How to connect a computer to a TV

Since your desktop or laptop already has a screen, why would you connect it to a TV? Here’s an idea: what about playing a PC game on a much more inspiring and massive Ultra HD 65-inch TV parked in your living room. Maybe you want to share videos or a presentation stored on your desktop to a large crowd. Or maybe it’s a big second monitor as you work on your laptop.

Whatever it might be, here’s your guide on how to connect a computer to a TV.

Our guide is based on a 55-inch Ultra HD TV manufactured by LG (model 55UK6090PUA) purchased at Walmart. It supports Wi-Fi via Wireless AC and Wi-Fi Direct, provides two HDMI ports, and has one USB-A (480Mbps) on the side. On the back, you’ll find another HDMI port, one USB-A (480Mbps) port, an Ethernet port and a few other inputs and outputs not needed today. Most modern TVs will have similar ports and plugs, so the guide should be completely the same, especially if it’s a better brand like LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL, and so on.

Our guide is also based on PC’s running Windows 10 version 1809 (October 2018 Update). Connection options include HDMI, DisplayPort, USB, and wireless.

Here’s how to connect a computer to a TV:

Option 1: HDMI

This connection comes standard on modern TVs. At first glance, the port appears rectangular with one side stretched outwards, creating a six-sided shape. You may see three or more of these ports on your TV: Two possibly mounted along the side and another on the back. With game consoles, set-top-boxes, Blu-ray players and more relying on HDMI, you’ll typically see several HDMI ports on the latest TVs to handle all these devices. This connection includes audio and relies on a single cable.

See the red arrow below:

Desktop integrated graphics HDMI port

On desktops, you may see more than one HDMI port on the back. By default, a PC’s motherboard provides a single HDMI port for integrated graphics. You’ll see it among the batch of USB ports, audio output jacks, the Ethernet port, and so on the rear of your PC.

Desktop discrete HDMI port

Desktops that include an add-in graphics card will have at least one additional HDMI port located on the card itself next several other video outputs in a horizontal line. For instance, one of the new single-fan GeForce GTX 1660 TI graphics cards by Asus adds two HDMI ports, one DisplayPort connector, and a DVI-D port on top of the base video output ports integrated on your PC’s motherboard.

Laptop HDMI port

Laptops will always have one HDMI port available to plug-in and play.

For the best experience, you’ll need to know what version of HDMI your PC and TV supports, and purchase the appropriate cable. That’s not always easy to determine, as the product page for our TV provides no information. Our only clue is a listing for Audio Return Channel support, which is a part of HDMI 2.1. Desktops and laptops typically spell out the HDMI version in their specifications.

Here is the HDMI breakdown:

HDMI 1.4

  • 4,096 x 2,160 @ 24Hz
  • 3,840 x 2,160 @ 30Hz
  • 1,920 x 1,080 @ 120Hz
  • AMD FreeSync

HDMI 2.0

  • 3,840 x 2,160 @ 60Hz
  • AMD FreeSync

HDMI 2.0a/b

  • 3,840 x 2,160 with HDR @ 60Hz
  • AMD FreSync

HDMI 2.1

  • 10,240 x 4,320 with HDR and enhanced Audio Return Channel @ 120Hz
  • AMD FreeSync

After locating the appropriate ports and cable, you need to determine how you want your computer to use the TV.

For instance, in Windows 10, you can choose to extend or duplicate your desktop. For presentations, using the TV as a second display for an extended desktop would be ideal. If you merely want to share media, just duplicate your current screen to the TV.

Connect the computer to duplicate your display:

1a. If you have a laptop or a desktop with only one HDMI port, connect one male end to the PC and one male end to the HDTV.
1b. If you have a desktop with more than one HDMI port, connect one male end to the HDMI port located on the graphics card and one male end to the TV.
2. Turn on your TV.
3. Switch to the TV’s HDMI port connected to your computer.

Windows 10 duplicated displays

What happens next depends on your setup. If you already have a primary monitor connected to another HDMI port on your computer (Display 1), you will see a duplicated desktop on your TV in the same resolution and aspect ratio. If you don’t have a primary display already connected, the TV will serve as your primary (Display 1).

For laptops, the TV will serve as your secondary display by default. We’ll show you how to alter that setting later in our guide.

If all you need is a duplicated desktop, there’s nothing else you need to do.

Change aspect ratio and resolution (duplicate)

If you’re using a laptop with a screen at a 4:3 aspect ratio, you’ll see annoying black lines running vertically on the left and right side of your TV. The solution is to pick a resolution on the computer with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Remember that because you are duplicating the display, the changes you make affect both screens.

Windows 10 select Display settings

1. Right-click on the desktop and select Display settings.

Windows 10 change resolution

2. Scroll down to Resolution and expand the drop-down menu.
3. Choose a resolution that works with your TV and computer. These support the 16:9 aspect ratio on TVs:

  • 1,024 × 576
  • 1,152 × 648
  • 1,280 × 720
  • 1,366 × 768
  • 1,600 × 900
  • 1,920 × 1,080
  • 2,560 × 1,440
  • 3,840 × 2,160

Windows 10 keep display changes

4. Once you select a resolution, both screens should automatically readjust. Select Keep the changes if everything looks good or select Revert if the change causes havoc. Keep experimenting until you find a resolution that works best for you.

Extend your desktop

If you want the TV to serve as a secondary display, use the Extend option.

Windows 10 select Display settings

1. Right-click on the desktop and select Display settings.

Windows 10 extend these displays

2. Scroll down to the Multiple displays section.
3. In the drop-down menu, select Extend these displays.
4. On the computer screen, select Keep changes if everything looks good or select Revert if the change causes havoc.

Windows 10 will revert your primary display back to its recommended resolution (and aspect ratio). Your TV will now show as Display 2 and revert to a recommended resolution (and aspect ratio).

Change the order of your displays (extended)

You can change the order of the two displays, but it’s really not necessary with just two. Rearrangement is ideal when you have three or more displays and need the desktop to extend from left to right based on their physical order. Still, there may be scenarios where you have a desktop or laptop physically parked to the left or right of the TV and need Windows 10 desktop and mouse to flow accordingly.

Windows 10 select Display settings

1. Right-click on the computer desktop and select Display settings.

Windows 10 Display 1

You should see two rectangles rendered side-by-side, one of which is highlighted to show the display you are currently altering. Since you only have two working displays, you don’t need to click the Identify button.

2. If you want your TV on the left, click and hold the Display 2 icon and drag it to the left of the primary Display 1 icon.
3. If you want your TV on the right, click and hold the Display 2 icon and drag it to the right of the primary Display 1 icon.

Use only one display

This would apply to laptops and desktops with an additional display. In this scenario, you want the TV to serve as the only screen.

Windows 10 select Display settings

1. Right-click on the computer desktop and select Display settings.

Windows 10 show only on one display

2. Scroll down to the Multiple displays section.
3. Select Show only on 1 if you don’t want to show the desktop environment on your TV (Display 1 only).
4. Select Show only on 2 if you don’t want to show the desktop environment on your primary computer monitor or laptop (Display 2 only).

Change the desktop resolution on your TV (extended)

Windows 10 select Display settings

1. Right-click on the computer desktop and select Display settings.

Windows 10 Display 2

2. Click the Display 2 icon so that it’s highlighted.

Windows 10 change resolution

3. Scroll down to Resolution and select the resolution you want in the drop-down menu.

Windows 10 keep display changes

4. Select Keep changes if everything looks good or select Revert if the change causes havoc.

Related: The best 4K TV’s for under $1,000

Option 2: DisplayPort

Desktop discrete DisplayPort connectors

Typically, you won’t see a DisplayPort connector on a TV, as it’s mainly used on desktop monitors. But you can still connect a computer to a TV using this port on the PC end. That means you’ll need to know what type of DisplayPort connector you have, the port version, and purchase the appropriate DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable.

The standard DisplayPort connector is rectangular like HDMI, but instead of one side stretched out to form a six-sided shape, one corner is pushed inward to create a five-sided shape. Both look similar from afar until you look closely to see that DisplayPort is more rectangular than HDMI. It includes audio so all you need is a single cable.

Another common DisplayPort connector is Mini DisplayPort. It resembles a squashed version of HDMI sporting three straight edges and one side that’s “pulled out.” Given its size and shape, you can’t use the standard DisplayPort cable. Manufacturers are slowly moving away from this connector in favor of the smaller USB-C port that supports DisplayPort video output.

Here is the DisplayPort version breakdown:

DisplayPort 1.2

  • 3,840 x 2,160 @ 60Hz
  • AMD FreeSync (on some 1.2a ports)
  • Nvidia G-Sync

DisplayPort 1.3

  • 3,840 x 2,160 @ 120Hz
  • 7,680 x 4,320 @ 30Hz
  • AMD FreeSync
  • Nvidia G-Sync

DisplayPort 1.4

  • 7,680 x 4,320 with HDR @ 60Hz
  • AMD FreeSync
  • Nvidia G-Sync

DisplayPort to HDMI cable

Because TVs typically don’t have a DisplayPort connector, you’ll need to purchase a cable with a male DisplayPort connector on one end and a male HDMI connector on the other end. A good example is this six-foot cable sold by AmazonBasics for $11. Avoid cables with a locking mechanism, as they can fail and you’ll end up using pliers to pull the cable out of your PC.

You can also purchase an adapter featuring a male DisplayPort connector on one end and a female HDMI port at the other end like this one sold by Benfei for $9. This adapter will require an additional cable with two male HDMI connectors. Remember, avoid adapters with a locking mechanism.

Once you’re connected, follow the same instructions we provided in the HDMI section regarding displays in Windows 10.

Option 3: USB-A

Laptop USB-A ports

Modern TVs typically include at least one standard USB-A port. For instance, the TV used for this guide has one USB-A port on the back and one on the side. They’re typically meant for an external drive to view media, or a mouse and/or keyboard. Since USB-A doesn’t natively support video output, you’ll need an adapter or a dock, special software installed on your computer, and an HDMI cable.

If you’re not familiar with the term USB-A, its that small rectangular port for connecting a mouse, keyboard, USB drive, headset, device charging, and more. The numbering and naming scheme is currently a bit of a mess. Just know that USB-A ports in blue (3.1) are faster than those that are gray (2.0).

USB to HDMI adapter

An adapter will have a USB-A male connector on one end and a female HDMI port at the other end. The model pictured above is the Wavlink USB 3.0 to 4K HDMI External Multi Monitor Graphics Adapter for $53. It supports resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 at 30Hz and includes a 3.5mm audio jack.

A dock has the same USB-A connector but typically plays host to a number of additional connectors including USB-A, HDMI, VGA, and more. In either case, the device requires DisplayLink software which may or may not automatically install in Windows 10.

Starting with Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the operating system will automatically configure your connected display upon the first DisplayLink connection. For desktops, DisplayLink will set the displays to Extend mode while laptops and tablets will automatically be set to Duplicate mode. To manually install the software, perform the following:

1. Download the Windows 10 driver from here.
2. Locate the driver and run the executable. Select Yes if the User Account Control pops up.
3. Allow the System Compatibility Check to scan your hardware.
4. Click Install if your computer passes the test.
5. Connect the USB adapter or dock.
6. Allow the DisplayLink Graphics driver to install.
7. Click the Reboot button now or the Reboot Later button if you need to save your work first.
8. After the reboot, connect one end of your HDMI cable to the adapter or dock and the other end to an open HDMI port on your TV.
9. Once you’re connected, follow the same instructions we provided in the HDMI section regarding displays in Windows 10.

Option 4: USB-C

Laptop USB-C port

This newer, slimmer port is slowly becoming a standard ingredient on desktops and laptops. Manufacturers can pack a variety of different technologies behind this port including native DisplayPort video output, Thunderbolt connectivity, and device charging. Despite the confusion, it’s not faster than the latest USB-A port by default, as the USB 3.1 specification is locked at 5Gbps whether you’re using a Type-A or Type-C port.

USB-C vs USB-A

Regardless, if you have a computer with a USB-C port that supports DisplayPort video output (some don’t), you don’t need to install the DisplayLink drivers. Instead, simply connect an adapter or dock with a male USB-C connector. You can then connect one male end of an HDMI cable to the adapter or dock and the other male end to an open HDMI port on the HDTV.

A good example is Tiwanc’s premium aluminum 7-in-1 USB-C adapter for $40. It includes an HDMI port, three USB-A ports, an SD card slot, a Micro SD card slot, and a USB-C port that can charge a device. Totu offers an 8-in-1 USB-C hub for a heftier $60 packing three USB-A ports, a Micro SD card slot, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port, and a USB-C port that can charge devices. Totu’s 11-in-1 USB-C adapter tacks on three more ports for $70.

If your USB-C port doesn’t support DisplayPort output, you may need to install the DisplayLink drivers. Please refer to the USB-A section for instructions.

Once you’re connected, follow the same instructions we provided in the HDMI section regarding displays in Windows 10.

Remember, DisplayPort and DisplayLink are two separate terms, so be careful. Think of DisplayPort as natively “exporting” video to a display through a proper video port without the need for third-party software. Meanwhile, DisplayLink “links” a display to Windows 10 using third-party software and a port not designed for video output.

Related: How to enable dark mode in Windows 10, Office, and Microsoft Edge

Option 5: Wi-Fi Part 1

If you don’t want any cords connecting your computer to the TV, there’s always the Wi-Fi option. Of course, your TV will need to be connected locally to the network either through an Ethernet cable or wireless. Be sure to enable Wi-Fi on your TV and your computer is connected to the same wireless network.

Windows 10 select Display settings

1. Right-click on the computer desktop and select Display settings.

Windows 10 connect to wireless display

2. In the Settings app, scroll down and click the Connect to a wireless display link under Multiple displays.
3. You should see your TV in a roll-out list on the right. Click on the TV.
4. Depending on your TV’s settings, you may need to approve the connection directly on the TV screen.
5. After the approval, you should see a duplicate copy of the desktop on your TV.
6. As with all other physical connections, you can choose to duplicate your computer’s primary screen, extend the desktop across two screens, or show the desktop only on one screen.

If you didn’t see your TV when scanning for a wireless display, try the following:

Windows 10 access settings

1. Click the Start button and then the “gear” icon on the Start Menu to access the Settings app.

Windows 10 select devices

2. Select Devices.

Windows 10 add other device

3. Under Bluetooth & other devices, click the “+” next to Add Bluetooth & other devices.

Windows 10 add wireless display

4. Select Wireless display or dock.
5. Wait for Windows 10 to scan the wireless network.
6. Select your TV.

Related: How to split your screen in Windows 10

Option 6: Wi-Fi Part 2 (Chromecast)

Google’s Chromecast device is great, as you can “cast” merely anything, like web pages, music, movies, and pictures. We already provide a guide on how to set up Chromecast for all platforms here. But here we show you how to cast your Windows 10 desktop to your TV using Chromecast. It’s not the ideal tool, as you’ll see a noticeable delay between your mouse movements on the PC and the same movements through Chromecast.

1. Install Google Chrome, if you don’t have it already.

Chrome select Cast

2. Sign in to your Google Account.
3. Right-click within the browser and select Cast. You can also click the three-dot Settings icon in the browser’s top-right corner and select Cast in the drop-down menu.

Chrome cast to desktop

4. In another drop-down menu labeled Cast, select Sources at the bottom. By default, you’re casting the current tab in Chrome. Change the source to Cast desktop in the drop-down menu.

Chrome select Cast device

5. On the same menu, select the Chromecast device connected to your TV.

Chrome approve screen share

6. In a pop-up window, select the screen you want to share and click the Share button. You can share any connected screen but not all at once. Make sure Share audio is also ticked.

Chrome browser cast icon

7. Click the blue Cast icon parked next to your Google Account icon in Chrome if you need to revisit the Cast settings or stop casting altogether.

That wraps up our guide on how to connect a computer to a TV. Here are a few other guides based on Windows 10 PCs:

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