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bungiefan89

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 5, 2011
565
76
UPDATE: On July 28, my iMac died. We had 7 great years together, but the GPU gave out and I've moved on to a PC, rendering this thread moot.

I have a 27" 2011 iMac that I want to use as a monitor for a gaming PC I plan on building.

I understand this will only work if I have a special device that converts the video output from the PC to a MiniDisplayport-shaped Thunderbolt signal that my iMac can receive for Target Display Mode to work properly ... but I don't know what that device looks like or where I can find one.

Does what I've described above exist? And if it does, would I then have access to all the other features of my iMac — speakers, microphone, webcam, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, the USB and Ethernet and all other ports in the back — while using the PC?
 
Last edited:

trsblader

macrumors 6502
May 20, 2011
450
203
Check out https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204592, specifically the bottom section. Ports and camera will not work in target display mode. You would have to connect them to the PC, not the iMac. That document also has a list of cables and ports you will need. Using converters and adapters very rarely, if ever, works. I believe Apple has documentation somewhere stating this as well, but I can't recall it quickly.
 

Richdmoore

macrumors 68000
Jul 24, 2007
1,956
355
Troutdale, OR
I have a 27" 2011 iMac that I want to use as a monitor for a gaming PC I plan on building.

I understand this will only work if I have a special device that converts the video output from the PC to a MiniDisplayport-shaped Thunderbolt signal that my iMac can receive for Target Display Mode to work properly ... but I don't know what that device looks like or where I can find one.

Does what I've described above exist? And if it does, would I then have access to all the other features of my iMac — speakers, microphone, webcam, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, the USB and Ethernet and all other ports in the back — while using the PC?

Several companies were said to be looking into making an adapter (mostly for inputting hdmi signals), but it never happened.

Thunderbolt Display mode on the 2011 is only from other thunderbolt macs (not even thunderbolt equipped pc’s.)
 

bungiefan89

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 5, 2011
565
76
Thunderbolt Display mode on the 2011 is only from other thunderbolt macs (not even thunderbolt equipped pc’s.)
Could you expand upon this with experience or a source?

I ask because up until VERY recently, this was what I thought to be the case ... until I was exposed to the existence of a PC Expansion Card like this, which accepts a video signal from the PC GPU and outputs it through the Thunderbolt 3 port, which in turn can be converted to Thunderbolt 2 via this Apple converter, before connecting to the screen in a configuration demonstrated in this video.

I realize that there's a difference between my iMac with its Thunderbolt 1 ports and the Thunderbolt 2-equipped Cinema Display in that video, but given that these two I/O have the same mini DisplayPort shape, it should still work with my machine from 2011, right? Or is my hope misplaced because Thunderbolt 1 is really that restrictive? :(
 

Richdmoore

macrumors 68000
Jul 24, 2007
1,956
355
Troutdale, OR
Could you expand upon this with experience or a source?

I ask because up until VERY recently, this was what I thought to be the case ... until I was exposed to the existence of a PC Expansion Card like this, which accepts a video signal from the PC GPU and outputs it through the Thunderbolt 3 port, which in turn can be converted to Thunderbolt 2 via this Apple converter, before connecting to the screen in a configuration demonstrated in this video.

I realize that there's a difference between my iMac with its Thunderbolt 1 ports and the Thunderbolt 2-equipped Cinema Display in that video, but given that these two I/O have the same mini DisplayPort shape, it should still work with my machine from 2011, right? Or is my hope misplaced because Thunderbolt 1 is really that restrictive? :(

Obviously I have not tried the setup above, but I honestly don't think it will work.

The iMac is not a thunderbolt display, rather it is a computer with a unique implementation to allow screen sharing between macs. In addition, in the official documentation, it even will not work if an otherwise compliant mac is running windows with bootcamp.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204592

  • If your iMac is currently started up in Windows, it won't enter Target Display Mode. Target Display Mode isn't supported in Boot Camp.
I am basing the rest on looking into it over the years, reading a bunch of threads, and never hearing of anyone getting any PC or HDMI to actually work, except either by mistaking the model year (Earlier than 2011 27 iMac which has display port rather than thunderbolt, which is much more compatible) or using a mac to mac only setup under macOS.

Other useful links:
https://www.tekrevue.com/tip/ins-outs-imacs-target-display-mode/
https://discussions.apple.com/thread/8233595
https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/new-2012-imac-as-external-display-for-pc.1474335/
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G5
Jul 30, 2003
13,489
4,414
Delaware
You can see from the amazon description page about that card that the mini DisplayPort is for video capture. It's not a video output.
The situation really hasn't changed with target display mode. The 2011 iMac supports a thunderbolt connection from a Mac.
There was some talk about third-party connections that could work with Apple's target display mode, but nothing ever came of that.
And, now that the feature is gone from more recent iMacs, there's little incentive for a company to produce a connection that is already restricted to only a few systems.
It's not really that Thunderbolt 1 is limited, but that the firmware (in the iMac) that provides the target display mode is the limitation.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G5
Jul 30, 2003
13,489
4,414
Delaware
So pre-2011 iMacs could do this?
Yes, but only the 2009-2010 27-inch iMacs had target display mode, through the mini DisplayPort connection. The 2011 models were the first with Thunderbolt, and require the actual thunderbolt cable, connected to a thunderbolt Mac to use that target display mode.
 

bungiefan89

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 5, 2011
565
76
You can see from the amazon description page about that card that the mini DisplayPort is for video capture. It's not a video output.
Technically, the video output was through the Thunderbolt 3 port on that card, but it's a moot point as the more and more I read into the MacRumors thread in Richdmoore's post (namely this post near the end) brings me to the depressing conclusion that this won't actually be possible ... and my 2011 iMac's display is forever restricted to outputting from the computer itself or the highly unlikely scenario of connecting another Thunderbolt-equipped Mac.

I was so jazzed to make myself a PC if I could bring my iMac's speakers and display, but now my interest has plummeted.

So pre-2011 iMacs could do this?
Yeah, heck, here's a video of someone using a (presumably pre-2011) iMac to output video from a PC simply by connecting the two via Mini DisplayPort.
 

Peter_M

macrumors regular
Jun 20, 2018
233
191
As others here have stated, connected to a PC with a post-2011 iMac does not work, period. There have been several topics and threads about this over the last few years, and there is no way to make it work. The ball is in Apple's court, as they put some kind of limitation in their iMac's Thunderbolt implementation.
 

bungiefan89

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 5, 2011
565
76
As others here have stated, connected to a PC with a post-2011 iMac does not work, period. There have been several topics and threads about this over the last few years, and there is no way to make it work. The ball is in Apple's court, as they put some kind of limitation in their iMac's Thunderbolt implementation.
And I really don't think I'll ever get over it either. Hamstringing this gorgeous screen behind such an obscure port when HDMI had been an industry standard for years is such an "Apple" thing to do.
 

vkd

macrumors 6502a
Sep 10, 2012
970
345
And I really don't think I'll ever get over it either. Hamstringing this gorgeous screen behind such an obscure port when HDMI had been an industry standard for years is such an "Apple" thing to do.

I agree, you can't use your equipment as you'd like because the manufacturer (Apple) have put an unnecessary necessity in place that cannot be worked around. You can't even use it as a monitor with your gaming console either. So, if you have an iMac and a PS4, Xbox, etc., you are forced to buy a separate monitor to plug it into, even though you have a perfectly good one sitting right there in front of you, blocked to the world. You have to pay good money for this 'priviledge' too, it is ludicrous, absurd, exploitative, dominating, oppressive, (add adjectives at your leisure).
 

Bradleyone

macrumors regular
Jul 7, 2015
232
262
Sydney, Australia
I wouldn't go that extreme, but I agree it is frustrating.

But it's hardly surprising for a company that still offers spinning rust hard drives because it saves a few dollars on the bill of materials.

The extra cost to add external display functionality would probably add $100+ to the retail price and Apple no doubt considers that would hurt the bottom line as only a small number of people would see it as a desirable feature.

Perhaps another case which shows Apple's marketing decisions are dominated by bean counters over engineers?

Anyway, one solution is to use a product like the Elgato HD60 S.

It provides an HDMI port (1080p60) through USB-C, and is compatible with virtually everything from a game console to an Apple TV.

I've even used mine to configure a Raspberry Pi, so that I don't have to lug in an HDMI TV.
 
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Peter_M

macrumors regular
Jun 20, 2018
233
191
Afaik, it's not the thunderbolt port itself that's the problem, but how Apple on purpose refuse to implement firmware support for using an iMac as external monitor. Even if you have a PC with a thunderbolt connection, it will not work.
 
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bungiefan89

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 5, 2011
565
76
Such irony. 8 days after I started this thread, the iMac died. GPU gave out. RIP my baby! Love you Apple, thanks for 7 years of joy!
 

OddyOh

macrumors 6502
Nov 29, 2005
317
102
Regina, SK, Canada
Anyway, one solution is to use a product like the Elgato HD60 S.

It provides an HDMI port (1080p60) through USB-C, and is compatible with virtually everything from a game console to an Apple TV.

I've even used mine to configure a Raspberry Pi, so that I don't have to lug in an HDMI TV.

Yes, this is what I'm doing as well, only because I found a slightly used HD60 S for a decent discount, full price it wouldn't be worth it. It's just ok...I'm also using it for a Raspberry Pi, 720p @ 60Hz. Sometimes the video 'jumps' a little bit, but nothing show-stopping. Also sometimes the HDMI audio from the Pi "skips" like crazy upon launch, but restarting the Elgato software fixes it for the rest of the session. Hopefully it continues to work under Mojave, but Elgato sold their gaming division, so I'm not expecting much support.

Anyway, off topic sort of, but had to chime in. This is the only video-in solution with low-latency I know of for modern iMacs. When I get a new iMac this fall, I expect I'll add a 4k monitor that can deal with the other devices I have and let the Mac be a Mac.
 

vkd

macrumors 6502a
Sep 10, 2012
970
345
I wouldn't go that extreme, but I agree it is frustrating.

But it's hardly surprising for a company that still offers spinning rust hard drives because it saves a few dollars on the bill of materials.

The extra cost to add external display functionality would probably add $100+ to the retail price and Apple no doubt considers that would hurt the bottom line as only a small number of people would see it as a desirable feature.

Perhaps another case which shows Apple's marketing decisions are dominated by bean counters over engineers?

Anyway, one solution is to use a product like the Elgato HD60 S.

It provides an HDMI port (1080p60) through USB-C, and is compatible with virtually everything from a game console to an Apple TV.

I've even used mine to configure a Raspberry Pi, so that I don't have to lug in an HDMI TV.

How does this recording device help you here? You have and iMac sitting on your desk, a games console and an Elgato HD 60 S. So you connect the console to the Elgato and then the Elgato to the iMac and it will display the game, but take the Elgato out and no picture?
 

Bradleyone

macrumors regular
Jul 7, 2015
232
262
Sydney, Australia
How does this recording device help you here? You have an iMac sitting on your desk, a games console and an Elgato HD 60 S. So you connect the console to the Elgato and then the Elgato to the iMac and it will display the game, but take the Elgato out and no picture?

You got it exactly. Even though the Elgato HD 60 S is marketed as a recording / streaming device, that doesn't mean it can't be used purely for monitoring.

Take the image full screen and it's indistinguishable from having the iMac 27" behave as if it's a native HDMI monitor. And as OddyOh mentioned, it's one of the lowest latency products of its kind.

Elgato sold their gaming division, so I'm not expecting much support.

That's interesting, I wasn't aware until you mentioned it. I see they've sold to Corsair. That could be good, as Corsair has an excellent reputation in the gaming PC area. (Emphasis on "PC" -- maybe you're right the Mac support could be lacking.)

I feel good about Corsair taking on Elgato's gaming products, though, as they are a solid brand and they'll stand by the hardware. In fact, I've just finished a watercooled PC build that has a number of Corsair components.

(Having owned a PowerMac G5, which I believe was Apple's only ever watercooled device and which met its end with a leak, you can believe I took 3 days making sure the tube fittings were extra tight!)
 
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OddyOh

macrumors 6502
Nov 29, 2005
317
102
Regina, SK, Canada
I feel good about Corsair taking on Elgato's gaming products, though, as they are a solid brand and they'll stand by the hardware. In fact, I've just finished a watercooled PC build that has a number of Corsair components.

Agreed, all my PCs have Corsair power supplies. Bottom line, certainly it's better to sell the gaming side to another company, than just shut it down. :)
 
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