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Connect a Computer to a TV

How to share images between a laptop (or desktop) PC and the television


Three young people playing with laptop, in a hotel
Kaz Chiba/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
One way to show digital pictures and video to friends and family is for all to huddle around the home computer screen. Alternatively, you can connect the computer to a television and send the images to the TV. Technology also exists to network a TV and a computer in the other direction, so that you can watch television programs on your laptop or PC. Each method involves pros and cons including some setup challenges.

Displaying Digital Images on The TV

With a digital camera or video recorder, you can create multimedia image files stored on your PCs. Showing these images to others can be inconvenient, however, especially if your computer screen is small and located in a private room of the house. Displaying them on a television usually allows you to show them at a larger size and in a more comfortable location.

You can connect a computer to a TV either with cables or via wireless. The best method to choose depends on the types of connections your TV supports as well as your budget for purchasing additional hardware.

Watching TV on the Computer

You may also be interested in watching television programs on a computer. This is also possible with the right wired or wireless equipment installed. Some TV broadcasts are accessible directly via the Internet and no connection to a television is required. Those who own Digital Video Recorders (DVR) may also prefer to connect their computer to the DVR rather than the television directly.

Connecting Computers to TVs With Wires

Televisions do not normally support Ethernet cable connections. Instead, you will typically connect your laptop or desktop PC to a TV using one of the following types of audio-visual (AV) cables:
  • S-Video
  • HDMI
  • DVI or HDMI-to-DVI
  • VGA
  • Any of the above - to-SCART (in Europe)
See also - TV Terminology - About.com

A scan converter is a device that translates the computer's video signal into standard TV formats. You may need to set up a scan converter to connect your computer and TV if, between them, the two do not support any compatible combination of AV cable technologies listed above. Newer televisions, however, generally support multiple types of digital inputs, and finding the right cable should not be too difficult.

Connecting Computers to TVs Via Wireless

As an alternative to using cables, you can also use Wi-Fi to connect computers and TVs without wires. Because televisions do not ordinarily support Wi-Fi, you will need to install a separate unit between the computer and TV. One common solution is called a Wireless PC to TV system or [i[Digital Media Receiver. These products connect via AV cable to the TV and supply Wi-Fi connections to any computer in the home.

Another wireless PC to TV connectivity option is based on Windows Media Center Edition (MCE). If you purchase a Windows PC with MCE included, the system contains built-in wireless connectivity support for streaming images to your television. Some of these systems also support TV tuner cards that allow your computer to receive incoming television signals. Finally, you can extend the capability of a Media Center PC across an entire wireless home network by installing a Media Center Extender product like the Linksys DMA2100.

Pros and Cons of Connecting Computers and TVs

Networking your computers and TVs provides the most convenient sharing of multimedia images:
  • does not require connecting a digital camcorder or camera to the TY

  • can make the necessary connections with either Windows, Mac or Linux computers

  • with Media Center Extender or similar capability, can direct content from any home computer to the TV

You may also encounter a few challenges and limitations:
  • the screen resolution of older TVs is much lower than modern computer displays - your images and video may appear with lower quality when shown on the television

  • when using AV cables, you may need to relocate the laptop or PC very close to the television to reach

  • when using wireless connections, the effective range may be relatively short, depending on the equipment in use, due to the high volume of data involved in digital media

  • hardware needed, especially the more advanced wireless gear, may be expensive to purchase
For More Information - Home Networking for TV (Television)
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How to Connect the Computer to TV

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