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Beginner Geek: How to Connect a Laptop to a Television

Hooking up a desktop computer to a monitor is simple; you just plug it in and it works.  Connecting a laptop to a television should be just as easy, right?  Well, not always.  Read on as we explain several ways to hook up a laptop to your TV.

Connection Types

Televisions, at least the more recent ones, typically support a lot of different connections, so it’s all about finding the one that will allow your computer to hook up to it.  The newer your laptop and TV, the easier this process will be, and the better the video and audio quality will be.

HDMI Connections

All modern televisions have HDMI inputs, and it’s currently the best way to connect any device to a TV.  HDMI delivers superior audio and video in a lightweight cable that’s easy to connect and tuck away.  If you’re trying to hook your laptop up to a television you bought within the last few years (HDMI was in widespread use as early as 2005), then HDMI will be the way to go.

HDMI to HDMI

The most common and basic way of plugging into your television’s HDMI port will be from the HDMI port on your laptop.  As with TVs, the majority of recently manufactured laptops will have an HDMI port on them.  HDMI cables are cheap and connecting your devices with this method will be a breeze, especially since they are extremely easy to come by.

DVI to HDMI

You’ll probably never see a laptop or television with a DVI port on it.  However, it’s pretty common to find them on desktop computers.  DVI uses digital signals to send video output, so it can be easily adapted to HDMI while still maintaining great quality.  The biggest drawback to using DVI instead of HDMI is that it doesn’t carry audio.

HDMI to Thunderbolt or Mini DisplayPort

Thunderbolt and Mini DisplayPort use identical connections, and either one can be used to deliver high quality video and audio to your TV via HDMI.  Since both connections are digital, they can also be converted to DVI.  You can also purchase an adapter to convert either of these connections to VGA.  Keep in mind that if you went the DVI or VGA route, you would lose sound.

HDMI to DisplayPort

DisplayPort can be easily converted to DVI or HDMI (all three are digital).  You will retain superb video and audio quality by using your DisplayPort connection, so it’s right on the same level as using HDMI, but the cable is obviously less common.

VGA Connections

VGA to VGA

VGA connections are common on computers and televisions, but are becoming outdated, so you may not see them on newer laptop models.  VGA can produce a good looking picture, but is not in the same league as its digital counterparts (HDMI, DVI).  VGA also can’t carry sound. The port in the picture above is labeled “RGB” – RGB and VGA are compatible, but that explanation is beyond the scope of this article.

VGA to DVI

It would be a little unusual to resort to this connection, as it’s a lot more likely that you’ll be able to hook up your devices with just VGA or at least DVI to HDMI.  However, there are some cases in which you’d have to use this connection type.  You’ll get the analog quality that VGA provides, and will have to find another way to get sound working.

Audio Connections

If you are using VGA or DVI to connect your computer to a TV, you’ll have to find another way to get your audio going.  You basically have two choices: you can use external speakers that you hook up to your computer (or use the speakers built into your laptop), or you can use a separate audio cable to output the sound from your computer to the TV.

Usually, your TV will accept a 3.5mm cable that can be used in conjunction with the video signal.

Wireless Connections

If you’d rather cut the cord and go wireless, there are a lot of products available that can transmit your computer’s video signal to your TV over your WiFi network.  Netgear Push2TV is one such example, but there are plenty of alternatives, so look around for a good price and highly rated reviews.

5.1-wireless

These products are small devices that can plug into your TV via HDMI and then connect wirelessly to your computer.  This may not be an ideal solution for streaming really high performance video, like if you plan to use it to play video games.  However, with a good connection to your router, you should have no problem streaming 1080p video this way.

They’re plugged in, now what?

With your laptop plugged into your TV, both devices should recognize the connection and adjust automatically.  A prompt may pop up on your TV, asking you if you’d like to switch to the new input it detected.

If your TV doesn’t automatically detect and adjust itself for the new connection, you will have to manually select the correct input on your TV.  If you are on the correct input and still don’t see a picture, you’ll need to adjust the display settings on your computer.

The easiest way is to press the Start key + P.  From there, you can decide how you’d like to use the television display (clone, extend, etc).

Windows 8:

Windows 7:

Korbin Brown is an IT enthusiast with a passion for writing. He enjoys troubleshooting complex Windows, Linux, and networking issues and sharing his experiences with fellow geeks.

  • Published 01/19/14

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