How to Connect Your Computer to Your TV

Want to watch movies, play video games, and showcase your photos on the big screen? Tech Talker has easy tips to connect your TV and computer for the ultimate viewing experience.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #23


This episode comes courtesy of a question from one of the Tech Talker Facebook fans. Michael wrote in asking how he could connect his computer to his television. It’s a great question and today I’ll tackle some of the popular ways to hook up your TV to your computer and why you would want to do this.>

Why Should You Connect Your TV to Your Computer?

First of all, why would you want to do this? Well, for starters, you might want to play a video game with your friends on a larger screen. Or maybe you downloaded a movie to your laptop that you’d like to share with a group of your friends, but you’d rather not crowd around your tiny laptop screen. Or if you have an old PC, you might think about turning it into a (HTPC) or home theater PC. These are some of the big reasons you might want to connect your TV and computer. Other reasons might include viewing vacation pictures with the whole family, making a slideshow for a party, or even streaming movies to various TVs around the house. Anyways, you get the idea!

What are Your Options?

Before you can connect anything, let’s go over the types of TVs on the market today. If you purchased a TV in the last few years, you probably have a Plasma or an LCD flat screen. These are generally easier to hook up because they have all of the digital inputs built in and require no extra hardware to get the picture from your computer to your TV. If you have an older TV, like my parents do, there is a little converter box that works beautifully. It is something you have to invest in, but it’s only about $20 on Amazon. I actually own this little box, and it works wonders. I recommend this one highly because there are many others out there that are cheaper but tend to perform very poorly.

The last thing is the types of connections available. I find that this is what frustrates most people. The outputs on a laptop are VGA, DVI, and HDMI. Here’s what they mean:

  • VGA is blue connector and can also be called RGB.

  • DVI is a white connector that is a bit newer then VGA but the quality difference won’t be noticeable at all.

  • HDMI is the newest of the connectors out there and is great because it includes audio in the connection, unlike VGA and DVI.

Now, I’ll probably get a few angry emails for saying this, but in all honesty, these connectors will provide you with similarly fine quality for almost all sizes of TV. The only way you’d notice some quality difference is if you use these connections for super-sized screens that you probably won’t encounter in your average home. And as for really expensive gold-plated cables you might see out there, don’t even bother! They are no better than a cheap $5 cable bought online.

If you have an older TV that uses the standard yellow, red, and white RCA connections, then you will probably need that converter box I mentioned previously. And to touch on audio, all you really need is a standard speaker extender that can go in the back of your computer or the headphone jack of a laptop.

How to Connect Your TV to Your Computer

Now that you’re armed with all of the information you need for your TV-computer hook-up. Here comes the fun part. If you have a relatively new flat screen TV, just plug in the cable to each respective spot, and then change the input to reflect what spot it is on your TV. For example, if you were changing the input from live TV to a DVD, you’d have to select another option on your screen. Well, when you connect your computer to your TV, another input option will appear. The names of these options are different for almost every TV, but your TV’s manual will help, as will a quick Google search!

Earlier I mentioned that you can hook up an old computer to your TV and use it as a home theatre. This is easy to set up and even some of the oldest computers can handle playing a video no problem. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, check out XBMC. They make free software that looks and works incredible!

Here are your 4 Quick and Dirty Tips for connecting your computer to your TV:

  1. Check your TV’s manual for the available “inputs”

  2. See what type of output your computer has (it can be DVI, VGA, HDMI, or one of the Apple ports)

  3. Determine what type of cable you will need, or possibly a converter box if you’re going between two different connectors

  4. Don’t overspend on any cables!

Do you have nagging tech questions? Post them to the Tech Talker Facebook wall and I will be happy to answer them. I’m going to be dedicating an entire episode to listener questions soon, so make sure to let me know what you want me to tackle in the future.

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Tech Talker Facebook wall.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Connector image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.