Sick of watching movies on your small laptop screen? Our latest guide explains how to stream your laptop to your TV with minimal cost and fuss.
Our guide explains the cheapest ways to get your laptop’s contents on the big screen both wirelessly and via cables. Read on to find out how to put your laptop on the big screen.
The guide below primarily focuses on connecting a laptop to a TV using cables. If you'd like to connect wirelessly, that's possible too. See our guide for connecting wirelessly to a TV using an Apple TV (best for Mac users) or connecting wirelessly to a TV with a Google Chromecast (best for Windows laptop users).
Connecting a laptop to a TV via a cable
Newer laptops - HDMI cables
Newer laptops and TVs use a connection called HDMI, and this is our recommended connection type to use. It carries high definition video and audio over one cable, so you won’t need to mess around with multiple cables.
Also worth mentioning, you don’t need to buy a fancy, gold-plated expensive HDMI cable either. A basic cable should suffice and should only cost about £2.50 online. For longer cables over ten metres, differences in performance may possibly be an issue if there is interference between the video source and the TV.
Older laptops - DVI/VGA cables
Older laptops may use a DVI output, but DVI and HDMI are compatible. You can spend a couple of pounds on a DVI-to-HDMI cable or adaptor to connect to your TV.
VGA tends to be on older laptops or desktop PCs and it’s still fairly common even on newer laptops. Check the back of your TV for a socket labelled PC, RGB or D-sub. Vga cables cost around £3 online. If your TV doesn’t have a VGA socket, then you’ll need to buy an adaptor, such as Kanaan’s VGA-to-HDMI converter, which costs about £32 online.
If you have an older big-box TV, rather than a newer flatscreen, it’s usually much harder to connect to a laptop. TVs of this era lack both HDMI and DVI/VGA and there are no cheap or easy ways to connect your laptop to the Scart or Composite video inputs on older TVs.
Wired for sound
Neither DVI nor VGA carry audio to your TV, so you’ll need to use additional cables for this. The best solution is to connect your laptop’s audio-out or headphone socket to the auxiliary input (Aux in) on your hi-fi and listen to sound through your stereo speakers. You’ll need to use a 3.5mm minijack cable or minijack-to-phono (red and white) for this. If that’s not possible, a secondary solution is to just use your laptop speakers while the visuals play on your TV.
Connecting a MacBook to a TV
Most Mac computers can be connected to a TV via HDMI, but not all come with a HDMI socket built-in. Those that don’t can instead be connected via DisplayPort. DisplayPort is similar to HDMI, where it carries HD video and audio over one cable, but fewer devices support this connection type.
However, you can buy a DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable (costs less than £10 online), but make sure you get one that carries audio as well as video.
To get it up and running, click Displays in System Preferences, click Arrangements and place a tick next to where it says Mirror Displays.
Connecting a laptop to a TV wirelessly
If connecting multiple cables sounds like too much work and mess, another option is to connect a 'casting' box to your TV, which can mirror whatever is on your laptop's screen.
Mac users should use an Apple TV box for this. They start from around £60, and connect to your TV via HDMI (they need a power cable, too). They'll recognise any Macs, iPads or iPhones on the same network and let you mirror whatever is on your Apple device's screen, playing it on your TV. Sound will be carried over too, all wirelessly. This can be a great way to watch Netflix or iPlayer, all controlled from your Mac or iPad/iPhone.
Windows PC users can achieve the same effect using a Google Chromecast device. These cost from around £30, and plug into an HDMI port on your TV (they need a separate power source, too). You can then 'cast' what's on your PC's screen if you're using the Google Chrome Browser.