- 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.
- An S-video port is circular with either 4 or 7 pins.
- A composite video port is a circular jack, usually color-coded yellow.
- A digital video interface (DVI) port is rectangular, with 24 pins in 3 rows of 8. It is designed for high-definition connections.
- A high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port resembles a USB port, but is longer and thinner. Available in laptops since 2008, it is also designed for high-definition connections.
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.
- High-definition TVs may have VGA, DVI or HDMI ports. VGA connections provide an analog signal, while DVI and HDMI connections provide a digital signal of higher quality.
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.
- If your laptop’s output port and your TV’s input port are different, you’ll need an adapter cable. Adapters are available to convert DVI to HDMI or VGA to composite video. You can also get an adapter cable to connect your computer’s USB port to your TV’s HDMI port if your laptop has no HDMI port. Converters, especially analog ones, typically result in a loss of quality, so avoid them if possible.
- Branded HDMI cables are often marked up to be very expensive, but virtually any HDMI cable is more than capable of sending the signals to the TV with no loss of quality.
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.
- Your laptop’s audio output is a 3.5-mm jack marked with a headset icon. You can connect an audio cable from here to your TV’s audio input if it has one or to external speakers if it doesn’t.
- When connecting the audio cable, make sure that you connect it to audio ports that match your video input.
Part 2 of 2: Connecting Your Laptop to Your TV
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.