How to connect a monitor to a computer

Updated: 12/30/2021 by Computer Hope
Computer monitor

To use a desktop computer, a monitor is required. The monitor allows you to see the operating system GUI and software applications, like a video game, document editor, or Internet browser.

Note

If you're connecting a monitor to a laptop computer, see: How to connect an external display to my laptop.

How many cables are used with a monitor?

All computer monitors have at least two cables, a power cable and a data cable. The power cable connects to the power outlet, or better, a surge protector, and is what allows the monitor to turn on. The other cable is a data cable and is what allows the picture (data) from your computer to be displayed. The type of cable can vary depending on the type of connection your video card and monitor supports. The cable may be a VGA, S-Video, DVI, HDMI, DP (DisplayPort), or USB-C. VGA and DVI are older connections, whereas HDMI, DisplayPort, and especially USB-C are newer.

Note

Monitors with USB ports or card readers also have a USB cable that must be connected to the computer if you want to use these features. Older monitors with speakers built-in to them may also have audio cables that connect the monitor to the computer. However, newer monitors with speakers no longer need these cables.

How do I know what cable to use?

If you purchased a new monitor, it should include a cable to connect to your computer. However, if your video card does not support that type of cable, you need to purchase a cable supported by the computer. Alternatively, you can purchase a converter that converts one video signal to another signal supported by the computer.

Tip

Generally speaking, today, we recommend using an HDMI cable. With higher quality displays, you may want to use a DisplayPort for higher refresh rates.

How to connect a monitor to the computer

  1. Find the monitor's connector cable. It should be included with your purchase.
  2. Match the cable with one of the video ports on the back of the monitor. The images below show each of the video ports used today.

New video port connections.

Older video port connectors.

  1. Connect the cable to the corresponding ports on both your monitor and computer.
Note

The VGA and DVI cables have two screws, one on either side of the connector. Make sure the cable screws line up and then alternate turning each screw until they are secure.

If your monitor does not have the same connector as your computer, or you prefer a different interface, you have a few options.

  • You can buy a different cable that is compatible with your computer and monitor.
  • You can purchase a video converter that which changes one connector type into another.
  • Purchase a new video card or computer with the latest connectors.
  • Purchase a monitor with the connectors you need.
  1. If not already done, connect the flat end of the monitor power cord (left cable end shown below) to the back of the monitor. The power cord may also be built into the back of the monitor.

Monitor power cord

  1. Connect the other end of the monitor power cord (shown above) into a power outlet, or better, a surge protector.
  2. Turn on the computer and turn on the monitor. The power button for the monitor is often found on the front or bottom of the monitor on the right side.
Tip

If your monitor has different connectors, you may need to switch the input type you're using with the buttons next to the power button.

Note

If you run into trouble getting the monitor to work, see: No display or black screen on a computer monitor.