In our guide, we cover all the methods used to link up a laptop with a TV, and most of them are more straightforward than you’d think. The methods vary depending on the age of both the laptop and the TV, as well as how much distance exists between the two devices and whether you prefer to go wired or wireless. Let’s get into it.
Method 1: Connecting A Laptop To A TV Using HDMI
Probably the single easiest method available, all that’s needed is a male-to-male HDMI cable. Locate the HDMI port on the laptop, gently connect one end of the cable, then do the same on the TV (marked as ”HDMI IN” or simply ”HDMI 1/2/3”). Note which HDMI port used on the TV and switch to the correct input source on the TV (more recent devices switch automatically). Windows should automatically configure, and your desktop should appear on the screen in a matter of seconds.
Should any issues surface, you might have to check if Windows is detecting the TV correctly. If this happens, right-click on your desktop and select ”Display Settings”. Once the ”Display” menu is open, click on ”Detect”. Windows will then look for exterior displays. Two squares depicting displays should show up, labeled 1 and 2, with a description of the displays. When this happens, the TV is detected correctly.
You can adjust the resolution as required and mess around with orientation and brightness as you see fit. Depending on what the TV is being used for you’ll also have the option to either duplicate or extend the displays. Duplicate mirrors the laptop screen, while extend will merge your TV and laptop screens into one large display (usually used for multiple monitor streaming setups).
The main benefit of this method is high definition quality on both the visual and audio fronts. The cable itself is also relatively cheap, and even a bargain version obtained from a local electronics outlet is more than sufficient.
The only real downside to using the HDMI method is that cables are generally short in length, meaning the laptop needs to be in proximity to the TV, which can be cumbersome for many setups. You can opt for a longer cable, but length equals an incremental loss of quality so tread carefully.
Note: In the unlikely case that the TV doesn’t have a dedicated HDMI port, you’ll need a converter. Which one you need all depends on the TV ports. Older models may have VGA or DVI, which we cover below, S-video, or a composite video port. As converters result in a loss of quality, we recommend only using them as a last resort.
Method 2: Connecting A Laptop To A TV Using VGA
Chances are your laptop is equipped with an HDMI output, but if it’s older than six or seven years, it might very well be fitted with the old rectangular 15-pin analog VGA standard output.
The process is similar to HDMI, however, turn off the laptop before continuing. Plug a male-to-male VGA cable into the blue VGA port on the laptop, then run the other end to the VGA port on the TV (sometimes named ”PC IN” or some variation including the word ”computer” or ”PC”).
VGA is a video only cable and as such you’ll need to connect a standard male-to-male 3.5mm mini-jack audio lead between the two devices to ferry across audio. On the laptop, insert the cable into the headphone port (the universal standard is for the port to be labeled green, but this can differ depending on the laptop), then find the ”Audio IN” port on the TV. Certain TVs only have the classic RCA red and white inputs. In this case, go for a mini-jack to RCA cable.
Turn the laptop back on. At this point, Windows should automatically detect the TV, and the display should load within a few seconds. Otherwise, the steps are identical to those detailed above for the HDMI method. Remember to switch your TV’s input source if it doesn’t hop over automatically.
VGA is only viable if you’re using an older TV without a more recent porting option. Expect a hit in quality due to the connection not being HD-enabled.
Method 3: Connecting A Laptop To A TV Using DVI
Laptops and TVs with 29-pin DVI (Digital Visual Interface) inputs are somewhat rare (GPU units found in desktop gaming PCs have DVI outputs as standard to connect with dedicated PC monitors), but they do exist. The process is identical to VGA with the need to transfer audio via a mini-jack/RCA setup.
Method 4: Connecting A Laptop To a TV Using Wi-Fi
Most Smart TVs are Wi-Fi-equipped, and if using a cable isn’t convenient, then this method is the next best if you’re looking for a practical, wireless solution. There are two ways of using Wi-Fi to connect a laptop to a TV. We cover both below.
Note that not all Wi-Fi TVs are designed to accept this method so perusing the device’s official documentation is a good first step.
The TV is likely already connected to the network so you may not need to complete this next step.
To begin, ensure the TV’s Wi-Fi is enabled (in some cases its marked as ”WiFi mode”, ”Screen Mirroring” or something similar) and connect to your local Wi-Fi network, i.e., the very same network the laptop is on. You’ll be prompted to enter the security password marked on your router or modem.
Navigate to the Windows start icon and click on ”Settings”. Choose the second option marked ”Devices”, then click on ”Connected devices” from the left-hand menu. Click on ”Add a device” prompting Windows to scour the network for available devices, and specifically the TV. Select the TV by clicking on the device name. A few seconds later, the laptop’s display should appear on the TV screen.
If the above doesn’t work, you may need to right-click on the desktop, click on ”Display Settings”, then select ”Duplicate this display” from the ”Multiple Displays” drop-down menu and hit apply. Once done, complete the steps above.
Specific models of Smart TV/laptops don’t even require Wi-Fi to mirror a laptop thanks to the Miracast standard. It allows devices to broadcast and communicate through a non-networked wireless connection and produces HDMI-level mirroring. In most cases, all you need to do is navigate to the ”Connect” app in Windows and choose the relevant device. Extra steps may be required as detailed in TV manuals.
Not all laptops are Miracast ready, which we cover below.
Using A USB Dongle
Dedicated mirroring dongles such as the Roku Streaming Stick and Google Chromecast are great proprietary solutions, but are somewhat limited and generally are only practical for streaming video content. Connection steps methods vary depending on the brand so consulting the provided documentation is recommended.
You can, however, pick up a Miracast USB dongle that plugs into the laptop to connect with the TV. Connect the dongle to the laptop’s USB port, then in Windows hit the start button and click on the ”Connect” app and select the TV. The laptop’s display will appear on the TV within seconds.
The Wi-Fi method is convenient, but the lack of a wired connection can result in quality issues or worse desync problems between audio and video, notwithstanding an unexpected router restart that can kill the connection between laptop and TV.
Miracast is slowly being phased out due to shaky reliability and sub-par quality. We must not forget that using a dongle involves factoring in for the extra expense as well.
The Final Word
There you go, the be all and end all of connecting a laptop to a TV. The above should put you in good stead.
Chances are both your laptop and TV have an HDMI port, and we can’t stress enough that is by far the most straightforward method with the best results in terms of quality and fidelity.
The UK-based journalist and gamer, Thomas, describes himself as a man of few words with an unhealthy obsession for everything wonderful about the world of gaming. Thanks to his experience in the gaming industry, he brings a wealth of talent into GamingScan.