How to Connect Your Computer to Your TV

As a previous tip posted on points out, one way to reduce expenses is to cut out cable TV and just pay for Internet access, as you can watch a lot of well-known TV programs and other types of video entertainment online for free or for a very small fee (Use and Cut Out Cable TV Expenses).

While some people might be satisfied with just watching TV on a computer, we’ve seen a few comments from readers asking how they can connect their computer to their TV. So we decided to take a crack at answering this question.

Now, we’re far from experts on the subject, so we’re just going to cover the basics, and then point you to a few articles and videos that go beyond the basics and can help with specific questions. Anyway, here goes…

How to Connect Your Computer to Your TV

Before we jump in, one thing we’d like to note: Hooking up your computer to your TV seems pretty simple (and hopefully it will be for you) but it can get a bit complicated. We cover the easy stuff, but if you run into problems getting the computer picture to appear on your TV screen, you’ll definitely want to consult the articles we’ve provided near the end of this post.

1. Shut off the power on both your computer and TV (we heard this from a few people when doing our research — it may not be necessary, but it also may save you from having to reboot your computer if you don’t get an image to appear once it’s all set up).

2. Check your computer to see what kind of “port”you have (we’re not talking wines or tossing out nautical terms here — a port is the place where you plug something in — kind of like an outlet in your living room). You’ll likely have one of the following three ports:

  – VGA (looks like the bottom half of a pyramid with holes in the middle)
  – S-Video (round and has one little dash-like bar opening near one end)
  – DVI (rectangular with holes in the middle)

Your computer may have two of these – e.g. VGA and S-Video. We looked at two of our laptops. Both have VGA, but only one has an S-Video port (though the docking station for the laptop does have an S-Video port).

3. Check your TV to see what kind of port you have. You will likely find one (or more) of the three listed below:

  – VGA (looks like the bottom half of a pyramid with holes in the middle)
  – S-Video (round and has one little dash-like bar opening near one end)
  – HDMI (skinny rectangular shape – looks like of link a USB port)

Image credit:

4. Once you’ve identified the ports, you’ll need to find a cable that will connect the two machines. It appears that there is a hierarchy of quality among the various types of connections. We’ve listed them below, from lowest to highest quality:

  – S-Video (lowest quality video)
  – VGA (mid-range quality video)
  – DVI/HDMI (highest quality video)

But, not surprisingly, the cables needed to make the various connections vary greatly in price, in line with video quality, with S-Video cables running only around $3-$4 online, and DVI/HDMI cables running much higher in price ($40 and up).

You can find all kinds of adapters to mix and match the various connection types. We have no idea if all types of connections work well, but we’ve listed the most common cables and adapters below so you can decide how you want to make your connection work.

Note that cables are sold in various lengths, so think about your set up before you buy. Also, if the computer will be near the TV and away from where you’re sitting, you might want a wireless mouse.

5. Plug the cable into both ports.

6. Most people will also want to run an audio cable from the computer to the TV so that the sound will play through the TV (your computer’s speakers might not be loud enough for you, and the sound quality might not be as good either). The audio cable has two plugs on one end (they go into your TV — typically one is black and one is red) and the other end has just one plug, which goes into your computer (same place as where you’d plug in your computer speakers or headphones).

7. Turn on both your computer and your TV. Make sure your TV is set to the right display function (you’ll need to flip through your TV’s menu to find the right setting). If all goes right, your computer screen should be displayed on your TV.

However, most likely all will not go right. In some cases, you’re going to need to make some adjustments in your computer’s settings panel (right click on your desktop, then click the “Settings” tab). What adjustments you might need to make are way above our pay grade, so we suggest consulting the articles and videos below for further instructions and help. There’s a lot of good information in them, so hopefully it will help.

Please share any knowledge you have on this subject, along with any experiences you have connecting your computer to your TV, by posting comments below. And good luck!


How To Connect a Computer To Your TV

How to connect your Laptop/PC/Computer to your TV


Connect your PC to TV

Dummies guide: How to hook up your computer to your T.V.

How to connect your Laptop/PC/Computer to your TV

Related TipHero Tips:

Use & Cut Out Cable TV Expenses

Have You Saved Money on a TV Purchase?

Create Your Own ‘At Home’ Movie Experience

Saving Money on Video Rentals and Children’s Books

Homepage photo credit:james.thompson