How to connect a monitor to a computer

Updated: 12/10/2023 by Computer Hope
Computer monitor

All desktop computers require a monitor. The display lets you see and navigate the various elements of the operating system GUI (graphical user interface) and its applications. Whether you use it to play video games, edit documents, or browse the Internet, the following sections explain how to connect a monitor to a desktop computer. For best results, we suggest reading through each section in order.


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?

Most computer monitors require at least two cables: one for power and one for data. The power cable connects to an electrical outlet and provides electricity to the monitor. The data cable transmits the picture signal (data) from your computer to the display. The type of data cable varies depending on the ports on your computer's video card (if you have one), motherboard, and monitor support. Examples of cable and port combinations include DVI (digital visual interface), HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), DP (DisplayPort), or USB-C. Some older monitors, such as those that utilize CRT (cathode ray tube) technology, may also have VGA (video graphics array), composite, and S-Video connections.


Monitors with USB (universal serial bus) ports or card readers also have a USB cable that must be connected to the computer to utilize these features. Older monitors with speakers built into them may have audio cables that connect from the monitor to the computer too. Newer monitors with speakers no longer require cables.

How do I know what cable to use?

If you've purchased a new monitor, it should come with at least a power cable and may include a data cable. However, if your video card or motherboard does not support the type of data cable that came with your monitor, you must purchase a compatible cable. Alternatively, you can buy a converter that changes one video signal or connector type to another.


We recommend using an HDMI cable. With higher-quality displays, you may want to use a DisplayPort for faster refresh rates.

How to connect a monitor to the computer

  1. Find the monitor's data cable. It is the one that doesn't have an AC adapter attached to it.
  2. Match the cable with one of the video ports on the back of the monitor and computer. The images below show each of the video ports used today.

New video port connections.

Older video port connectors.


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 secured in place.

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 compatible with your computer and monitor.
  • You can purchase a video converter that changes one connector type to another.
  • Purchase a new video card or computer with the latest connectors.
  • Purchase a monitor with the connectors you need.
  1. Once you've verified the corresponding ports on your monitor and computer, plug the cable into each.
  2. Connect the power cord (shown below) to the back of the monitor and the other to an outlet or power strip (ideally with surge protection).

Monitor power cord


Some flat pannel displays use an AC adapter instead of a power cable. For these displays, a cable may go from the monitor to the AC adapter, which plugs into the wall.

  1. Turn on the computer and monitor. The monitor power button is often found on the middle or right side of the front or bottom edge of the monitor.
  2. While most monitors do not include nor require software, some do. If this is the case with your monitor, install the appropriate software.

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


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