How to display a computer image on a TV or projector

Updated: 06/27/2017 by Computer Hope

All modern televisions and projectors have one or more ports that allows 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.

Tip: You can also use a Google Chromecast to stream information from your computer, smartphone, or tablet to your TV.

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 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 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 desktop computers as well, even those without a high-end video card. HDMI is quickly becoming the standard for all electronic equipment for its high quality signal and ability to carry both audio and video signals. The image to the right is an example of an HDMI cable.


Computer VGA port and cableThe VGA connection is the most common type of connection on both desktop and laptop computers. It is also found on most projectors and some TVs, especially LCD and LED TVs. The VGA cable has a 15-pin connector on each end that plugs into a VGA port on each device. Because 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, if your desktop monitor uses a removable VGA cable, 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 computer, you need a VGA adapter to connect a VGA cable to the computer.


DVIThe DVI connection is newer than VGA and it offers a sharper image. Although the DVI port is not shown on the image of the Epson projector above, it is still somewhat common on projectors, but not as common on TVs. It is mostly found on 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 recommend using HDMI cables if available.

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 non-existent on modern computers. This connection is the yellow female cable on what is normally a three-cable bundle consisting of red, white, and yellow cables. The only time you should see this setup is on older video cards for desktop computers.


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


Although all computers have a USB connection it cannot be used to connect to computer or laptop a projector or TV. You must use one of the above connections for a display signal.

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, 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 click 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 the laptop sends the video signal to the 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 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 the TV has been switched to the correct input channel. 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 channel on the TV. This action can usually be accomplished by pressing the input button on your TV remote until the correct input channel is displayed.

Additional information

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