Streaming HDCP Content

My Steam Link and I had a misunderstanding.


Executive summary: To watch HDCP-protected content via a Steam Link (or similar PC streaming device), ensure your PC monitor is switched on.


My brother bought me a Steam Link as an early birthday present this year. I have quite specific requirements for my home cinema system, and it fills a very obviously vacant niche.

Its second-most useful feature (after Wake-on-LAN) is the ability to control the desktop of the streaming server with a game controller. I had planned to use this for the purposes of watching films, catchup TV, and miscellaneous online content. This plan quickly crumbled when I was met with a warning (see inset right) courtesy of Amazon Instant Video.

Amazon cite HDCP incompatibility as the primary reason why they withhold high-definition video. HDCP is a digital copy-protection scheme designed to prevent eavesdropping on video while in transit, which I know is supported by my PC, AV receiver, TV, and of course the Steam Link.


But sure enough, after navigating to my graphics card control panel, my display was reported to be non-compliant with HDCP.

After scratching my head for 15 minutes, and fumbling in the dark with Windows settings (the hallmark of a top-class IT professional), I noticed that HDCP was in operation while I was sat in front of my PC. So what had changed?

No prizes for guessing; the answer's at the top of the page. Because I'd started my PC remotely, the monitor was switched off. I expect this prevents the HDCP "handshake" from completing. The moral of the story is to leave PC monitors on if they're to be used remotely. I wonder if this affects other headless streaming devices.

—James
19 July 2016