How to Connect Your Computer to Your TV

Use the big screen as a monitor for your laptop or desktop

A family using technology in one room

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Laptops definitely have their place, but nothing beats the huge monitor you get when connecting your computer to a big screen TV. Doing so lets you use the computer normally but without the need to buy an ultra-wide computer monitor just for a big display.

Once your computer is connected to your TV, you can use it like you would any monitor, like to watch movies, browse the web, 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 if you don't, you still have options for hooking up your computer to the TV, either wirelessly or wired.


How to Connect a Laptop or Computer to Your TV

Use Cables to Hook up the TV & Computer

VGA and HDMI ports on a laptop

What We Like

  • No Wi-Fi necessary.

  • You might already have the necessary cables.

  • Faster streaming rates.

What We Don't Like

  • You might have to place laptop close to the TV.

  • Wired connections are less convenient.

  • Can't cast from other rooms.

HDMI is a common cable type that lets you transfer not only HD video but also audio directly from the computer to the TV. This requires both your TV and computer to have an HDMI port, which most do.

While HDMI is the best option here, other ways to join your TV and computer is to use DVI, VGA, S-Video, or Thunderbolt.

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

  1. You might be wondering how to connect an Ethernet cable to your TV so that you can use the internet. The reason you don't need to do this is because all you need to do is transfer video to the TV, and audio if possible. Internet works through the laptop, so you don't need to worry about passing that internet access to the TV through ethernet.

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

  2. 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 the two don't support any compatible combination of AV cable technologies. Newer televisions usually support multiple types of digital inputs, which makes finding the right cable easy.

    Image of a converter to cable box.
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Connect the Computer to the TV Wirelessly

Boy kneeling in front of smart TV
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What We Like

  • Lets you sit far away from the TV.

  • Lots of options.

What We Don't Like

  • Requires network bandwidth.

  • You might have to buy extra hardware.

A wired connection requires the computer to be somewhat close to the TV, so if that's not something you're interested in, you can try hooking up the computer to the TV using a wireless connection.

There are a few ways you can go about this, but not all of them will work for everyone because it 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.

  1. Smart TV

    One of the easiest ways to get your TV to connect to your computer wirelessly is with a smart TV. There are lots of smart TVs to choose from and not all of them work the same way. But most let you share to your media files or even the whole computer screen itself directly from your laptop or desktop.

  2. 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, so long as the TV supports Miracast.

    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.

  3. Wireless Dongles

    For the many 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.

    Chromecast is one example of these internet connectors that lets you stream anything from your computer, be it your entire desktop, programs, or just certain Google Chrome tabs.

    Similar to this are wireless HDMI devices. 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 with each other.

    The Nyrius ARIES Prime Wireless Video HDMI Transmitter & Receiver is one example where you plug the smaller device into the computer and the other end into the TV. The two connect wirelessly to display the computer screen on the TV.

    Screenshot of a wireless dongle
     nattul/Getty Images
  4. Windows Media Center Edition

Older PCs with Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) installed can stream to a TV and even do the opposite: Receive television on the PC via a TV tuner card and Media Center Extender products like the Linksys DMA2100.

Connecting Your Laptop to a TV

There are pros and cons to connecting you laptop to a TV wirelessly or through a wired connection. The method you choose really depends on what devices you have and whether you want a faster wired connection, or a more versatile and flexible wireless connection.