How to display a computer image on a TV or Projector

All modern televisions and projectors have one or more ports which allow them to receive and display an image generated by a computer. Both desktop and laptop computers are capable of connecting to a TV or projector, provided that they have the appropriate cables. The following sections contain instructions for using your TV or Projector as a computer monitor. For best results, we recommend reading them in order.

Identifying available connections
Connecting computer and projector or TV
Display using Desktop
Display using Laptop
I don't see an image on my TV screen

Identifying available connections

The first step in connecting your computer to a TV or projector is finding an identical port on both machines. Once the matching port has been identified (one that is the same on both your input device and output device), you will need the appropriate cable to connect them. This section contains a picture of the back of an Epson projector and its available connection ports; as well as descriptions of each.

Epson projector

HDMI

HDMI cableThe HDMI connection is very popular among display electronics. In fact, nearly all modern televisions and projectors feature HDMI ports. Most laptop computers support HDMI and it is becoming more prevalent on both desktop as well; even without a high-end video card. Simply due to it's universal nature, high quality signal, and the ability to carry both audio and video signals, HDMI is quickly becoming the standard for all electronic equipment when it comes to images and sound. The image to the right is that of an HDMI cable.

VGA

Computer VGA port and cableThe VGA connection is the most common among both desktop and laptop computers, is found on most projectors, and some TVs. The VGA cable has a 15-pin connector on each end that plugs into a VGA port on each device. Due to the fact that most televisions do not support VGA, we recommend using HDMI for their wider range of compatibility.

Tip:VGA cabling is universal for devices that support it. For example, the if your desktop monitor that uses a VGA cable it, that same cable can be used by a laptop to connect it to a projector.

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

DVI

DVIThe DVI connection is newer than VGA and it offers a sharper image. Although the DVI port is not shown on the Epson model above, it is still somewhat common for projectors, not so much for televisions. It is mostly found among desktop computers for monitors, but some laptops have DVI connections as well (Apple laptops are more commonly known to support DVI than any other brand of laptop). Since finding DVI on a TV or projector is more difficult, we again recommend using HDMI cables.

Tip: There are special cables that convert from DVI to VGA or DVI to HDMI and vice versa.

Composite Video

The composite video connection is quite common on a TV or projector, but it is nearly nonexistent on modern computers. This connection is the yellow female cable on what is normally a three bundle of red, white, and yellow. The only time you should see this setup is on older video cards for desktop computers.

S-Video

The S-Video connection is also commonly found on TVs and projectors, but solemnly on a desktop or laptop computer. This connection is a small step up from composite video, but is nearing obsolescence.

Connecting computer and projector or TV

After you've identified what connections are available on both your computer and TV or Projector, you're ready to connect the cables. If the same 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.

Desktop Computers

For a desktop, you simply need to plug the cable into the computer and output device. If you don't see an image, you may need to change the display using the following steps.

  1. Press the Windows Key.
  2. Type Adjust screen resolution and press Enter.
  3. Find Display and click the down arrow on the right-hand side of the box.
  4. Select the appropriate output device.
  5. Click Apply then OK.

Laptop Computers

If you're connecting a laptop computer to a TV or a Projector you'll often need to "send" the video signal to the display device. The key sequence to do this varies depending on the laptop; but usually it's either: Fn + F3, F4, F5, F8, or F9. For example, pressing and holding Fn + F3 at the same time on my laptop sends the video signal to my connected TV instead of the laptop's screen. The corresponding key used with Fn may be labeled as CRT/LCD or have a picture of a monitor on 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 it has been switched to the correct input. For example, if you connected an HDMI cable to your computer and the "HDMI 2" port on your TV, you'll need to switch to the "HDMI 2" input. This action can be accomplished by pressing the input button on your TV remote until the correct image is displayed.

Additional information

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