How Do I Know if My Computer Supports HDCP?

Not too long ago, getting a crisp image and surround sound from a new DVD player required the use of 11 different analog cables. Thankfully, the HDMI cable came to our rescue a few years ago. The most recent version, 2.0 b, can carry 4k at 60 hertz with up to 32 channels of surround sound and even HDR, all on a single cable. With all the cool copyrighted content flowing through that one convenient pipe, the powers that be wanted to make sure it couldn’t be copied without permission. This is why most HDMI source and display devices, set-top boxes, graphics cards, TVs, and even the Chromecast support High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection or HDCP.

The idea behind HDCP is to keep devices from recording content at its original quality. HDCP restrictions only kick in with specifically encrypted content, most commonly movies and TV shows. You may have encountered it if you’ve ever tried to create a backup of a Blu-ray you bought or if you’ve tried to run a screen capture software while watching Netflix, which does use HDCP compliant streaming.

While HDCP has ended up frustrating average users far more than the people trying to make a quick buck distributing pirated copies of Blade Runner, there are workarounds. The most common way to defeat some of these HDCP frustrations is with a proper HDMI splitter, many of which ignore HDCP and sometimes allow new and old equipment to play together more nicely. Of course, they also allow you to send your HDMI signal to multiple screens, but the splitter still has to be recognized by your source device.

HDCP is great at angering normal consumers but terrible at stopping piracy, as the encryption scheme it uses is relatively weak and has already been cracked, including the most recent version at the time of filming 2.2. One day, we may be able to convince our corporate overlords to ditch HDCP, but given that these are the same geniuses that gave us things like root kits on audio CDs, mandatory online gameplay, and product activation, we may be in for a bit of a wait.

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