How to Connect Your Computer to Your TV

Six ways to use a TV as a monitor for your laptop or desktop

Connecting your laptop to a television can be an economical alternative to buying an ultra-wide computer monitor. Once your computer is connected to your TV, you can use it like you would any monitor to browse the web, watch movies, play games, and view vacation pictures. If you have a smart TV, then it's probably already capable of interacting with your computer over Wi-Fi, but there are multiple ways to hook up your computer to a TV with or without wires.

Instructions in this article apply broadly to all computers including PCs and Macs.

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How to Connect a Laptop or Computer to Your TV

Use Cables to Hook Up a TV to a Computer

HDMI is a type of cable that transfers HD video and audio directly from the computer to the TV. This requires both your TV and computer to have an HDMI port.

If your desktop computer doesn't support HDMI, you can replace the video card with one that does.

VGA and HDMI ports on a laptop
 Pxhere

While HDMI is the best option, you can also join your TV and computer via DVI, VGA, S-Video, or Thunderbolt connections. If you have an Ethernet cable connecting your computer to a modem, then you don't even need Wi-Fi to browse the web on your TV. You'll also get faster streaming that way. The only downside is that you must place your laptop close to the TV.

Connect the cable to the TV before you turn on the laptop. Otherwise, it may not recognize the external display.

Use a Scan Converter to Connect a Laptop to a TV

A scan converter is a device that translates the computer's video signal into standard TV format. You may need to set up a scan converter to connect your computer and TV if they don't support any compatible combination of AV cable technologies.

Image of a converter to cable box.
 Supersmario / Getty Images

Connect the Computer to the TV Wirelessly

The best option for you depends on the type of TV you have, the bandwidth you're paying for, and how much you want to spend to turn your TV into a wireless receiver.

Connect a Computer to a Smart TV

There are lots of smart TVs to choose from, and not all of them work the same way. Most let you to share your media files or the screen directly from your laptop or desktop.

Connect a TV and a Computer via Miracast

Screen sharing through Miracast is a feature built-in to Windows 10 and Windows 8 computers that lets you display the computer screen on the TV without any wires. If you want Miracast but your TV doesn't support it, Microsoft sells the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter that turns your HDTV into one that works with Miracast computers.

Connect a Computer and a TV With Wireless Dongles

For televisions that don't support Wi-Fi, you can install a separate unit between the computer and TV. Wireless dongles, sometimes called digital media receivers or wireless PC-to-TV systems, plug into a TV's HDMI port to turn it into a smart TV.

They work much like HDMI cables, but instead of having to lay a cable across the room from your computer to your TV, you plug both the TV and computer into small HDMI devices that communicate wirelessly. Chromecast is one example of such connectors that let you stream from your desktop. The Nyrius ARIES Prime Wireless Video HDMI Transmitter & Receiver is another option.

Screenshot of a wireless dongle
 nattul / Getty Images

Connect a Computer to a TV With Windows Media Center Edition

Older PCs with Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) installed can stream to a TV. They can even receive television via a TV tuner card and Media Center Extender products like the Linksys DMA2100.