Article ID : 00032284 / Last Modified : 07/20/2021

Connect a computer to a TV for use as a monitor using a HDMI or VGA cable

    Before You Start

    Video connections

    Depending on the ports available on your TV and computer, it may be possible to use the TV as a computer monitor. These are the types of video ports you should be looking for:

    Video Connection Ports

    IMPORTANT: When connecting a laptop computer you may need to press a function key combination (such as Fn+F7) for the computer to output the video signal. Check the instruction manual of your computer or TV for model-specific information. 

    If your TV and computer both have a matching video port, you can simply connect both devices by using the proper cable type. For example, if the computer uses a HDMI port to output the video signal and the TV has a HDMI port for receiving the video signal, then all you need to do is connect a HDMI cable to both of the HDMI ports; the same applies to the other types of ports.

    The video quality displayed on the TV will be determined by the method used to connect the computer. For the best video quality, try using a HDMI, DVI, or VGA cable in that order.  USB ports are now capable of transferring video signals. Composite, component, or S-Video connections can be used, but do not provide as high of a resolution. Your connection options may be limited by the types of ports available on both devices.  HDMI connections are the easiest and are now more available with a direct HDMI cable connection between the computer and the TV.

    The computer and TV may not have any matching ports. If this is the case, you will need to do one of the following:

    1. Install a video card in the computer that has a matching port like the one found on the TV.

      Note: If using an Apple® Macintosh® computer, a Thunderbolt adapter may be required to output an HDMI or DVI connection. Visit the Apple website or contact Apple support for further assistance if needed.

    2. Purchase a video converter from a local or online computer retailer.

      Note: A DVI-to-HDMI cable or a DVI-to-HDMI converter is not supported or guaranteed when attempting to connect a computer with a DVI OUT to a TV with an HDMI IN.

    Although most computers now have HDMI output, if that port is not available then a video converter may be next best option.  Older computers use VGA/RGB ports to output the video signal, so a VGA converter may be needed to pass the signal to the TV. Use one of the following types of converters depending on the video input on your TV:

    • VGA-to-DVI
    • VGA-to-HDMI
    • VGA-to-USB
    • VGA-to-Component Video
    • VGA-to-S-Video
    • VGA-to-Composite Video

    Whether installing a video card, using a video converter, or connecting directly with a cable it is important to make sure the computer can output the video resolution properly. You should check the instruction manual of your TV to determine what resolution is supported and then configure the computer accordingly in the Display Properties found in the Control Panel of the operating system. While newer TVs can provide higher resolutions, older models use resolutions of 640x480 and 800x600.

    Notes:

    • Although the computer may be capable of outputting higher resolutions, the television may not be able to handle it. This can result in overscan which causes some of the screen information to be cut off or missing.
    • In addition to the resolution, the computer must also use a scan frequency (also known as refresh rate) that is compatible with the TV. Common scan frequencies are 50Hz, 60Hz and sometimes 75Hz. You should check the instruction manual of your TV for this information.
    • WARNING!There is a risk of hardware damage. Using a scan frequency that is not supported can cause damage to the TV or computer.

    Audio connections

    For sound, if the computer does not have any speakers connected you will need to connect an audio cable, unless you are using an HDMI-to-HDMI connection, which will transfer both audio and video signals. There are two types of audio ports we need to look for: a miniplug or composite audio jack.

    Audio Cable Ports

    • If the computer has a line out miniplug and the TV has composite audio input jacks, use a miniplug-to-composite audio cable.

      Mini jack to RCA Audio cable

    • If the computer has composite audio output jacks and TV has composite audio input jacks, use a standard composite audio cable.

      RCA Cable

    • If the computer has a 3.5 mm line-out miniplug and the TV has a 3.5 mm line-in miniplug, use a miniplug-to-miniplug audio cable.

      mini-jack to mini-jack audio cable

    Note: The audio cables can provide stereo sound (left and right channel audio) to the TV and can be purchased. Go to Parts and Accessories.