computer?
The process of connecting multiple monitors to a single computer is called daisy-chaining.
Daisy-chaining uses a high-powered connector such as a DisplayPort or USB-C cable to connect multiple display devices to a single host device.
The host device connects to the first chained device, which then connects to the second chained device, and so on.
The daisy-chained monitors can act as either mirrors of the host device or as extensions of the host device.
One thing to keep in mind when daisy-chaining devices is that the higher the resolution of the chained devices, the fewer devices you can chain.
There is only a set amount of data coming out of the GPU, and this data must be shared across all the chained devices.
If one device has a very high resolution, it will take all the data and leave none for the other devices.
What Should I Do With An Old Computer Monitor?
Once you’ve upgraded your monitor to a shiny new one, you are left with the dilemma of what to do with your old monitor.
In many states, simply throwing away your old device is not only wasteful, but illegal.
Computer components such as monitors contain potentially hazardous material and must be disposed of properly.
What can you do with your old monitor?
1. Recycle It
There are numerous recycling options for old monitors.
Large electronics companies such as Best Buy and Office Depot offer recycling services, usually for a nominal fee.
You can simply bring your old monitor to a participating location, and they will dispose of it properly.
Electronics manufacturers such as Apple and Dell also accept old devices for component recycling.
Many communities also offer recycling centers that will safely dispose of the monitor.
2. Donate It
Your old monitor, while not suited for your specific needs, may be happily accepted as a donation for programs such as shelters, schools, or charitable organizations.
Old working monitors can be used for basic computing needs by those who can’t afford state-of-the-art devices, or they can be distributed for free to those in need.
3. Reuse It
There are numerous ways an old monitor can be reused within the home.
It can be used for daisy-chaining, which is ideally suited for less capable monitors.
It can be used as a television set, or it can be used for a spare or guest computer.
Older monitors are also an efficient option for CCTV systems.
Really adventurous individuals can also attempt to make an invisible screen by removing the polarizing film in the monitor.
Removing this film reveals a blank white screen where the image on the screen can only be seen when wearing polarized glasses.
4. Connect It To A Raspberry Pi
A Raspberry Pi is a small, single-board computing device that is capable of many of the functions of a full-size computer and is connected to traditional peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard, and monitor.
A Raspberry Pi can be connected to an older monitor to create a DAKboard.
A DAKboard is a wall display that shows basic information such as the time, weather, calendar, news events, and other information on a solid photo background.
Another ambitious reuse of an old LCD monitor is to make a smart mirror out of it.
The LCD screen has mirror-like reflective qualities that, when paired with a Raspberry Pi, can function as a smart mirror.
5. Sell It
While you may think that no one will want your old monitor, there is a market for older monitors.
The key to selling an older monitor is to evaluate the market and price the device accordingly.
List the device on social marketplaces such as Craigslist or Facebook and see who bites.
Just don’t expect a large profit.
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“Daisy Chain Monitors: Everything You Need to Know.” Audio MAV, 25 Jan. 2021, https://audiomav.com/daisy-chain-monitors-everything-you-need-to-know/.
“Everything You Need to Know About HDMI Cable Types.” Lifewire, https://www.lifewire.com/hdmi-cables-and-connectors-what-you-need-to-know-4685377. Accessed 24 Mar. 2022.
“What Is a Raspberry Pi?” Raspberry Pi, https://www.raspberrypi.org/help/what-is-a-raspberry-pi/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2022.
“What to Do With Old Computer Monitors: 5 Useful Ideas.” MUO, 19 Oct. 2016, https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3-computer-monitors/.