How to Connect Your Macbook Air to a TV

Make your TV even smarter by connecting it to your MacBook

Man sat looking at a laptop while a wall-mounted TV plays in the background.

Sidekick/Getty Images

Wondering how to connect a MacBook Air to a TV? It's often more complicated than it should be. Fortunately there are several methods for getting your laptop’s content to show up on your TV.

Reasons to Connect Your MacBook Air to a TV

Connecting a MacBook Air to a TV gives you all the functionality of an external monitor, meaning you’ll be able to mirror or expand your desktop and give yourself a greater workspace. It allows you to browse the web on the big screen, share presentations, videos, pictures, and more.

Before Connecting a MacBook Air to TV

Before you get started, it’s important to determine what type of ports you have on your TV and on your MacBook Air. There are several TV video input standards, but VGA (sometimes referred to as RGB) and HDMI are the most common.

HDMI supports higher resolution displays and has faster transfer rates making it better suited for connecting your MacBook Air to a TV. However, if your TV only has a VGA port, or it’s the only input you have available, you can still use it to connect your MacBook Air.

Understanding MacBook Air Display Ports

The MacBook Air has gone through several iterations, offering a variety of video display ports. If you're using one of the first MacBook Airs featuring a Micro-DVI port, this guide will not help.

However, these instructions will work with MacBook Airs that have a Mini DisplayPort, a Thunderbolt port, or a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port.

To check what type of video display port your device has:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your desktop.
  2. Go to About This Mac > Support.
  3. Click Specifications. This will open a browser page showing you a detailed spec list for your device.
  4. Scroll down to Graphics and Video Support where you will see details of your display port and the various technologies it supports.

Hardware for Connecting Your MacBook Air to a TV

Once you have established which ports you have on your TV and MacBook Air, you will need the correct adapters and cables.

If you are using a MacBook Air with a Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt port and connecting to your TV's HDMI port, you will need:

  • A Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter.
  • An HDMI male-to-male cable long enough to operate your MacBook Air at a comfortable distance from the TV.

If you are using a MacBook Air with a Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt port and connecting to your TV's VGA port, you will need:

  • Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter.
  • A VGA male-to-male cable long enough to operate your MacBook Air at a comfortable distance from the TV.

If you are using the MacBook Air with USB-C Thunderbolt ports and connecting to your TV's HDMI port, you will need:

  • USB-C to HDMI cable long enough to operate your MacBook Air at a comfortable distance from the TV.

If you are using the MacBook Air with USB-C Thunderbolt ports and connecting to your TV's VGA port, you will need:

  • USB-C to VGA adapter.
  • A VGA male-to-male cable long enough to operate your MacBook Air at a comfortable distance from the TV.

How to Connect your MacBook Air to Your TV using HDMI

For this demonstration, we will be connecting a MacBook Air using a Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter, connecting to the TV's HDMI port. You can of course follow the same steps using the appropriate adapters and cables for your set-up.

  1. Make sure your TV and your MacBook Air are both turned off.

  2. Plug your HDMI cable into an available HDMI port on your TV.

  3. Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to the Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter.

    HDMI cable connected to Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter.
  4. Attach your Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter to your MacBook Air via the Lightning port.

    Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter attached to MacBookAir.
  5. Turn on your TV. Make sure it’s set to the correct HDMI input.

  6. Turn on your MacBook Air and login as usual. You should see your display mirrored on the TV right away.

If you don’t see your MacBook Air mirrored to your TV, you need to adjust your display settings on your laptop. Click the Apple icon in the upper left of your MacBook Air display, then click System Preferences > Displays. You should see your TV as a connected display with the option of mirroring or setting it as a second screen.

Connecting a MacBook Air to a TV using Apple TV

An Apple TV is very good for streaming content directly to your TV or casting content from macOS and iOS products. It also serves as a great device for mirroring or expanding your MacBook Air desktop to your TV.

  1. Ensure your Apple TV and MacBook Air are both powered on and connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

  2. Click the AirPlay icon in your MacBook Air menu bar.

  3. A dropdown menu will open. From here, you have the option to:

    • Mirror Built-In Display: Matches your ratio and resolution to the TV.
    • Mirror TV: Reconfigures to your TV's ratio and resolution.
    • Use as Separate Display: Treats your TV as an additional display.

    Click your preference, then click the TV you want to connect to.

    Screenshot of AirPlay menu on macOS
     Apple
  4. Now you're connected. Remember, all media audio will playback via the TV.

  5. To disconnect your MacBook Air from your TV, click the AirPlay icon on your MacBook Air, then click Turn AirPlay Off. Alternatively, press Menu on the Apple TV remote to turn off the connection.

Connecting a MacBook Air to a TV using a Chromecast

Google's Chromecast is a versatile TV dongle that lets you cast video, audio, and more from smartphones, tablets, and laptops. And when paired with the Chrome browser, you can also use it to connect your MacBook Air to your TV. When you connect your MacBook Air to your Chromecast you can:

  • Cast a Chrome tab to your TV.
  • Cast a file from your MacBook Air to your TV.
  • Mirror your desktop to your TV.

Audio sharing is not supported when using Chromecast to cast a tab or mirror your desktop on a TV. You can only play audio when using the Cast file feature to share a video or a sound file.

Cast a Chrome Tab From MacBook Air to TV

  1. Turn on your TV and make sure it’s set to display your Chromecast.

  2. Power on your MacBook Air and make sure it's connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast.

  3. Open Google Chrome on your MacBook Air.

  4. In Chrome, click the Chromecast icon located toward the top right of the display.

    Chrome tab with the Chromecast icon highlighted.
  5. This will open a list of available Chromecast devices with a Sources tab at the bottom. Click Sources, then click Cast tab.

    Screenshot of the Chromecast feature in Chrome with the Cast Tab option highlighted.
  6. Next, click the TV you want to cast to.

    Screenshot of Chromecast feature in Chrome with connected device highlighted.
  7. Once connected, you will see a blue circle surrounding a square. Your tab is now being displayed on your TV.

    If you want to share a different tab to your TV, you must first stop casting the current tab. To do this, simply click the Chromecast icon again, then click the blue circle and square. Once you have disconnected, go to the new tab you want to share and repeat steps 5 and 6.

  8. When you're finished casting and want to disconnect from your TV, click the Chromecast tab in Chrome and click the blue circle and square. Alternatively, you can simply close the browser tab.

How to Mirror MacBook Air Desktop to TV

  1. Turn on your TV and make sure it’s set to display your Chromecast.

  2. Power on your MacBook Air and make sure it is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast.

  3. Open Google Chrome on your MacBook Air.

  4. In Chrome, click the Chromecast icon located toward the top right of the display.

    Chrome tab with the Chromecast icon highlighted.
  5. This will open a list of available Chromecast devices with a Sources tab at the bottom. Click Sources, then click Cast desktop.

    Screenshot of Chromecast feature in Chrome with Cast desktop feature highlighted.
  6. Next, click the TV you want to cast to.

    Screenshot of Chromecast feature in Chrome with connected device highlighted.
  7. You will see a pop up on your MacBook Air informing you that Chrome wants to share your display. Click Share to confirm.

    Screenshot of Chromecast screen sharing permissions.
  8. Your MacBook Air desktop is now mirrored to your TV. To disconnect from your TV, click the Chromecast tab in Chrome, then click the blue circle and square next to your TV connection.

Cast a File From MacBook Air to TV

  1. Turn on your TV and make sure it’s set to display your Chromecast.

  2. Power on your MacBook Air and make sure it is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast.

  3. Open Google Chrome on your MacBook Air.

  4. In Chrome, click the Chromecast icon located toward the top right of the display.

    Chrome tab with the Chromecast icon highlighted.
  5. This will open a list of available Chromecast devices with a Sources tab at the bottom. Click Sources, then click Cast file.

    Screenshot of Chromecast feature in Chrome with Cast file option highlighted.
  6. Next, click the TV you want to cast to.

  7. A file-picker will open. Choose the video or audio file you want to cast to your TV.

  8. Your file will be mirrored to your TV. Audio will also play directly from the TV. Playback is still controlled via your MacBook Air.

    If you're casting a video, you may see a notification asking if you want to run the content through the TV only. Doing this will improve playback quality.

    Screenshot of Chromecast function in Chrome with demonstrating Cast file playback.
  9. To disconnect from your TV, click the Chromecast tab in Chrome, then click the blue circle and square next to your TV connection.

When using the Cast file feature, video support is limited to MP4 or WebM formats. Audio is limited to WAV or MP3.