How to Display Your Computer Screen on a TV

by Jeff Grundy

Ever since IBM released the first personal computers in the early 1980s, games have been a part of the PC culture. Later, when manufacturers began shipping CD-ROM drives in computers, many users discovered quickly they could use their computers to watch videos or movies. Modern Internet streaming technologies now even let users watch movies without any discs at all. While playing games or watching movies on a computer often proves convenient, the relative small size of a PC monitor may make the experience less enjoyable than it could be if you were using a larger screen. With Microsoft Windows and a few cables, you can connect your desktop or laptop computer to a television and begin enjoying games and movies in a bigger and more life-like format.

Step 1

Determine the best type of connection for your computer and television. If both your computer and TV have HDMI ports, this is the best way to connect the devices as HDMI supports HDTV resolutions and digital audio over a single cable. However, many older computers and TVs do not have HDMI ports, which means you may need to use a DVI or VGA connection. DVI also supports HDTV resolutions but does not carry audio signals on the same cable. VGA delivers an analog video signal only and does not support HDTV resolutions. Like DVI, VGA also requires that you use a separate cable for audio signals. You can usually identify a VGA port with its blue collar around the pins on the connector. DVI ports are usually white, and HDMI ports resemble a larger USB port. Locate the video-out port on the rear of the computer and try to find one on the TV that matches it if available.

Step 2

Select an adapter if the video-out port on the computer does not match one of the video-in connectors on the TV. In some cases, you can use an adapter to connect the computer to the TV. For example, you can convert HDMI to DVI, or vice versa. However, if you convert HDMI to DVI or DVI to HDMI, you must still use a separate audio cable. You can also convert VGA to DVI, as well as the reverse. However, if you want to convert VGA to HDMI, you cannot do so with a simple cable adapter. To convert VGA to HDMI, or vice versa, you must use an active converter box, which has special circuitry that enables the conversion. Even with an active converter box, though, a VGA to HDMI connection will not support HDTV resolutions and still requires a separate audio cable connection.

Step 3

Shut down the computer and turn off the TV. Connect the adapter or monitor cable to the video-out port on the rear of the computer. Connect the monitor cables to the opposite side of the adapter if needed, then connect the other end of the monitor or video cable to the video-in port on the back or side of the TV. Note the name of the source or port label for the port to which you connect the monitor or video cable.

Step 4

Connect the small connector on the 3.5mm-to-RCA audio cable to the "Audio Out," "Speaker Out" or "Headphone" port on the desktop or laptop computer. Connect the red and white RCA plugs on the cable to the matching colored ports on the TV labeled "Audio In," "External Audio" or something similar. Note that if you are using an HDMI cable only to connect the computer and TV -- not an HDMI cable and an adapter -- there is no need to connect a separate audio cable.

Step 5

Turn on the TV first, then turn on the computer. Use the remote control to select the source or input for the port used to connect the computer to the television. On most remote controls, there is a Source or Input button. Press the "Input" or "Source" button repeatedly until the source or input name for the port appears on the TV screen. After you select the appropriate source or input on the remote, the computer display should appear on the TV automatically. However, with some older laptop or desktop computers, the display may not appear until the system boots into Windows.

Step 6

Press the "Windows-P" keys after the computer boots and displays the Windows desktop. The multi-monitor configuration panel window appears on the screen. Click the "Extend" option to display a new, blank Windows desktop on the TV screen. On most modern computers, the TV should display a mirror image of the PC screen without any user intervention. If you only want to mirror the display on the TV, you do not need to launch the multi-monitor configuration panel window.

Open a game, media player or Web page that contains content, graphics or video you want to display on the TV. Click the top of the program window that contains the content and hold down the left mouse button. Drag the window to the right until it appears on the TV screen. Maximize the window appearing on the TV screen and view the content as you normally would on the computer display.


  • With some laptops, you may have to press a special key combination before the computer display appears on the TV. To enable the external TV display, press the "Fn" key and the key with a picture or icon of a monitor screen on it. Press the keys simultaneously to toggle the display between "TV Only," "Laptop Only" and "Both Displays Simultaneously." If you toggle to the "Both Displays Simultaneously" option, you still need to press the "Windows-P" keys to access the multi-monitor configuration panel and select the "Extend" option to create a new Windows desktop screen on the TV.

Items you will need

  • DVI, HDMI or VGA monitor cable
  • 3.5mm-to-RCA audio cable

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