How-to: Connect your PC to your television and stereo.

Difficulty: 2

PC to TVFor many years now, I have had my computer connected to my television and stereo so that I can watch films from my computer, sitting comfortably on my couch, or to set the mood with winamp visualisations and music when people are coming around. I have not seen many home setups which take advantage of this. It is so much nicer hearing your MP3 collection, pumping out the big speakers in your house.

It is very easy to set up and it can be done very cheaply, and in some cases free. The cost comes in with cables and adaptors which are cheap unless you need to buy an extra component. It should be possible for everyone to acheive for well under $100.

This article will show you how to connect your computer to your television and stereo. We will cover lots of different scenarios so I hope by the end of this article, everyone will have successfully been able to acheive this.

This theory is identical to if you want to hook your computer up to a projector so if that is what you use, this article is also appropriate for you.

What you need:

This is hard to define initially in this article as there are so many ways to achieve this depending on what type of television you have and what video outputs your computer offers. You may also find that you only want to attach the stereo, and leave the TV disconnected, or vice versa. That is fine, just find the relevant parts of this article to suite your needs. For now we will keep it very basic.

  • A Computer, desktops and laptops will both work. You will require a spare output from your video card.
  • A Television with some type of AUX input.
  • A Stereo with some type of AUX input.

AUX stands for Auxilery, which means an input from an external source. Most stereos and televisions will have these as they are what you would use to connect your DVD or VCR to it.

How to connect your video source to your television:

We are going to look at video first because there are a lot of options here. Connecting your computers audio to your stereo is a much easier task.

The quality you will receive from this setup will depend greatly on the television itself. You may find that reading text and desktop icons are very difficult with the analog options below, but even with an old television, you will be able to watch movies which are on your computer on your TV. They will be of similar quality to connecting your DVD or VCR to your television.

Define your televisions AUX input type:

We first need to define what inputs you have on your television. Some will work better than others. The newer and more expensive televisions are likely to get better results. We will start with the best and work our way through. It is best to keep the format the same at both the output of the computer and the input of the television, meaning that we don’t want to convert from Component Video to S-Video connections where possible.

The Digital World:

HDMI InterfaceHDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface: Ideally we will all have an HDMI connection on both our television and video card, but most likely don’t have it on either. Many new LCD screen and Plasma displays offer this mother of connections. They are also becoming a little more popular on Video cards. This will give you the highest quality signal. This format can also carry audio. This is very easy to connect from one device to another. It offers the same video quality as a DVI.

DVIDVI – Digital Visual Interface: Many current computers will offer this connection out of the video card. You may well find that if you have a plasma or LCD television, this will be the best connection to use.

The Analog World:

VgaVGA/XGA – Video Graphics Array: This is the standard video output you would have from your video card in your computer. There are not many televisions with these inputs on them. I specifically bought a CRT television with this port many years ago as LCD and plasma displays were very expensive at the time. It offers a good quality picture but is limited on my TV to 640×480 resolution. Text is readable and movies look great. This VGA resolution is higher than what most CRT screens can handle.

SvideoS-Video &ndash Separate Video: This is common on Video cards and televisions. With this format, you will have difficulty reading text on the screen, but films and games will be fine. This is the same output many DVD/HD-TV boxes/Gaming consoles offer so you can expect the same quality as that. Many video cards have this connection.

RCA - CompositeComposite Video – RCA connector: Last and definitely least is the trusty RCA connector. This is what we have used for many years to connect audio and video components together. This is of a lower quality than S-Video but it is still fine for sending audio and video signals around the place. You are most likely to have this connection on your TV and it is possible that you have this on your video card also.

How to decide which connection to use?:

Here are some scenarios: The higher up the list the better

omputer has HDMI and TV has HDMI – Use HDMI
Computer has DVI and TV has DVI – Use DVI
Computer has DVI and TV has VGA – Use VGA + Adaptor
Computer has VGA and TV has VGA – Use VGA
Computer has S-Video and TV has S-Video – Use S-Video
Computer has RCA and TV has RCA – Use RCA
Computer has S-Video and TV has RCA – Use RCA with adaptor
Computer has RCA and TV has S-Video – Use RCA with adaptor

If your scenario is not in this list, things get much trickier. You can purchase a box which will convert input sources to various outputs, or you could purchase an external video card for the task, though both of these options are expensive. You are probably best to buy a new video card with suitable outputs on it. You do not need a fancy video card to achieve this as any video card on the market now is capable of playing video and most games smoothly.

ExclimationIf you have a dual monitor setup already, and your card has a third port for s-video or Composite/RCA, you are likely to have problems connecting all three displays at once. You may be able to use a Y-splitter to send the signal to two sources (losing quality) or get very familiar with your driver configurations so you can switch from one output to another quickly.

If your computer has on-board integrated video (part of the motherboard), and no other outputs, you can put another video card in your computer and have both working together in parallel.

Ensure that your TV is on the right channel before continuing, even if it is a black, blue or static screen.

Configure your video drivers:

Once you have connected your computer to your TV using one of the cables listed above, we need to configure our video card to send a video signal out that port. As all driver software is different, I will cover some of the more common aspects to look out for.

If you are HDMI, DVI and VGA, your computer will recognise your TV as a standard monitor which is much nicer and easier to configure in the driver options.

Most video cards will detect automatically if there is a device attached to its output.

You need to decide if you will have a clone view or an extended view. Clone view shows the same display on both you monitor and you television, whilst extended mode will allow you to drag program windows from one screen to another, or even stretch across both.

On a laptop, the external video output will be preconfigured so you will not have to adjust anything. Once you are plugged in, you can press the “Fn” key with the corresponding Function key. i.e. Fn+F5. The function key depends on the laptop but the key will generally resemble a picture of two monitors. Using these keys, you cycle through the various modes, laptop monitor only, external monitor only, both monitors.

Configuring: Similar for XP and Vista

I am sorry it is not possible to write instructions for each and every driver and connection. You would get a long way reading the manual for your drivers and video card. If you still have problems after doing this, request information on a particular card in the comments, I will do my best to give you this information.

Here is a rough how to for many of Nvidias video cards.

Go into your “Control Panel” and load up your “Display” properties.

Click the “Settings” tab and you will probably still see one monitor depending on what type of connection you used.

Click “Advanced” and then select the tab that corresponds to your “Video Card”. i.e. Geforce 6600 GT.

Here you have all the options for your card. If you are using a Nvidia card, click on n-View Display Settings, otherwise, whichever option shows you multiple display types.

Here you can select Dual-view and Clone, enable and disable displays. Also in the Nvidia control panel, in the tools section is an option to “Force TV detection”.

You may have to restart. You want to get your computer to a stage that in the display settings tab, you have two screens.

So now you should have video on both your computers monitor and your television. If the quality looks really bad, try playing a video and seeing how it looks then. You can try things like changing the resolution in your display settings. You may find that your TV has a sweet spot. Too low a resolution gives a bad picture, too high also gives a bad picture but in the middle is just right. Spend the time to get it as good as you can because once it is setup, you wont need to touch it again.

How to connect your audio source to your television:

Unless you are using a HDMI connection, you are most likely going to come across RCA connections on your TV or stereo. Your computer is likely to have a 3.5mm plug (standard headphone jack) on the sound card.

The easy way to connect your computer to your stereo is to purchase a 3.5mm stereo plug to RCA pair cable. This will plug in both ends without a problem.

Many computer sound cards now offer a digital output. If your sound card has one and your stereo can decode it, this is the best way to go. This is a little harder to configure in your audio settings but the sound results are great. This is the best way to go for surround sound.

Complications arise if we want to keep our computers attached at the same time as we connect to the stereo as most computers will only allow one output. There are some options as to how to tackle this. You can use your headphone jack to send another source out but as this is normally on the front of the computer, this can be untidy.

A 3.5mm stereo splitter costs only a few dollars which allows you to connect the one port out of you computer to 2 ports which you can plug into. These cost only a couple of dollars but you will lose some quality doing this. Unless you are an audiophile, you will hardly notice the problem.

You can get an audio selector which are very basic boxes to generally switch multiple sources to one output. As there is often no complex electronics in these boxes, they simply open and close circuits, we can use it in reverse to send one source to multiple outputs. A speaker selector is different and will likely not work for this task.

You could install a secondary sound-card, either with multiple outputs or a single stereo output for connection to your stereo.

Surround sound:

It gets very tricky when we move up from stereo to surround sound. Although we are able to use cables to connect it all up, it is much easier to send a stereo pair into the stereo and then letting the stereo decode the signal into surround such as pro logic. We can also use the digital option if our computer and Hi-fi allows it. This will mean there is one cable, rather than 3 or 4 stereo pairs.

If you are only using your hi-fi from this article onwards, and not using PC speakers, you should not have problems connecting your computer to the stereo in surround mode. You can use windows sound settings to send out a signal to 5.1 or 7.1 systems and everything sounds fantastic.

If all has gone well, you will now have your computer hooked up to your TV and stereo. This opens you up to a whole new world of multimedia experiences. Continue to check out in the coming weeks as we will cover many software tools which can help you make the most out of your new “Home Theatre”.

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  1. Chris Duckworth said, on September 30, 2008 @ 8:41 am

    Shea, try the Fn+f? buttons to see if it will cycle through to the TV. Make sure the TV is on the right channel before trying this. When it comes to laptops, initially there shouldn’t be much need to change the settings. The settings are more for tweaking later on.

  2. troy said, on November 5, 2008 @ 12:38 am

    My Hitachi Ultravision vs60810 LCD TV works fine with the HDMI cable from my XPS sending audio and video to the TV the problem is that the audio out (RCA) to my Receiver from the TV will not carry the audio from the TV to my Receiver. Hitachi says this is intentional to prevet copyright infringements in recording the programming but I hate having to use the 1/8 headphone jack to rca when the hdmi is sending the best sound to the TV. I doubt seriously there is anyway around this problem but thought I would mention it. I’m really surprised I havent seen anyone else complaining of this problem on any other post as it must happen to everyone trying to do what I am. Thanks for your time.


  3. Ravikiran said, on November 11, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

    I am having a lenovo T-61 laptop, it does not have S video out pin, it has got only vga out and USB out. I want to connect my laptop to a TV which is a CRT TV which has RCA pins as input. I am not able to get to know I do I connect my laptop to my TV. Kindly advice.

  4. Chris Duckworth said, on November 13, 2008 @ 9:30 am

    Ravikiran, you might need to invest in a USB dongle, or docking station, that will allow for RCA or svideo output. It won’t be all that cheap, but it will get things working.

  5. John said, on November 20, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

    I hope you get paid for doing all this.

    I have a similiar problem to Rajat’s above. I’m using the S VIDEO method of connecting my desktop (Dell Dimension 8400) to a newer Toshiba Television. Unfortunately, the desktop has a S Video 7 pin output while they Toshiba has a 4 pin. I just tried to connect a straight S (4 Pin) Video Cable to see if I would get anything, but no such luck.

    Should I be looking for an S 7 to 4 pin video adapter cable?

    I’m not gonna lie, my comp is like 8 years old, but it shuld still work right? Thanks.


  6. Chris Duckworth said, on November 21, 2008 @ 8:34 am

    Hi JP, I was hopeful when I started this site, that it would get me out of my day job, but no such luck. It is currently more of a hobby.

    A lot of laptops have the 7 pin connection which can be split into video/audio outputs by way of an adaptor. Laptops usually came with these adaptors. It is the 7 pin at one end, and audio & s-video at the other end. I think that most computer shops will have this on their shelves. Look up your laptops manual online to find out if this is the case. You might also see a picture of the adaptor needed.


  7. Wilder said, on December 1, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

    I have an hp desktop computer, and I’m using a 27″ rca t.v. with a vcr deck built in. I just got a video card installed(en 8400gs silent). I can only use the s-v to rca connection. The tv only has 2 rca jacks so I use/d a gold connector so I could at lest have to of the video connections working. I couldn’t get the display to show on the t.v. I ended up losing the display on the normal monitor also. I found and DVI to vga converter and tried that. There I found the display again. After messing with the settings for a day I finally some how got it to work on the t.v. Well since then the items on the desktop were very hard to read so I thought I could change the settings to make it more clearer. But by doing that I lost the display of the T.V. again and it ended up back to just the dvi slot. I’ve been messing with it and I still can not get it back on the t.v. The auto detect option seems to not work And the bottom part of the option wont let me check it or click on to restart. But If I click to enable the tv. it auto checks it but the restart is still hidden. When I stat the computer, if the sv is the only connection then while loading up it shows on the tv but what it goes to log in it shuts off again. Any ideas or help? Thanks for taking the time to read and help!

  8. Chris Duckworth said, on December 1, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

    Hi Wilder, There are number of issues it could be. Some cards only allow for vga/rca or dvi/rca. This could be the reason why the card is reverting to dvi when you connect a TV. Check the manual that came with your card to figure out if this is the case.
    Ensure you have the latest video drivers from nVidia. Change the refresh rate to 60hz and the resolution to 640×480 to start off with. When you make adjustments to the resolution, ensure the refresh rate hasn’t changed either, which is a common occurence.
    Is there any onboard video getting in the way? Check the bios to see if you can force the signal to multiple screens through that.
    In the nvidia drivers, ensure that force tv detection is ticked.
    While these things may not solve your problem, they might get you on the right track and provide you with a bit more information to provide me.

  9. steven rock said, on December 3, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

    hi mate ive connected an svideo cable from pc to tv. and when pc is starting up i can see it on the tv but when windows is about to come on it cuts off and the screen on the tv goes blank. it always seems show on tv when the pc is starting up but always cuts off be the desktop loads. can you help by any chance. im using an nvidia geforce fx5500….many thanks…

  10. Chris Duckworth said, on December 4, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

    Hi steven, this is when the nvidia software comes in. Everything before the login is software driven. You are going to need to relook at your video settings.i.e. when the resolution changes. You have proven it is connected correctly hardware wise. Look back at some of the recent comments with similar problems.

  11. steve said, on December 14, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

    I want to try this. My PC is a COMPAQ with512mb SyncDRAM total system memory,AMD Athlon (TM) XP Processor model 1700,80gb ultraDMA hard drive,56 v.90 modem,integrated savage4 3d graphics with 8mb video memory. My receiver is a kenwood vr-806 7.1 surround with hd component digtil video switching. My tv is a VIZIO HD/LCD HDMI 1 AND HDMI 2. What do i need to do? My friend that looks at everything from a PC angle,tells me i need alot of money. I need advice?

  12. Chris Duckworth said, on December 15, 2008 @ 8:54 am

    Hi Steve, it won’t cost too much to make your computer connect to your tv. You may be able to get a converter which will convert your current vga to svideo. That would only cost a few dollars.
    If that fails, you need is a new Video card which will set you back around $US80. You can get a dual head hdmi card for that price, making connection easy. While the older AGP cards are harder to find these days, they are still available, and probably second hand options may be best.
    It needs to be asked what you want your computer to do once you have connected it? With the specs you have, you may not be able to use it as a home theatre PC. If you want music and pictures showing on your tv and stereo, that should be fine.

  13. steve said, on December 15, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

    thank you very much. I have s video on my tv and stero and i want to home theather. I think my pc might be out dated. Keep in touch with me i am gonna to try this. Coming into40,000 from a car wreck and income taxes in our household.

  14. Chris Duckworth said, on December 17, 2008 @ 8:41 am

    steve, to use your computer as a home theatre PC probably means adding in a tv tuner card. Your computer is probably borderline in handling such a card, but for best results and ease of setup, a new video card is probably a worthwhile investment.

  15. Kevin said, on December 19, 2008 @ 3:26 am

    Can this be done wirelessly?

  16. Christy said, on December 19, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! I couldn’t not figure out how to connect my laptop to my new TV, but your advice was very helpful and now I am happy watching PowerPoint presentations on my TV.

    Thank you!!!!

  17. Chris Duckworth said, on December 23, 2008 @ 7:54 am

    Kevin, it can be done wirelessly, but the results are often a bit useless. AV senders can be picked up from electronics shops for around $100, and they claim to have a range of around 100metres. I haven’t found one which worked well enough over 5 metres. Spending a bit more money, it may be possible. Once you get to the stage price point that they work, you might be better off getting a cheap computer and remote desktopping to it.

  18. heather said, on January 6, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

    Thank you! You have saved me from throwing my TV out of the window! I can now watch movies from my laptop in the comfort of my sofa too!

  19. ALARMAN1938 said, on January 18, 2009 @ 2:56 am

    Thanks for the very helpfull advice on which cable to use PC to TV, very straight foward, bought a DVI to HMDI cable from CABLE UNIVERSE in ENGLAND for a fraction of the price charged by our large computer & electrical outlets, and it worked first time. thanks again.

  20. daredevil said, on January 18, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

    thnx 4 this info

  21. JKhanh said, on February 6, 2009 @ 4:19 am


    I’m having problems seeing anything on my tv. I have a Nvidia Gefore 7600 GS Video card and I’m connecting my PC to my TV through an adapter that starts as a 7 Pin S-Cable from my PC then converts into 4 Pin S-Cable and Yellow RCA plug for my TV. I have both connected. I can see the start up on my TV but in black and white, but as soon as the login screen pops up it just goes to static. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

  22. Adam said, on February 8, 2009 @ 1:17 am

    Hi there
    Thanks for all the advice above, which I have read eagerly but have not yet found a solution to my problem. I have a 5 year old Philips TV and my laptop is a Toshiba Portege. The output on the laptop is VGA and the input on the TV is S-Video. I have a cable which connects the 2. Sadly, I cannot seem to get a picture on the TV. I have played around with the settings in the graphics controller which is Intel(R) GMA Driver for Mobile. It’s strange as sometimes I just get a blue screen, and every so often I get a flickering black and white screen with the screen split in 3 parallel columns and is almost impossible to read or view. Can you help please?
    Many thanks in advance

  23. Chris Duckworth said, on February 9, 2009 @ 9:08 am

    Hi JKahnh,I think you only need to plug in one of the cables to your TV. It might be gettign in tangles. The yellow is probably the easiest. Work your way through the AV inputs on the TV and see what shows up. If it can’t be found, work your way through these comments as the answer will be in there. Seeing you are getting a picture during the machine startup, you have already progressed quite a way.

  24. Lilly said, on February 16, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

    I am trying to connect my pc to the tv. I have windows Vista, with Multimedia centre, Vided card is nvidia geforce 7350 Le. I have the VGA cable and Y adabter for the sound. On my computer says DVI, on (Sony Bravia 32″tv- RGB. I am using this VGA cable which goes ok, but I am getting error “unsupported signal” check the output”
    I am not sure what I need to do. Please, help.

  25. Rudy said, on February 21, 2009 @ 12:31 am


    I have a Plasma TV with HDMI ports and a PC with DVI port. I get a DVI to HDMI cable and a I can see my PC on the TV, but, i can not change the resolution in Display Settings. only have 480 X 640 option @ 60Hz. Is this because the video card or the tv?

    Do i have to get a diferent video card?

  26. Chris Duckworth said, on February 26, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

    Hi Rudy, it is a 50/50 bet as to which it is. The TV’s manual should say it’s limitations. It might be worth trying to update your video card drivers as this may give you more options.

    The ultimate test would be to send the output of your main output of your video card to the tv to see if the tv can handle a higher resolution. If it can, you are elft with trying a driver upgrade of the video card, or the next step is to buy a new video card.

  27. Chris Duckworth said, on February 26, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    Hi Lilly, you will need to drop the resolution to 640×480 and the refresh rate to 60hz. If you then get a signal, start increasing it until you get this error again. There is probably information in the TV’s manual as to what resolution and refresh rate the tv can handle.

  28. Adam said, on February 26, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

    Hi Chris
    Are you able to offer any advice in respect of my post on 8th February above please?
    I’d be very grateful if you could
    Many thanks

  29. Chris Duckworth said, on February 27, 2009 @ 10:47 am

    Hi Adam, I am sorry I forgot about your comment. There are some strange things going on that I wanted to think over.. then work took over.

    The fact you sometimes get black and white and other times blue screens is the giveaway. I just don’t know what it means. It is always worth doing a driver update. If the VGA port is there, it should be capable of sending the signal. Are there any pins bent in the laptops port or the cord? Have you tried the cord on another computer/TV?

    I always recommend dropping resolution and refresh rate but I don’t think that will make a difference for your problems. Refresh rate may be possible.
    Make sure that no video or graphic intensive stuff is in motion when doing the shift+F4 combination to cycle between outputs.
    That’s about all I can suggest for now, but let me know how you get on. You should at least get some hints out of this.


  30. AJ said, on March 19, 2009 @ 8:12 am

    my video card is vga but the tv has vga and hdmi. Is the picture going to be the same with vga to vga or better if I spring for the vga to hdmi cable? Thank you

  31. Chris Duckworth said, on March 25, 2009 @ 8:59 am

    Hi AJ, not sure on this one, but I think it won’t make a diference. As logn as the VGA in on the TV can handle as high resolutions. My guess is that a VGA to HDMI cable won’t improve anything because the initial source is the same.

  32. Jack said, on April 1, 2009 @ 5:04 am

    read all the comments….confusing…..

    can I get a wire with 9-pin female VGA plug on one end and s-video on the other for my tv?

  33. Chris Duckworth said, on April 1, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    Hi Jack, you can get these cables, but from what I have seen and read, they don’t work. The signal strenght and frequencies are all messed up. You would need to get a converter box (around $US100 US), or a new video card (an additional PCI would do the trick if its a desktop(around $US50)). Either way, your going to be spending money somewhere.

  34. shane said, on April 10, 2009 @ 1:44 am


    I have a new video card, an ATI 4830 that has a VGA, DVI and HDMI connectors on the back of it. I have just built a HTPC with the view of eventually connecting up to a new flat screen later this year. In the meantime, I am using a 22″ flat screen computer monitor. I would like to connect this HTPC to my 8 year old Sony CRT TV. Unfortunately, it only has composite connectors plus one songle s-video connector.

    I would of course like to make use of the bigger screen of the TV set, is it possible to connect my HTPC’s ATI4830 to the TV? If so what sort of cable connections do I need.

    I appreciate any assistance.

    Thank you.

  35. Syed said, on April 10, 2009 @ 9:18 am

    I am trying to connect my pc to the tv. I have windows Vista, with Multimedia centre, Vided card is nvidia geforc8300GS. I have the S Video cable 7 pin to 4 pin.
    When I turn the TV on, I can see my Cpu monitor, for few seconds I can see starting screens for microsoft page, as soon as my cpu change to vista screen, I lost the signal from my tv, switch to video 1.
    can u help me for this.

  36. Dfort said, on April 16, 2009 @ 11:51 am

    I have an HP Paviliion laptop, and am trying to connect to a LCD TV. I have a VGA cable on both the computer and the TV, and an input setting on the TV that is specifically for the PC. I bought a standard headphone cable in hopes that it could go from the computer to the TV for audio, but found out that there isn’t a headphone port on the TV. I can get another cable for the audio, what do you recommend? My main problem isn’t even with the audio, but that i can’t even get the video to run through the VGS cable? I do run vista, so maybe i need to change settings??

    Any help would be much appreciated.

  37. Chris Duckworth said, on April 16, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

    Dfort, you can purchase a cable which is 3.5″ microphone on one end, and dual rca on the other. This shoudl suite your needs. They aren’t all that expensive. The video problems would be settings. I would be repeating myself if I tried to explain what was wrong. Sift through the comments and see what you can find.

  38. Chris Duckworth said, on April 16, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

    This article has become a very thorough troubleshooting page for people trying to connect their PC to their TV. I have repeated myself in the responses to many of the comments. Everything I know is in the article and the comments, so please look at them to find help. I am closing the comments on this one. Nothing personal, I am just bored of responding to this topic, and it is very hard to fix without physically seeing the problem.
    Key points:
    Laptop users: press Fn+F?
    Ensure settings are correct in display settings
    HDMI users, ensure internal digital cable is connected from your sound card to video card.
    Try dropping resolution.
    Good luck.