How to play PC games on your TV

You can take advantage of your high-powered gaming system to play PC games and classic console games at beautiful resolutions on your HDTV. Here's how to do it

Playing games on your PC is fantastic if you have the right hardware. Sure, playing console games on a big-screen HDTV is convenient when you have a group of friends gaming together, but games will always look better on a gaming PC with a beefy graphics card and plenty of extra RAM. Hooking your PC up to your TV is also a great way to play pixel-perfect re-creations of classic console games on your HDTV, the way they were meant to be played. This guide will walk you through what to do to get those pixels in order, no matter the emulator or the TV.

Using a TV as a monitor

Let’s begin by assuming that you’ve just plugged your TV into your Windows 7 PC as an additional monitor. For this step, usually all you have to do is connect an HDMI cable from the HDMI port on your graphics card to the HDMI input on your HDTV. If you don't have the luxury of owning a PC and a TV with HDMI ports, however, you'll need to buy an adapter cable that accommodates your unique hardware situation.

Once your TV and PC are connected, turn both on, and then right-click anywhere on your Windows 7 desktop and click Screen Resolution. In that dialog box you should see one more monitor icon than you're used to, which represents your HDTV; if your PC does not detect your TV as an additional display, you may need to configure your TV for HDMI-out or PC-out mode.

In the Display drop-down menu, select your TV as a monitor (the name can vary, but if it’s the only display other than your main one, it will be numbered as '2'). Next, change the 'Multiple displays' setting to Extend desktop to this display. Now take a look at your TV -- if you see an improperly stretched version of your desktop wallpaper, you’re on the right track.

How to play PC games on your TV

Next, make sure that your TV is set to the highest possible resolution, which likely will be either 1280 by 720 (720p) or 1920 by 1080 (1080p). You should perform this step because LCD and plasma HDTVs do not look good at anything lower than their native resolution. It's a no-brainer for playing modern PC games such as Civilization 5, but even if you’re emulating classic console games on your PC and you're (understandably) concerned that a Sega Genesis game designed to run in 320 by 240 will not look right in 1080p, turn your HDTV up to its maximum resolution. Trust me: You’ll get much better fidelity by doing the image scaling in software rather than trying to force your TV into a resolution that approximates the native resolution of classic games.

The only instance in which you might not want to max out the resolution is if you have an HD CRT (you lucky, lucky person with your 90-pound piece of furniture, you), in which case lower resolutions may look just fine.

While you have the Screen Resolution dialog box open, here’s one last tip you ought to know. See the 'Make this my main display' option? You may need to enable that when you’re trying to run some console emulators in full screen on your PC, as they’ll function only on the primary display. Making your HDTV your primary display can be a pain, but it’s something you just have to tolerate.

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