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Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy, How-To Geek"s sister site focused life hacks, tips, and tricks. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at nhận xét Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker"s Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek. Read more...

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HDCP is an anti-piracy protocol built right into the HDMI cable standard, but it doesn’t actually work very well, & breaks the viewing experience. Read on as we explain how HDCP works, why it breaks your TV, và how you can fix it.

What Is HDCP?

HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital content Protection) is a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM protocols are designed to protect nội dung creators và distributors against piracy. Different companies and industries use different protocols, but the basic premise is the same: DRM locks purchases you make to you and your devices. When you buy a movie on iTunes & can only play it on devices with your account, you’re experiencing DRM.

Content creators and distributors should be afforded some protection, since it’s expensive to create and distribute content. The trouble is that DRM typically makes life more difficult for honest paying consumers—and in many cases outright breaks the experience—while not really doing much khổng lồ deter piracy. This is the kind of trouble we run into with games that require authorization servers to lớn run; if the company goes under so does the authorization server & suddenly the trò chơi won’t run.

In the case of the HDMI standard & digital video, the HDCP DRM standard causes an unfortunate number of headaches for regular old consumers just trying to lớn enjoy their televisions & engage in other legitimate activities.

HDCP was developed by Intel and is used not just with HDMI, but with a variety of digital đoạn clip standards like DisplayPort và Digital Visual Interface (DVI). It provides for an encrypted connection between a nội dung outputting device (like a Blu-ray player, cable box, or streaming device) on one end and a receiving device (like an HDTV or audio-video receiver) on the other end.

HDCP is everywhere and is built into devices lượt thích Blu-ray players, cable boxes, và satellite TV receivers, as well as into streaming đoạn clip devices lượt thích the Roku, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV. It’s also built into laptops and computer hardware, DVRs, & other modern HDMI devices.

RELATED: Why Does My New HDTV"s Picture Look Sped Up and "Smooth"?

Where HDCP Breaks Down

Although HDCP’s underlying encryption và protocols are sophisticated and outside the scope of this article, the basic premise of how it works is quite simple. There is a licensing toàn thân that issues licenses for HDCP devices. Each HDCP-compliant device, lượt thích your Blu-ray player or Xbox, has a license & the ability to talk lớn the receiving device on the other kết thúc of the HDMI cable.

The outputting device says “Hey display! Are you HDCP compliant? Here is my license, show me your license!” The display (or other HDCP compliant device) returns with “Why yes, I am legit! Here is my license!” When that process works, it happens within a thousandth of a second & you, the consumer, never even notice. You power on your Blu-ray player or DVR, it makes nice with your HDTV, và you live a happy life never knowing what HDCP even is.

Unfortunately, however, there are a host of situations where HDCP gets in the way of consumers doing perfectly legal things with their devices và content. If any device in the chain is not HDCP compliant, the đoạn clip stream will fail.

For example, if you have an older HDTV set that is not HDCP compliant then you cannot watch any HDCP compliant nội dung on it. If you plug in your HDCP-compliant device khổng lồ a non-compliant device, you’ll either see a blank screen or an error message lượt thích “ERROR: NON-HDCP OUTPUT,” “HDCP unauthorised,” or simply “HDCP ERROR.”


Want to lớn turn that old monitor with integrated speakers into a cheap little video box with a Chromecast? Sorry, there’s a very good chance that old monitor (despite having an HDMI port) is not HDCP compliant. You won’t be streaming anything khổng lồ it unless you want khổng lồ dedicate a whole computer to the project.

Want to record your video game sessions or stream them live? It’s hit or miss. Console makers have gotten better about recognizing that players want to record and stream their content, but HDCP is still problematic. The Sony Playstation lineup is a perfect example of this problem. While Sony did release an update in năm trước for the PlayStation 4 that unlocked HDCP while actually playing the game, they can’t provide the same update for the PlayStation 3 because the HDCP đầu ra is locked at the chip màn chơi in the PS3. Their only advice is khổng lồ buy a capture device that supports component cables và use those instead of HDMI.

RELATED: How to Enable HDMI-CEC on Your TV, and Why You Should

Even when we’re not actively watching TV or gaming, we still find HDCP to lớn be annoying and intrusive. We write all sorts of tutorials and đánh giá here at How-To Geek that involve HDMI-based products lượt thích the Amazon Fire TV & the like. You know what you can’t capture because of HDCP? The on-screen menus while the video content is loaded. It’s pretty irritating to lớn have a nội dung protection system get in the way of you reviewing và promoting streaming devices that legitimately deliver nội dung to millions of paying customers.

There’s nothing illegal or unethical about hooking a Blu-ray player up to lớn an old TV, trying to recycle an old computer monitor into a little Chromecast-powered streaming station, recording and streaming your clip game play, or trying to capture menus & screen shots to write tutorials and guides, but thanks to lớn a flawed DRM protocol anyone who wants lớn any or all of those things is left in the dark.

How lớn Fix Your HDCP Problem

Absolutely no one should have to lớn buy a new television set, tăng cấp their perfectly fine audio-video receiver, or otherwise spend significant piles of money khổng lồ solve a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Unfortunately, the only official way lớn comply with HDCP is khổng lồ buy an HDCP-compliant device.

The most absurd thing about the HDCP protection scheme is that there is no HDCP-compliant way lớn circumvent it for legitimate use cases. There are zero methods endorsed or supported by the agency in charge of HDCP that help consumers in any way if they have older equipment or a legitimate non-piracy need to lớn interact with an HDCP-compliant device.

To địa chỉ cửa hàng further insult to lớn injury, the HDCP standard has been compromised for years now. Manufacturers continue to pay for licenses và include HDCP in their products not because it’s actually helping khổng lồ stop piracy, but because they don’t want with the licensing agency and the anti-piracy lobby. So what can you bởi vì to khuyến mãi with the outdated and now compromised mess that is HDCP?


Short of buying a new television or giving up on your đoạn clip game project the only way to deal with your HDCP compliance problem is khổng lồ buy a cheap HDMI splitter that ignores HDCP requests.

We really wish we were kidding, but that’s the secret media center ingredient that has helped thousands of consumers và the very same secret ingredient that we use here at How-To Geek when we need to lớn take screenshots of an on-screen menu to lớn showcase a sản phẩm we’re reviewing.

Specifically, we use the ViewHD 2-Port 1×2 Powered HDMI Splitter (Model: VHD-1X2MN3D) ($20) because even among cheap HDMI splitters, there is no consistency khổng lồ whether they will be HDMI compliant (even, sometimes, among products from the very same company). A little careful reading and using the Amazon reviews search function goes a long way toward ferreting out cheap splitters that other consumers have had success with.


To use the splitter, simply put it between the output and display device. For example, say you have a simple cài đặt where you just want khổng lồ plug a Chromecast into an old monitor. Instead, you’d plug the Chromecast into the input on your HDMI splitter, & then use an HDMI cable to lớn connect the output on the splitter to lớn your display. If you have a new audio-video receiver that doesn’t play nice with your old HDTV, plug all your HDMI devices into the receiver and then place the HDMI splitter between the receiver and the display.

In the photo above you can see the simple cài đặt on our desk, used for capturing menus và screenshots while reviewing HDMI devices. In this example, we’re feeding an Amazon Fire TV Stick into the ViewHD splitter, then passing the signal over lớn the Roxio GameCapHD Pro so we can snap the screenshots on our computer. Where we place the GameCapHD Pro in the chain is where the vast majority of users seeking this solution would have their TV plugged in.

Here’s what our attempts at capturing good screenshots for our tutorials looked like before dealing with the HDCP problem.


You can see how such a screenshot would be pretty useless for our purposes; nobody wants to lớn see what the menu of a device they’re considering purchasing looks like with a big ugly error message across the back. In this example, even though we’re using a capture tool, you’re seeing exactly what a trang chủ user with a non-HDCP-compliant HDTV would see: the non HDCP-protected part of the video (the menu bar và pause button) is passed through, but the actual content is removed.

Here’s what the exact same screenshot looks like, but with the signal passed through the splitter to lớn strip away the HDCP nonsense.

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You can imagine, given our love for clever và thoughtful solutions to lớn the problems that plague people, how absurd we find it that the solution to lớn a problem which shouldn’t even exist is “buy an out-of-spec device that ignores the faulty protocol.” Nonetheless, that’s exactly the situation consumers find themselves in và thankfully, whether through poor or intentional design, there are products out there that get new truyền thông media players talking to old HDTVs.

Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an e-mail at ask

Jason FitzpatrickJason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy, How-To Geek"s sister site focused life hacks, tips, and tricks. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at nhận xét Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker"s Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek. Read Full Bio »
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