Have you ever wondered why Netflix doesn’t allow you to screengrab from its shows—let alone screen record?
Or maybe, every time you try to play rented films from your Apple TV to your Macbook, a playback error pops up?
Well, it has something to do with HDCP or High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection.
The thing is, HDCP isn’t a toggle you can switch on or off on a Macbook. But the good news is you can work around HDCP issues by using an HDMI splitter, turning on Safe Mode, or authorizing your Macbook.
Let’s talk in detail about HDCP and how to bypass it with your Mac.
What is HDCP?
HDCP is an acronym for High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection—a copy protection system developed by Intel to prevent digital content from being copied at its original quality.
The main purpose of HDCP is to prevent piracy of digital audio and video content (movies, TV shows, video games, etc.). This is done via a ‘handshake protocol’ across devices to permit HDCP-encrypted content to be played.
That said, the devices to be connected must both be HDCP-compliant for them to be able to play video and audio content.
HDCP workarounds for Mac
You can bypass HDCP protocols from your Mac using 3 ways: via an HDMI splitter, turning on Safe Mode, or authorizing your Macbook.
Using an HDMI splitter
An HDMI splitter is a compact device that ‘splits’ signals from a single HDMI pipe, hence the name. This is the most common way to bypass HDCP encryption regardless of what device you use for playback. All you have to do with an HDMI splitter is to plug and play!
Just a note: the HDMI splitter method is a hit or miss. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. A mismatch of HDCP versions between devices can cause this. When connecting, for example, your Apple TV to your Macbook, they will need to have the same version of HDCP encryption for your playback to be successful.
Running your Mac on safe mode
Intel-chip Macs and M1 Macs both have a feature called ‘Safe Mode’. Safe mode is a different way to boot up your Mac.
When a Mac boots on safe mode, only the bare essentials are running. This loosens up the Mac’s operability, making it easier to oversee which programs clog the system.
Here are the following steps to boot up safe mode on an Intel Mac:
- Shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds
- Hold down the power button and shift key together
- Hold down on the shift key until the login page appears
- You are now in safe mode
Booting up an M1 Mac on safe mode has additional steps. See the following:
- Shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds
- Hold down the power button until a message “booting with more options” appear
- Select your startup disk, in which case is your SSD
- Press and hold the shift key and then click “boot into safe mode”
- Wait for the Mac to boot into safe mode
- Once it’s done, you will see a red indicator that says you’re in safe mode
- Enter your login details, and you’ll be in safe mode
To get out of safe mode, simply shut down your Mac and reboot it normally.
Remember that an HDCP issue may or may not be fixed by simply booting up on safe mode. Nonetheless, it’s a solution that works for some and there’s no harm in trying the same for you!
Authorizing your Macbook
Some Apple users also encounter HDCP errors on their iTunes purchases. The solution for this is to try authorizing your Mac.
By authorizing your Mac, you’re allowing your device access to your iTunes content. This process can also work for PCs.
To authorize your Mac, you will first need to update it to the latest OS.
After that’s done, complete the following steps below:
- Using your Mac, open your Music app, Apple TV app, or Apple Books app. For PC, open your iTunes program
- Enter your Apple ID login details
- On the upper corner of your screen, choose Account > Authorizations > Authorize this Computer
Try opening the content you want to watch so you can check if the authorization method solved your HDCP issue.
To check all your authorized devices within your account, repeat steps 1 & 2 above, but this time, choose Account > View My Account on the menu bar. This will prompt you to log in to your details again.
Once done, it will take you to your Apple ID Summary page. Check Computer Authorizations for the number of devices authorized in your account. It won’t indicate what exact device it is.
All in all, we’ve given you three ways to solve the HDCP issue on your Mac: using an HDMI splitter, turning on safe mode, or authorizing your Mac.
The most popular (and easiest) is the HDMI splitter option because you won’t be performing a series of clicks—you plug and play.
Of course, there might be instances where this will not simply work due to incompatible HDCP versions across devices.
In case that happens, you can always try the safe mode method or the authorization method.
If none of these work, and you need to watch specific content but can’t because of HDCP, you might have to replace your device.
Old devices, be it your television, laptop, DVD players—are guaranteed to have an older version of HDCP embedded. This might be the main cause why an HDCP error keeps popping up.
Bear in mind that results may vary for all the suggestions listed above. Whether or not the suggestions will work will depend on the model of your Mac, the HDMI splitter you get, and the device you want to play the content on.
Vance is a dad, former software engineer, and tech lover. Knowing how a computer works becomes handy when he builds Pointer Clicker. His quest is to make tech more accessible for non-techie users. When not working with his team, you can find him caring for his son and gaming.