Fact Checked

What is a VGA Cable?

John Lister
John Lister

A VGA cable is a lead used for transmitting video signals, and it is most commonly used to link computers with monitors. Some high definition televisions use this type of cable as well. VGA stands for video graphics array, and it was a graphics standard used by IBM in its early PCs sold in the 1980s. Today, all PCs support VGA, but most of them use a more advanced system depending on the actual monitor used. The Windows® loading screen appears using VGA as it is seen before the computer loads the relevant information about the monitor to use.

In most cases, the term "VGA" refers to the type of cable used to carry the display signals, regardless of the actual graphics system being used. It’s characterized by 15 pins on the plug in three rows of five. The plug also has two screws, one either side of the pins, that secure it into place in the socket. These screws have ridged edges, meaning they can be tightened and loosened by hand rather than needing a screwdriver.

A VGA cable.
A VGA cable.

There are a wide range of VGA cables available at differing prices. More expensive models offer features such as gold plating on the plugs, or shielding to prevent the individual wires from causing interference. Many people believe these offer little improvement and generally aren’t worth the extra costs, however, and as a rule of thumb, the difference in picture quality between an extremely cheap cable and an averagely priced one will be much more significant than between an averagely priced cable and an expensive one. Individuals should also buy the shortest cable that meets their needs, as this will prevent signal degradation.

In addition to computers, VGA cables can be used with some games consoles, allowing them to be used with a computer monitor, which may offer a better quality picture than older cathode ray televisions, particularly for games that have fine detail or small text. The quality will not be as good as with a television set that can connect to the console through a component video connection or a high-definition input such as HDMI, which means that it is often only a makeshift option.

Some high definition television sets have a VGA input, and there is a great debate about whether an analog signal carried by a video cable can offer picture quality as good as the digital signal carried through methods such as HDMI. There is also a problem that some television sets with multiple sockets only have advanced picture processing features switched on for digital connections. The relatively low price of a VGA cable means this option may be worth trying out before people decide to switch the screen or input device to models that carry digital signals.

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Discussion Comments


@clintflint - I never bought a new one, I just used the one that we had on my desktop. I try not to throw out the old computers until I'm sure I've scavenged everything I can possible get out of them, since you never know when something is going to come in useful. A

As for buying HDMI and VGA cables be careful that they don't try to foist needlessly expensive gear on you. It's OK to pay a bit more for a longer cable, but people often get taken in by the seller claiming that this cable is state of the art, and that's why it costs $100. They are all the same cables. They either work or they don't work. Just get the cheapest option.


@anon34598 - It might be that one of your cables has worn out, but I don't know much about fixing monitors to be honest. You're probably better off asking on a tech forum, or putting the warning that came up into Google and seeing if anyone else has had your problem.

All I know about VGA cables is that you can use them to connect your laptop to the TV which is how I watch movies most of the time now. It definitely pays to get a long VGA cable if you're going to do this.


I've noticed that the price of HDMI cables has dropped significantly. It is my preferred method of connecting my devices because I think it offers a better quality over a traditional 15-pin VGA connection.

From what I have read on tech blogs though, there is a new standard being adopted by manufacturers that uses an RJ-45 type connection that is traditionally used as a network cable. I wish we could stick to one standard that produces the best quality.


my hp 19 inch monitor keeps flashing auto adjustment in progress recommended settings 1440x900-60hz. i have had this monitor for about a year and this just started happening. what do i do to fix it? my computer is running fine.

i also get vga input active, dvi input no signal. does this mean anything to me?

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    • A VGA cable.
      By: de_marco
      A VGA cable.