Laptops can be so much more than just a laptop. By connecting your laptop to your television, you can turn it into a multimedia center, you can stream your Netflix and Hulu series, as well as play YouTube videos or any other multimedia file that you have stored on your laptop. You can play games on a big screen or edit a document without hurting your eyes. Follow this guide to see how to connect your laptop to your television.
Part 1 of 2: Determine the connection
Step 1. Determine what video output ports your laptop has
There are many types, your laptop can have more than one. These will be located on the rear panel of your laptop, although you can occasionally locate them on the sides. If you're trying to connect a MacBook to your television, check out this guide.
- A "VGA" port is roughly rectangular with 15 pins in 3 rows of 5. This is used to connect the laptop to a docking station.
- An “S-Video” port is circular and has between 4 and 7 pins.
- A "composite video" port is a circular input, usually colored yellow.
- A “DVI” (digital video interface) port is rectangular, with 24 pins in 3 rows of 8. It is designed for high definition connections.
- An HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port is a port that looks like a USB port, but is longer and thinner. It has been available in laptops since 2008, and it is also designed for high definition connections.
Step 2. Determine what input ports your television has
This will depend a lot on whether your television is standard definition or high definition. The video input ports are usually located on the back of the television, but can also be located on the sides.
- Standard definition televisions usually have composite video or "S-Video" ports. However, the image will not look as sharp as it does on your computer monitor.
- High-definition televisions may have more ports (VGA, DVI, or HDMI). VGA connections provide an analog signal, while DVI and HDMI connections provide a higher quality digital signal.
Step 3. Get the correct video cable to connect your laptop to your television
If you have multiple options (for example, VGA, S-video, and HDMI), try connecting them using the highest quality connection. HDMI is the standard connection for the latest laptops and HDTVs, and the result will be the best quality and you won't have to adjust the settings much to make it work.
- If your laptop's output port is the same type as your television's input port, get a cable with the same type of connector on each end.
- If the output port of your laptop and the input port of your television are different, you need to get an adapter cable. The adapter cables can convert from DVI to HDMI or VGA to composite video. You also need to get an adapter cable to connect your laptop's USB port to your television's HDMI port if your laptop doesn't have an HDMI port. Converters, especially analogs, result in loss of quality, so avoid them if possible.
- Branded HDMI cables are often very expensive, but virtually any HDMI cable is more than capable of sending the signals to the television without resulting in loss of quality.
Step 4. Get an audio cable if necessary
Some computers and high-definition televisions can connect the audio and video with a single cable, while others require separate audio and video cables.
- If you connect your laptop to your television via HDMI cable, you don't need a separate audio cable since the HDMI cable carries both signals with it. All other types of connections require a separate audio cable.
- Your laptop's audio output is a 3.5mm port and has a headphone mark on the side. You can connect an audio cable from there to the audio input on your television (if it has one) or to external speakers (if it doesn't).
- When you go to connect the audio cable, be sure to connect it to an audio port that matches the video input port.
Part 2 of 2: Connect your laptop to your television
Step 1. Turn off your laptop
If you have an old connection, I recommend that you turn off your laptop when connecting it to the television. If you are using an HDMI connection, you don't need to do this.
Step 2. Connect the video cable to your laptop and to the video ports of your television
Step 3. Set your television to the correct input
On most televisions the connectors are labeled to match the input options on the television. Switch to the correct input for your laptop connection. Consult your television's user guide for further assistance.
Your television needs to be on for your computer to recognize it
Step 4. Turn on your laptop
From here on, the method of enabling the television screen varies from system to system. Some will show the image on television immediately and others will have both screens active. Others will not show anything on television.
Step 5. Change the screen so that it appears on the television
Many laptops have a "Display" key that can be accessed with the Fn (Function) key. This key allows you to scroll through all the available options. You can stretch the image to cover both screens, duplicate your image so that each screen displays the same, or have only one screen enabled (either your laptop or your television).
- Windows 7 and 8 users can press the Windows key and P to open the projector menu, which allows you to choose your display preferences.
- If you don't have access to any of these options, right-click on your desktop and select "Properties" or "Screen resolution." Use the "Multiple screens" menu to select how you want the image to appear on your television.
Step 6. Adjust the screen resolution if necessary
Often times, the resolution of your laptop and the television can be very different. This is especially true with older televisions. Right click on the desktop and select "Properties" or "Screen resolution" and select the image for which you want to change the resolution.
- Most HDTVs can display an image up to 1920 x 1080, although some are limited to 1280 x 720. Both resolutions have a 16: 9 aspect ratio (widescreen).
- If you don't see a recognizable image, you may need to temporarily disconnect your laptop and adjust its resolution before reconnecting it to your television. If you are going to change the active screen, your laptop needs to have the same resolution as your television.
Step 7. Adjust the zoom level of your television
Some televisions will try to compensate for the different aspect ratios by zooming in on the image. If you see that your image has cut edges when viewing it on your television, check the television settings to make sure it is not zoomed.