Laptops can be more than portable work computers. By hooking your laptop up to your TV, you can turn it into a media center, streaming your favorite Netflix and Hulu content, as well as playing YouTube videos and any media stored on your laptop. You can play games on the big screen, or edit a document without straining your eyes. Follow this guide to get your laptop hooked up to your TV.
Determine which video output port(s) your laptop has.
There are several possible types; your laptop may have more than 1. These will be located on the back panel of the laptop, though occasionally they are located on one of the sides. If you are attempting to connect a MacBook to your TV, check out this guide.
A VGA port is roughly rectangular with 15 pins in 3 rows of 5. It’s how you connect your laptop to a docking station.
See which video input port(s) your TV has.
This will depend on whether your TV is a standard-definition or high-definition TV. Video input ports are typically located on the back of the TV, but may also be located on one of the sides.
Standard-definition TVs usually have composite video or S-video ports. The display will not be as sharp as through your PC’s regular monitor, however.
Get the right video cable to connect your laptop to your TV.
If you have multiple options (e.g. VGA, S-video and HDMI), try to connect using the highest quality connection. HDMI is the standard for newer laptops and HDTVs, and will result in the best quality and least amount of work adjusting settings.
If your laptop’s output port is the same kind as your TV’s input port, get a cable with the same kind of connector on each end.
Obtain an audio cable if necessary.
Some computers and high-definition TVs can connect to the TV’s audio and video with a single cable, while most require separate audio and video cables.
If you connect your laptop to your TV via HDMI, you will not need a separate audio cable as HDMI carries audio signal as well as video signal. All other connection types will require a separate audio cable.
Shut down your laptop.
For older connections, it is recommended that you turn your laptop off when connecting to a TV. For HDMI connections, you do not need to turn your laptop off.
Connect the video cable to your laptop and TV’s video ports.
Set your TV to the correct input.
Most TVs have the input connectors labeled to match the input options on the TV. Switch to the correct input for the connection to your laptop. Consult your TV’s user guide for instructions if necessary.
Your TV will need to be on in order for your computer to recognize it as a display.
Turn your laptop on.
At this point, the method for enabling the TV display will vary from system to system. Some will show the image on the TV immediately, or will have both screens enabled. Others will not show anything on the TV yet.
Switch the display to the TV.
Many laptops have a “Display” key that can be accessed with the Fn (Function) key. This key will let you cycle through the available display options. You can extend your display to cover both screens, duplicate/mirror your display so each screen shows the same thing, or have only one screen enabled (either your laptop or your TV).
Windows 7 and 8 users can press the Windows key + P to bring up the Project menu, which will allow you to choose your display preferences.
If you don’t have access to either of these options, right-click on your desktop and select Properties/Screen Resolution. Use the “Multiple displays” menu to select how you want your image to be displayed on the TV.
Adjust the screen resolution if necessary.
Oftentimes, your laptop’s resolution and your TV’s resolution will be different. This is especially true with older TVs. Right-click on the desktop and select Properties/Screen Resolution and select the display that you want to change the resolution for.
Most HDTVs can display up to 1920 x 1080, though some are limited to 1280 x 720. Both of these resolutions have a 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratio.
If you don’t see a recognizable image, you may have to disconnect your laptop temporarily and adjust your resolution before reconnecting your laptop to your TV. If you are switching between one active display, your laptop will need to have the same resolution as your TV.
Adjust your TV’s zoom level.
Some TVs will attempt to compensate for different aspect ratios by zooming the image. If you find that your screen is cut off around the edges when you are viewing on the TV, check your TVs settings to make sure that it is not zoomed in.