Smart TVs are great, but there are loads of reasons why you might want to connect your laptop to your TV. You might want to display a slideshow, watch a video you have stored locally, do web browsing on the big screen and more.
The best way to connect a computer to your TV and share its screen is using a standard HDMI cable, though you can also connect a computer to a TV wirelessly. Connect one end to the port on your laptop or PC, and the other to the port on the back of your TV, then switch the TV source to the appropriate HDMI channel.
It should be this simple to mirror your laptop screen on a TV – and because HDMI carries sound and video, you will also hear whatever’s playing streamed through your TV’s speakers.
But, as with all things in life, it won’t always go to plan. We’ve outlined some common pitfalls you may encounter below, and explained how to get around them. Also, read our tips on using a TV as a monitor.
My computer doesn’t have an HDMI port
HDMI connections come in three sizes: full-size (also known as Type-A), Mini and Micro. The HDMI port on either your computer or your TV is likely to be a full-size connection, shown in red in the image below. Not all computers feature HDMI, however.
If you have a recent model it may instead have a USB-C port, for which you simply need to use a USB-C to HDMI cable to connect it to the TV.
You can also purchase adaptors for converting your laptop’s USB-C, full-size USB 3.0, DVI and DisplayPort connections to HDMI, which might be easier if you already have a standard HDMI cable to hand.
If you go down the USB-C route but have only one USB-C port on your laptop, which is now occupied or required for charging, consider using a USB-C hub to add more ports – this model even adds an HDMI port.
If your laptop doesn’t have any of these modern connections, you’ll need to use a VGA port to connect it to the TV. As VGA cannot carry audio, you must choose a cable that also has a 3.5mm audio connector, such as this one.
My TV doesn’t have a spare HDMI port
If all HDMI ports are currently in use, use an HDMI switch to turn one port into many. These are relatively cheap devices – we like this HDMI switch with two HDMI outputs.
Connect the port labeled HDMI OUT to the TV using an HDMI cable, then use the HDMI IN ports to attach different HDMI-connected devices. You can switch between them using the button on top and some HDMI switches also come with a remote control – like this one.
The HDMI cable isn’t long enough
If your TV is wall-mounted, or you want your laptop near you to use it easily while plugged in, you may need to purchase an extra-long HDMI cable. If it’s tight against the wall and difficult to access you can also purchase an angled HDMI extender.
Check out other Best HDMI cables.
There is no sound when I connect my laptop to my TV over HDMI
There are a number of problems that could cause the TV not to play sound from a computer connected over HDMI. It’s worth ruling out any issues with the connection itself first, so make sure the HDMI cable is inserted properly and potentially try using a different HDMI cable or port.
You will also need to ensure the computer’s settings are configured correctly. Right-click the volume icon in the Taskbar at the bottom of your Windows display, then choose Sounds. Select the Playback tab then ensure the Digital Output or HDMI option is selected as the default.
If you do not see these options here, right-click in that window and make sure all disconnected and disabled devices are visible. If it’s still missing, update the drivers for your sound card. You can do this by going direct to the website of your sound card manufacturer, or using a simple application such as Driver Easy.
There is no picture when I connect my laptop to my TV over HDMI
When you connect your PC to a TV, you shouldn’t need to change any settings on the PC for the picture to display on the TV. However, if it’s not displaying correctly, first check the HDMI connection itself, then try the following:
Press Windows Key + P. You should see a sidebar pop up with various display options; Laptop Screen Only, Duplicate, Extend and Second Screen Only. We recommend using Duplicate or Second Screen Only.
If this doesn’t solve your problem, right-click the desktop and choose Display Settings.
If you don’t see two displays (similar to the image below), your laptop has not detected the TV. This could suggest the HDMI connection itself is at fault, so check it is inserted correctly, and potentially try using a different cable or a different port.
When you do see the second screen appear in Display Settings, scroll down to Multiple Display options. In this menu, you can choose whether to mirror (duplicate) your laptop screen, extend these displays (so you can show different content on each display) or show only on the TV (which is usually screen number 2).
How to connect your laptop to a TV wirelessly
Plenty of gadgets are able to act as a bridge between your computer and your TV, allowing you to ‘cast’ content from one to the other. You may also hear the term ‘screen mirroring’ used, though technically the two are slightly different, with one streaming content from within an app and the other replicating your laptop’s screen exactly.
Because there are so many technologies and terminologies in use out there, including Wireless Display, Wi-Fi Direct and Miracast, which may be supported by none, one or both of your devices, it may pay to keep things simple.
We like the Roku Express (reviewed). It’s a cheap media streamer that plugs into your TV over HDMI and allows you to install apps for various catch-up TV services and movie subscription services. It also allows you to cast from a compatible device in much the same way as the £30 Google Chromecast, but with the addition of a user-friendly interface.
If you don’t need a media streaming box – perhaps you already have a smart TV and don’t need to add apps – there are also solutions that are no more than wireless HDMI dongles, such as this 4K dongle from Amazon. It’s no different to connecting the two using an HDMI cable, except that the cable is replaced with a wireless system.
Also see: How to connect Android to TV and how to connect headphones to a TV.