How to Connect a Laptop to Your TV

Sharing Images Between Two Devices

Three young people playing with laptop, in a hotel
Kaz Chiba/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

One way to show digital pictures and video to friends and family is for all to huddle around the home computer screen. Alternatively, you can connect the computer to a television and send the images to the TV. Technology also exists to network a TV and a computer in the other direction, so that you can watch television programs on your laptop or PC. Each method involves pros and cons including some setup challenges.

Displaying Digital Images on TV

With a digital camera or video recorder, you can create multimedia image files stored on your PCs. Showing these images to others can be inconvenient, however, especially if your computer screen is small and located in a private room of the house. Displaying them on a television usually allows you to show them at a larger size and in a more comfortable location.

You can connect a computer to a TV either with cables or via wireless. The best method to choose depends on the types of connections your TV supports as well as your budget for purchasing additional hardware.

Watching TV on the Computer

You may also be interested in watching television programs on a computer. This is also possible with the right wired or wireless equipment installed. Some TV broadcasts are accessible directly via the Internet and no connection to a television is required. Those who own Digital Video Recorders (DVR) may also prefer to connect their computer to the DVR rather than the television directly.

Connecting Computers to TVs With Wires

Televisions do not normally support Ethernet cable connections. Instead, you will typically connect your laptop or desktop PC to a TV using one of the following types of audio-visual (AV) cables:

  • S-Video
  • HDMI
  • DVI or HDMI-to-DVI
  • VGA
  • Any of the above - to-SCART (in Europe)

    See also: TV Terminology

    A scan converter is a device that translates the computer's video signal into standard TV formats. You may need to set up a scan converter to connect your computer and TV if, between them, the two do not support any compatible combination of AV cable technologies listed above. Newer televisions, however, generally support multiple types of digital inputs, and finding the right cable should not be too difficult.

    Making Wireless Connections Between Computers and TVs

    As an alternative to cables, you can also use any of several different methods to set up wireless connections between computers and TVs:

    • Some so-called smart TVs  support Wi-Fi.
    • For the many televisions that do not 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) like Google Chromecast plug into a TVs HDMI port and enable Wi-Fi.
    • Older PCs could be installed with Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) that supports   streaming to your television in addition to receiving television on the PC via TV tuner cards and shared across a home network via Media Center Extender product like the Linksys DMA2100.

      Pros and Cons of Connecting Computers and TVs

      Networking your computers and TVs provides the most convenient sharing of multimedia images:

      • Does not require connecting a digital camcorder or camera to the TY
      • Can make the necessary connections with either Windows, Mac or Linux computers
      • With Media Center Extender or similar capability, can direct content from any home computer to the TV

      You may also encounter a few challenges and limitations:

      • The screen resolution of older TVs is much lower than modern computer displays - your images and video may appear with lower quality when shown on the television.
      • When using AV cables, you may need to relocate the laptop or PC very close to the television to reach.
      • When using wireless connections, the effective range may be relatively short, depending on the equipment in use, due to the high volume of data involved in digital media.
      • Necessary hardware, especially the more advanced wireless gear, may be expensive to purchase.

      MoreHome Networking for TV (Television)

      Was this page helpful?