How to use your TV as a monitor

View your PC video library on your HDTV

Here are your most likely options, from the best to the worst, if you want to hook up your desktop PC or notebook to your TV.

193898-0419hdmi2_original

HDMI to HDMI: If both devices have HDMI connectors, you're in luck. One simple cable will give the best picture and sound that your TV can handle.

If you don't get any sound, you may have to change Windows' audio output device settings. In Windows 7 or Vista, right-click the speaker icon in the system tray and select Sounds. Click the Playback tab and select Digital Audio (HDMI).

193898-0419dvi_original

DVI to HDMI: If your computer lacks an HDMI connector, it might still have PCI. With the right adapter or cable, this will work just fine. You can pick up DVI to HDMI adapters for less than $10.

These two standards send and receive identical digital video streams, making them easily compatible. The only differences: DVI carries no audio signal, and the connector looks funny.

The adapter takes care of the funny-looking connector, but you probably can't get sound from your computer to your HDTV if you're going over DVI. The television was built on the assumption that an HDMI signal would carry its own audio, so there may be no audio inputs associated with the HDMI connectors.

The solution is to bypass the TV speakers. If you have a separate receiver (a good idea in a home theater), plug your PC's audio output into that. You may need a Y-adapter audio cable with a one-eighth-inch stereo mini plug (like the one used by your headphones or earbuds) on one end, and two standard RCA audio connectors on the other. Or you can set up some computer speakers.

193898-0419vga2_original

VGA to VGA: If your PC lacks HDMI and PCI outputs, it almost certainly has a VGA connector. And I have yet to see an HDTV without a VGA port (which it may identify as RGB, PC, D-sub, or RGB PC). VGA can send any signal your PC and HDTV can handle.

At least, it can if you get it to work properly. Getting a good VGA signal on a television involves tweaking settings on both the PC and the TV. Start by reading the VGA section of your HDTV's manual.

How successful you'll be, and how much work that success requires, depends on your TV. My experience is that newer sets are pretty much plug-and-play in their VGA connection, but older ones give you grief. Some simply cannot give you a decent picture.

Not all HDTVs supply an audio input associated with the VGA connector. If yours doesn't, see the last paragraph of the PCI to HDMI section above.

193898-0419svideo2_original

S-Video to S-Video: If both devices have an S-Video connector, and they share nothing better, buy an S-Video cable and connect them. Then use a Y-adapter audio cable to connect your PC's audio to the audio inputs associated with the TV's S-Video connector.

This is a strictly analog, standard definition setup. Your TV will get nothing digital, and nothing HD. But it's simple and it works.

None of the above: If none of these matches work for you, you're out of luck. You're not going to get that particular PC working with that particular TV. Sure, you can buy a VGA to S-Video connector; I've tried several. I've yet to find one that worked.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags IPTVnotebooksdesktop pcs

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lincoln Spector

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?