How to Connect Your Laptop to Your TV

Couple watching tv
Couple watching tv

Laptops are the most popular devices for viewing digital video, with 72 percent of digital video viewers watching on their laptops or desktops as compared to 56 percent who watch on connected TVs or smartphones and 48 percent who use tablets, according to an IAB report.

Watching on a laptop is convenient while traveling outside the home, but there are cases when it may be useful to use a laptop as a video source for a TV with a larger screen. Here are six ways to turn your laptop into a portable video library to provide content for viewing on your television set.

WiDi

The easiest way to connect your laptop to your TV is through wireless display (WiDi), which comes built into recent laptops and HDTVs. WiDi lets you stream content from a compatible computer to a compatible TV or a TV that has an adapter attached. Miracast uses a similar technology.

To use WiDi or Miracast, you need a device with the technology built in, preferably with the latest updates downloaded, along with a TV that is either compatible or has an adapter. An adapter costs about $50. To set up a WiDi connection on Windows 8.1:

  • Swipe from the right edge of the screen to open Charms.
  • Select Devices, Project, Add a wireless display and Intel wireless display.
  • Enter the code displayed on your TV screen to connect and share.

HDMI cable

Another easy option for connecting a laptop and TV is to use an HDMI cable. This creates a fast connection, which is useful if you’re a gamer.

To use this method, you need a computer and TV with HDMI ports, along with an HDMI cable. If you have an older, non-HD TV that has a DVI port instead of an HDMI port, you may be able to connect using an HDMI-to-DVI cable, in which case you will need to use separate audio cables as well. You also may be able to use component cables with TVs that do not have HDMI or DVI ports.

Assuming you have an HDTV with an HDMI port, set up your connection by doing the following:

  • Plug the cable into your laptop and TV, noting the label on the TV port you use, so you know which input port to select later.
  • Press the Input button on your TV to select the matching input, which may be blank initially.
  • If your laptop is a PC, you now need to configure Windows to recognize the HDMI input. To do this, go into Control Panel and select Adjust screen resolution. You will see two different displays, one of which is disabled. Click on the second monitor, select Extend the desktop onto this monitor and click Apply. Your TV should now show a Windows desktop background. Adjust the background photo to fit the TV screen, which is usually at least 1100 x 650.

Wireless HDMI connectors

An alternative to using HDMI cables is to use a wireless HDMI connector. A wireless HDMI connector simulates a cable connection by attaching a transmitter to your laptop and a receiver to your TV. The result is essentially the same as with an HDMI cable, but the connection may be slower. The Wirecutter reviews some wireless kits that cost anywhere from $120 to $640.

Chromecast

Another way to connect your laptop to your TV is to use a Chromecast device to stream content from your laptop. To use Chromecast:

  • Insert a small piece of hardware called a dongle into your HDTV’s HDMI port.
  • Use your TV to visit a website with setup instructions.
  • Connect Chromecast to your Wi-Fi network and click an app button on your laptop to begin casting content to your TV.
  • Or, cast content from a website by adding a Google Cast extension to your Chrome browser, which enables you to use a website, such as YouTube, as your video source.

Chromecast costs about $35.

Apple TV

If you’re on a MacBook that’s running Mountain Lion OS X 10.8 or higher, you can show anything from your laptop on an HDTV by using an Apple TV. Apple TV is a small receiver box that can receive content from your laptop and send it to your TV with a remote. To set up Apple TV, you must first connect the receiver box to your HDTV with an HDMI or Ethernet cable. A setup screen will appear and prompt you to click your remote to access further setup instructions. Apple TV costs between $61 and $178 depending on which generation you use.

Network media sharing

A final method of getting content from your laptop to your TV involves using technology called DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance). It shares content from an application on your laptop with an HDTV connected to your home media network. To use this method, you must activate an application on your laptop that can act as a DLNA server, such as Windows Media Player. You then must instruct your TV to scan for DLNA servers. Once your TV finds the application you have activated, it will be able to view content from that application.