How to stream your laptop to your TV – Helpdesk Challenge

Laptop

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.

Previously, we explained how to stream your tablet to your TV and in this week’s Helpdesk Challenge, we show you how to stream your laptop to your TV.

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.

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Connecting via a cable

Newer laptops – HDMI

HDMI_cableNewer 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

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.

Older TVs

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

Minijack_to_phonoNeither DVI nor VGA carry audio to your TV, so you’ll need to use additional cables. 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.

Connecting Macs

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 wirelessly

WD_TV_Play

If connecting multiple cables sounds like too much work, another option is to connect a dedicated wireless network media player into your TV. This effectively cuts out the middle man and plugs your TV directly into the web.

Western Digital’s WD TV Play Media Player (around £70 on Amazon) is a small box that plugs into your TV and can connect to your home network wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable. As well as letting you play files that are on your laptop, the WD TV box has a range of its own apps for streaming entertainment. For example, access to online services such as NetFlix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter and more. Quite simply, for around £30 this little box can turn your TV into a smart TV.

Laptop streaming – what solution do you use?

Needless to say there are more ways than we mention here to connect your laptop to your TV, but we’ve tried to keep it to the simplest and cheapest methods. If you have a better way, please let us know in the comments section. Just be sure to reference the name of the laptop or TV you use.

More on this

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Best cheap laptops for under £500 – we pick the five best laptops with a budget price

 

18 replies

    1. You can stream files from any drive or folder using a UPNP server or a share on a local network, either to a WDTV or alternative media player, PS3, Xbox, a ‘smart TV’, to another computer or a mobile phone or tablet. That is not a wireless alternative to connecting a laptop to a TV with a cable, which in the case of using HDMI, DVI or VGA, would mirror or extend the desktop; it’s something different. There are probably a few ways of doing this over a local network, but that’s not one of them.

  1. In the past, depending on the laptop, I have used both HDMI and VGA+audio cables when I wanted to use “a telly” as a “big monitor”.

    For playing media, I used to have an Emtec Movie Cube combined media player and NAS box which would play back many common types of media files, even from PC shares on my home network. The Emtec box died about a year ago but I now have a Sony TV and a Sony BluRay player, both of which will play media files from their USB device sockets. So I am back to a “sneaker net” solution, where I watch media from a USB disc plugged in locally.

  2. I recently bought a CHROMECAST media player from Amazon (£30) and with that you can stream wirelessly from your laptop to your TV, but you can only use it with CHROME browser.
    Anything on your desktop you can display on your TV when you use your tablet or IPhone.
    I have just recently bought an LG smart tv and that has a way of streaming wirelessly your laptop to your TV but I haven’t set it up yet.
    I previously was using a long 5 metre HDMI lead to stream from laptop to TV.

  3. Does this really work between a (Dell Inspiron 1750) laptop with only a VGA socket (ie no HMDI or DVI) and a (Samsung) TV with only an HDMI socket (ie no VGA or DVI)? I can’t make it work with an HDMI-to-DVI cable with an DVI-to-VGA converter, and one forum answer says “VGA to HDMI is a sham. You cannot convert analog to digital with a simple cable”. Is it worth me buying an HDMI-to-VGA cable, or will that be another £3 down the drain. Thanks.

    1. Patrick

      To feed some thing useful (like recent quality movies?) into a telly via HDMI you would need a device to generate all the data needed for the the HDMI interface. The picture data could come from a VGA output but the sound data would need to come from an audio output on the PC.

      A simple cable – literally a bundle of wires – will not be able to do this but a cable containing “active electronic ingredients” might do the top. Maplin product code N47HH seems to describe one way of doing this – but that device lists at £50 and you probably do not need one unless your telly only has an HDMI input (i.e. it does not separate VGA and audio connections for PC input).

    2. Thank you so much for your reply Derek. I’ve been Googling this for all my life’s worth, and I thought it must be more complicated that the Which? article was making it look. The Maplin product does indeed look as if it is made to connect a laptop VGA with a TV HDMI, but yes, it is pricey. Perhaps I’ll wait until I need a new (HDMI-enabled) laptop! Thanks again.
      Patrick.

  4. Please show us something useful anybody with a bit of nous can connect a cable to their TV. surely the modern way is wireless, nobody wants cables trailing all over the place these days. I recently bought a Roku 3 box to wirelessly stream from my computer to my TV on my home network only to find I had to download Plex to my computer and the Roku a very long drawn out process and it still does not work, seems like I have hit a brick wall.

  5. Out in you Spain we are no longer able to watch BBC, ITV and all the usual channels since the BBC launched the new Astra satellite which provides better reception for the British Isles but removes the signal completely from most of Spain, France etc. there are various solutions for streaming from a laptop or tablet. Personally I connect my laptop to the TV via a HDMI cable and stream from FIlmon which you can download free of charge. We can get all the BBC channels plus ITV and many more this way. It is not perfect but it is not bad. You can also get BBC iplayer if you convince your computer that you are not on Spain but in the UK. You will need a VPN for this. Incidentally we pay a full BBC licence fee as we only spend part of the year in Spain so we are not trying to avoid paying.

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