Can I Use My All in One Computer as a Monitor?

This is whether you can use your all in one computer as a monitor.

The answer is both yes and no.

So if you want to find out if you can use your all-in-one computer as a monitor, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s jump right in!

Table of Contents

All in One Computer vs. Monitor

All in one computers are great for several reasons.

First, you don’t have to purchase a monitor, keyboard, and mouse separately.

Another plus is that you can keep your work area more organized if you buy and all in one. It’s also a great choice if you’re limited on space. 

Most all in ones are designed for 3 main purposes. These include web browsing, productivity, and media consumption. For example, if you are a heavy gamer, an all in one computer might not be the best choice. 

External monitors are used in one of three ways. These include mirroring, or duplicating, and displaying the same images on all. 

Other features typically include spanning, which extends and combines all displays into one shared workspace, or projecting or displaying an image on an external display while disabling the built-in display.  

What Should I Look for in an All in One Computer?

If you are dead set on an all in one computer, also known as an AIO, there are some key things you should consider when shopping around for the best one for you.

Modern desktop computer on a white table.

It’s important to note that most AIOs are not user-serviceable and last for about 5 years. 

Typically the display should be 4K. In addition to the display, other considerations include storage, CPU, memory, GPU, price, design, and ports.  

The ports are essential, especially if you wonder, can I use my all in one computer as a monitor?

It’s also important that there are various ports, such as a USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0, headphone and mic jacks, and memory card reader.  

Not only is it important to find an all in one with the right number of ports, but ease of accessibility to the ports is a feature to not overlook.

Often these ports are tucked in the back where they are difficult for the user to reach.

Depending on how much you’ll plug and unplug cords from the ports, hard to reach spots on your AIO may be a deal-breaker.

One or Two Monitors?

Like your AIO, there are some important things to consider to look out for if you decide to use two monitors.

Depending upon your all in one, you need to look for the maximum resolutions it can support. 

Other features to watch for include the refresh rate, as a higher refresh rate will change more quickly, allowing for better quality.  

Another caveat is to pay attention to the effect on battery power if you connect your all in one to a laptop.

Powering more pixels tends to drain laptop batteries.

Lastly, consider contrast ratios, response time, and viewing angles when using your all in one as a monitor.  

Now that you know what to look for, the all-important question to answer is, why should I use a second screen and can I use my all in one computer as a monitor? 

A second screen has numerous benefits. In fact, beyond more room to work, two screens will allow the user to multi-task, edit side by side, and compartmentalize documents and apps, among other benefits. 

All in One as a Monitor: It’s Complicated

So, can you use your all in one computer as a monitor? The answer is both yes and no

You can use your all in one computer as a monitor, but it might be tricky. Usually, all in one computers work only as display in, but can’t be used as a monitor. 

This doesn’t mean that using your all in one as a monitor is out of the question. You can connect the all in one using an HDMI port, but finding that elusive HDMI port might prove to be a problem.  

Using your all in one computer as a monitor depends on several factors.

Typically all in one computers don’t usually have an obvious way to connect because there are a lack of video ports, as stated above. In fact, most display ports are OUT ports only. 

That’s why it’s essential to check for these features before buying an all in one.

Before connecting your all in one, one thing to consider is to have the appropriate male/female connections on the cables for both devices. 

Getting Around the Port

Fear not. There may be a number of ways you can get around this issue and use your all in one computer. In fact, depending upon the computer, there are a number of ways to use it in this manner. 

First things first, you will want to check for the video input port. The newer all in one’s will have either a socket for HDMI or a DisplayPort.

Close-up of HDMI cable plug inserted into port on the side of a laptop.

If you have an older computer, you will want to look for a white DVI port or a blue VGA socket.     

If this is the case, you have lucked out, and all you need is a proper cable depending upon what video import port you have, as stated above. 

If your computer does not have one, you can go to the Windows Action Center on the all in one and click connect.

On the PC, you will click “Project,” and this should establish a wireless connection. 

HDMI Sockets

If your AIO has the proper HDMI socket , log in to the operating system on your all in one desktop and plug in the HDMI cable. Depending on your model, there may be a toggle button which you can move back and forth between screens. 

Always make sure that you have a signal from the other computer. This signal may go out if the all in one goes into a sleep mode, therefore losing the connectivity.

If you want to pare down to one keyboard and mouse, there is a way to do this through a USB port as well. 

Minimizing your keyboard and mouse can declutter your workspace, which is probably one of the reasons why you chose and all in one model in the first place.  

Don’t Have a USB Port?

If you don’t have a USB port on your computer, you might start browsing ways to use your computer as a monitor. 

There are forums and other sites that suggest that you can use your AIO as a monitor if you don’t have a USB port, but we don’t recommend these methods.

Some of these methods are more of a DIY project that can permanently damage your computer and potentially harm you if you’re not careful. 

If you’re curious about how to make your AIO a monitor but don’t have a USB in port, contact your local computer professional for some advice. Don’t attempt to disassemble or modify your computer on your own.

What Are My Options?

So, what are the other options you have in order to get you all in one connected as a monitor?

Dual display monitor and midi keyboard for music production.

Another way to use your all in one computer is through the output video via the USB port. In order to do this, an adapter converts the format into one compatible with your computer. 

You will need a USB video adapter, which is available in VGA, HDMI, or DisplayPort outputs. This depends on the inputs on the second computer.  

Adapt and Dongle

What’s the deal with an adapter? Well, if you have no compatible port, this would be your option. Some computers will allow for a USB-C port, but there is also an adapter to convert a USB-C to HDMI. 

Why would you need this adapter? Well, the USB-C port is basically the newer version of the tried and true USB port. Only some computers have this because it is so new. 

While it does provide better connectivity and delivers data faster, it is, again, not as common as the USB port. So what is the alternative? Well, that device is called a dongle. 

What is a dongle? Yes, you may be very familiar with some computer terms like hard drive, mouse, or USB. Well, a dongle is basically like an extension cord for your computer. 

This cord plugs into an open slot or port in your computer. A dongle also usually has 1 or more ports of its own, allowing for even more connected devices.  

Here’s the tricky part. Different computers require different dongles. For example, there is a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable. If you prefer HDMI, that’s not a problem as there is a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI dongle.  

If All Else Fails, Software

If that doesn’t work, you can always purchase remote desktop software. This purchase will also come with some warnings. 

Three of the most important include that the software should be from the software maker only, it typically should have a Windows-based download and should have been updated in the last year or two.  

Here’s a video on using an all-in-one computer as a monitor: