How to display a computer image on a TV or Projector

Many TVs and projectors have one or more connections that allow you to connect a computer to them and display the screen. Both desktop computers and laptop computers are capable of connecting to a TV or projector. Following the steps below will help you connect your TV or Projector to your computer.

Identifying available connections
Connecting computer and projector or TV
Switching laptop display settings
Switching TV inputs

Identifying available connections

There are 5 Types of connections a computer could have that allows it to connect to a TV or Projector. Before connecting these devices, you must identify what your computer is capable of using as well as what your TV and projector can use. In the picture below, is an example of what the back of an Epson projector looks like and its available connection.

Epson projector

VGA

Computer VGA port and cableThe VGA connection is the most common connection found on a computer; however, not all TVs and projectors have a VGA input. Although, it is more common to find a projector with this connection versus a TV. The VGA connector is a 15-pin connection (like that shown to the right) and is often used for a computer monitor. Many laptops have this connection for connecting to a TV, projector, or even another monitor to allow for dual screen (laptop screen + external monitor).

Tip: If you are using a laptop, need a VGA cable, and have a desktop computer monitor that uses a VGA cable it can often be disconnected from the computer and monitor to be used with the laptop.

Note: If you are using an Apple desktop or laptop you will need a VGA adapter in order to connect a VGA cable to the computer.

DVI

The DVI connection is becoming more common on desktop computers today, and some laptops have DVI connections as well (Apple laptops are more commonly found to have a DVI connection than any other brand of laptop). However, finding DVI on a TV or projector is more difficult. To hook a computer up to a TV or projector using the computer's DVI connection typically requires a special cable that converts from DVI to VGA or DVI to HDMI.

Composite Video

The composite video connection is quite common to be found on a TV or projector, but it is becoming less common to find on a computer. This connection is the yellow female connection found on most TVs and projectors. Some video cards for desktop computers still feature a composite video output, but newer video cards are switching to HDMI outputs.

S-Video

The S-Video connection is also commonly found on TVs and projectors. It is also still pretty common to find the S-Video connection on a desktop computer video card. However, it is less likely to find this connection on a laptop computer. This connection has decent video quality, as a step up from composite video and works pretty well for most computer to TV or Projector purposes.

HDMI

The HDMI connection is becoming a popular connection for computer users, as well as TV & Projector users. Newer video cards for desktop computers are starting to feature HDMI outputs, which works great for connecting to LCD and LED TVs, as well as home theater HD projector systems. HDMI offers the highest quality from a computer to a TV or Projector.

Connecting computer and projector or TV

Computer video converter examplesAfter you've identified what connections are available on your computer and TV or Projector you're ready to connect the cables. If the same type of connections are not available for both the computer and TV or Projector, you'll need to purchase a video converter cable that converts one signal into a compatible signal.

Switching laptop display settings

If you're connecting a laptop computer to a TV or a Projector you'll need to switch the video input on the Laptop before any display on the laptop will be shown on a projector or TV. The key sequence can vary depending on laptop; however, is often either: Fn + F3, F4, F5, F8, or F9. For example, pressing and holding Fn + F3 at the same time could switch between your laptop and external display. The function key will often be labeled as CRT/LCD or have a picture of a monitor on the key or close to the key. Additional help and information with switching the laptop display can also be found on the link below.

Switching TV inputs

Finally, if you're connecting a computer to a TV make sure you're switching the TV to the correct input. For example, if you connected your computer to a VGA connection on the back of the computer you'll need to switch to the VGA or Computer Input before the computer display will be shown on your computer.

To change the input on your TV usually requires you press the input button on your TV remote until the TV displays the input name your computer is connected to the TV.

Additional information

  • See our TV and Projector definition for further information and related links.