Connecting your laptop to your TV is actually very easy: all you need is the right cable, lead or streaming hardware and you'll be watching content from your laptop on your television in no time. We'll take you through how to connect your laptop to a TV in this step-by-step guide which includes wireless, HDMI, VGA and other methods. See all Laptop tips and tutorials.
You don't have to spend a small fortune to get all the features of the latest smart TVs. One cheap and easy way to get the internet on your TV is to connect it to your laptop. Doing this lets you stream catch-up TV from services such as BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and Netflix through your laptop onto your big TV screen, or even projector.
What cables do I need to connect my laptop to a TV?
In order to connect your laptop to your TV you are going to need to take a look at what ports are available on both your laptop and TV. This easiest way to connect the two is with an HDMI cable. Unless your laptop is really old, or was a super-budget model, it should have an HDMI output. Virtually all TVs made in the last six years or so also have HDMI ports. (The HDMI port is highlighted in red below.)
Another popular way to connect a laptop to a TV is via a VGA cable and a 3.5mm audio lead (which connects to your laptop's headphone port) - one cable each for video and sound. Only use this method if one or both of your devices doesn't have an HDMI port. The VGA port is labeled as PC IN on the image below.
If your laptop has no video output, you can connect your laptop to your TV via an adapter which plugs into your laptop's USB port and provides a VGA output. These cost from around £20.
If you can't or don't want to have a wire between your laptop and TV, another option is to go wireless.There are various options here depending on your laptop's capabilities since a few laptops have a built-in wireless system called WiDi (Intel Wireless Display) which works with a compatible receiver such as Netgear's Push2TV.
There are also wireless systems which plug into the HDMI port on your TV and laptop (possibly the USB port on your laptop), sending the video wirelessly. These aren't generally cheap, though, and most wireless video systems have a hit on video quality.
A different way to approach the problem is to use a dedicated media streamer such as Western Digital's WDTV, Google's Chromecast, Roku's Streaming Stick, or even Apple's TV. See also: How to set up and use a Google Chromecast.
The Apple TV is designed to work with your iPad or iPhone, but can also stream video from any computer or NAS running iTunes. It's quite limited as videos have to be one of only a couple of supported file formats. Plus there's no access to BBC iPlayer, Sky Go or other catch-up TV. For more on media streamers, see later in the article.
How to connect a laptop to TV using HDMI
Connecting a laptop to a TV via a HDMI cable is the best and easiest way, as cables are cheap and provide the best quality HD picture and sound. It only requires one lead too, as HDMI handles both video and audio.
To connect a laptop to a TV using a HDMI cable, all you need to do is plug the cable into your laptop and then one of your HDMI ports on your TV. If you're using an up-to-date version of Windows, all that you should need to do is ensure your laptop is switched on, and your TV is set to the correct HDMI channel, the laptop should automatically configure to give you the best settings from here. (See also How to speed up a slow PC)
If for some reason it does not automatically select the right setting, you simply need to go to Control Panel > Display > Adjust Resolution - from here you will see two drop down boxes. The first thing you will need to do is toggle the Display drop down to ensure that your TV is selected, next you need to ensure that the Resolution drop down box matches the settings that are correct for your TV.
1. Turn your laptop and TV on.
2. Connect your HDMI lead to both your TV and laptop (any order).
3. Select the correct HDMI input on your TV (usually by pressing the AV button).
4. If your laptop does not automatically output its screen to the TV, go to Control Panel > Display > Adjust Resolution and select the TV in the Display drop down box.
How to connect a laptop to a TV using VGA
Another straightforward way to connect your laptop to your TV is by using the VGA port on both devices. This is likely to only be an option for those of you with a laptop that is over 4/5 years old.
VGA is a video lead only, so you will have to accompany this with a 3.5mm audio lead, that you need to connect from the headphone out socket of your laptop to your audio in port of your TV or external speakers.
Using a VGA means Windows should automatically configure the settings like it would if you were using a HDMI cable. However, if you're experiencing difficulties go to Control Panel > Display > Adjust Resolutions and follow the directions above.
1. Turn your laptop and TV on.
2. Connect your VGA cable to both your TV and Laptop (any order).
3. Now do the same with your 3.5mm audio jack – use the headphone out port on the laptop and audio in on your TV or speakers.
4. Go to Control Panel > Display > Adjust Resolution and ensure that TV is selected in Display drop down box.
How to connect a laptop to a TV using USB
Strictly speaking, a USB to USB connection from a laptop to a TV shouldn't work. However, there are several companies that have developed adapters that will convert your USB port to a HDMI out. The only catch here is that you need additional software for your laptop to turn the USB port into a Video out port, so we strongly suggest you check the USB to HDMI adapter you want is compatible with your laptop before you buy.
If the adapter is compatible, then setting up this method is largely straightforward. First of all you need to install the adapter's software/driver, then it's simply a case of running the software and connecting your laptop to your TV.
How to connect your laptop to a TV using USB stick / external hard drive
If you've got a reasonably new TV, then there is a good chance that it will have a USB port. Depending on your TV's capabilities, you might be able to watch video content that is stored on your laptop simply by transferring it to an USB stick / external hard drive and plugging that into the TV.
Providing the video format is supported by the TV (MP4 is almost universally supported), watching content should be as easy as plugging your USB stick / external hard drive into your TV, selecting the USB input and choosing the video you want to watch via the TV's file explorer software.
1. Ensure the video file format is compatible with your TV (you can check this by searching for your TV model on the manufacturers website and checking its specifications).
2. Copy the video file(s) to your USB drive.
3. Insert USB into TV.
4. Select the USB channel on your TV.
5. Use the TV's file explorer to locate and play the desired video.
How to connect your laptop to a TV wirelessly using WD TV Live media streamer
WD TV Live is a media streamer that you plug into the HDMI port of your TV and connects to your home network via its Ethernet port or Wi-Fi. This gizmo lets you play virtually any file including MKV, MP4, XVID, AVI, ISO/VOB and MOV.
All you need to do is connect the WD TV Live to your network and TV and share your laptop's video folder on the network and WD TV Live will do the rest (providing you're using a Plug-and-Play router, which practically all are).
The WD TV Live also turns your telly into a semi-Smart TV as it gives you access to heaps of TV apps, including Netflix, YouTube and Vimeo.
1. Connect your WD TV Live set-top box to your home network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
2. Hook up the WD TV Live to your TV with a HDMI Cable.
3. Share the folder – with the videos you wish to watch on your TV – to your home network.
4. Select the HDMI channel that you have plugged in your WD TV Live into.
5. Use the WD file explorer to locate your shared video folder.
How to connect your laptop to a TV: brief tutorial
Words: Carrie-Ann Skinner
There are plenty of reasons to connect your laptop to your TV so you can view whatever's displayed on the PC's screen on your TV. Perhaps you enjoy catching up on TV shows using web-based services. Alternatively maybe you've got a number of video clips and photos stored on your PC that you'd like to see on a big screen. It's a very easy task. Here's how to do it.
You'll need to start by looking at the ports on both your Television and your laptop. They'll be at least one of the following connections; Composite, S-Video, VGA, DVI, or HDMI port for connecting an external display. However, you'll only be able to use whichever you have a corresponding port on your TV. Check which port your machine has and then connect the second display. It's worth noting if you use S-Video, the audio will continue to be served through the laptop, which is great if your laptop has a good sound system. If not, you'll need a connector that handles audio too.
Now you need to configure the settings for the second monitor in Windows. From the Start Menu, select Control Panel and then open the Appearance and Personalization menu. Select Connect an external display from the Display menu. Make sure the display is duplicated on the TV, rather than being used to extend the desktop of your PC.
From this window you also adjust the resolution for the laptop's display and the TV, as if the resolution and aspect ratio of your TV and laptop don't match, your picture will be distorted. From the Display drop-down menu select the relevant display, and then press the Resolution button. Now use the slider to adjust the resolution. However, it's advisable to use the recommended resolution (which will be identified in your manuals) for each of the displays. Now you can watch content stored on your PC on your TV.