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How to Connect Your Laptop to Your TV

Date Published: 06/18/2017 | Author: Best Buy

You and your friends don't have to huddle over your laptop's small screen to watch the latest cat video on YouTube, stream the latest movie, play games, browse the Web or view photos from your recent vacation. Instead, you can enjoy your laptop's digital media and Internet content on your big screen television. All it takes is a simple hookup, or you can connect your laptop to TV wirelessly.

What Cables Do I Need to Watch My Laptop Content on TV?

Using cables, the connecting laptop to TV process is really a very simple one. All you need is the right cable running from the video-out connection on your laptop, to the video-in connection on your television, to get you enjoying content from your laptop on your big screen TV.

Following are the most common video-out connections you'll find on laptops. HDTVs offer multiple connections, with HDMI and DVI being the most common and highest quality options. If your laptop and TV don't share a connection, you'll need to use an adapter. Also, keep in mind that not all cable options include sound, so you'll want to double check to see if you will also need to use audio-out cables to get sound.


HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is currently the highest quality connection available, providing the best quality HD picture and sound, both from one cable. To connect laptop to TV with HDMI, all you need to do is plug the cable into your laptop and then one of the HDMI ports on your TV. If you purchased your television within the last ten years, chances are very good it has an HDMI port. If your laptop doesn't have an HDMI port, you'll need an adapter. HDMI cables are available with plugs in three sizes — regular HDMI, the full-size ports you'll likely find on devices where space isn't an issue, like televisions, laptops and games consoles; and Mini HDMI and Micro HDMI that you're likely to find on tablets and smartphones — so be certain to choose the correct size for your needs.

Mini DisplayPort

Initially developed by Apple® for use in Mac products, Mini DisplayPorts are also now included in various new PC laptops. They differ from HDMI in that they are capable of supporting up to four monitors, rather than just one. That means you could connect up to four monitors at 1920 × 1200 or two monitors at 2560 × 1600 pixels. For the most part, consumer laptops will feature HDMI ports, while business-oriented models will support DisplayPort. HDMI is still the more popular format, but you'll find DisplayPort ports on Apple computers, Microsoft Surface tablets, and even some Windows PCs. A DisplayPort cable can carry both audio and video over a single connection, and with an adapter, can connect to VGA, DVI or HDMI.


DVI (Digital Video Interface) is a common connection on desktop computers, but not so common on laptops. It was introduced in 1999 and took over for VGA as the PC video output of choice. The digital signal will provide a higher quality picture than either S-Video or VGA. If you want sound with a DVI connection, you will need a separate audio cable. Connect the audio cable from the headphones output of your laptop to the audio inputs of your TV.


VGA (Video Graphics Array) is another straightforward example of how to connect a laptop to a TV, since it simply connects the VGA port on your laptop to the VGA port on your TV. You will still find VGA connections on many desktop PCs and on many HDTVs. Television manuals sometimes refer to the VGA connection as a "PC input." In terms of picture quality, VGA is better than S-Video. Just like DVI, VGA does not carry an audio signal.


S-Video (also known as Y/C) cables used to be the most common method for connecting a laptop to a TV. While it's not so common these days, many modern TVs still include the port. There are two types of S-Video cables: 4-pin and 7-pin. Most laptops and PCs are equipped with a 7-pin port, so if your TV only has a 4-pin S-Video port, then you will need an adapter. As with DVI and VGA, you will need a separate audio cable if you want sound when you're using S-Video cables.


The Apple MacBook has one of four different video ports depending on the model and date of manufacture, including one not yet mentioned here: the Thunderbolt port, in version 1, 2 or 3. The Thunderbolt connection accommodates both video and audio. As with PC connections, you will need to determine the nature of the connections between your MacBook and your television, and use the correct cable and/or adapter(s).

After Selecting the Cable

Be sure to connect the cable to the TV before turning on your laptop because otherwise it may fail to recognize the external display.

Once your cable is connected, select the correct input on your television just as you would when using your DVD or Blu-ray player. If the picture appears distorted, you can change the screen aspect ratio and resolution with the Display Settings in the laptop's Control Panel. Mac laptops automatically adjust these picture settings.

What About Connecting Wirelessly?

If connecting with cables isn't a good option for you, you could go wireless. By connecting a wireless video transmitter to your computer, and a wireless receiver to your television, the problem is neatly solved. These receivers have different connections, so you need to know which ones your laptop and TV support (i.e., HDMI, DVI, etc.).

What Is a Streaming Media Player?

Several wireless devices plug directly into your television to deliver streaming media services using a wired or wireless Internet connection, like Rocketfish, Roku, Chromecast, IOGEAR, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV (designed to work with your MacBook, but will also work with any computer running iTunes). These devices are each simple to set up, and deliver content to your television via the Internet rather than a cable or satellite TV provider. (Roku TV, which is a smart TV with the Roku streaming experience built into it, is an exception.) Connect your computer to the transmitter and your HDTV to the receiver, for full HD signals, with support for 1080p and 3D video resolution.

Similarly, if you use an iOS device, AirPlay® lets you wirelessly beam music, photos and video to your Apple TV®.

Other Options for Streaming Internet Content to Your TV

Other ways to use your TV to view content from websites like YouTube and Netflix include upgrading to one of the latest home theater products that links directly to your home Internet signal. If you're considering a new TV, look for a smart TV, which is one that has Internet connectivity built-in. Additionally, smart Blu-ray players, and game boxes like PS4 or Xbox One, allow you to access Internet content via apps designed specifically to make your television experience smooth. Keep in mind, not all of these products offer a full Web browser, which you would have by connecting your laptop to your TV.

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