How to connect a laptop to a TV: This is how everyone does it! (HDMI, DVI, VGA)

Whether it's movies, photos, videos or streaming content from the web: Sometimes you'd rather watch the content from your laptop on your big flat-screen TV. Fortunately, this is no longer a problem for today's laptops and TVs! With our instructions "Laptop to TV" connect, guaranteed everyone gets it done - even you! Let's go!

Laptop to TV
First: Check the situation - what connections are there on laptop and TV?
For this tutorial, we assume that your TV is equipped with HDMI and has at least one free HDMI port. An HDMI port looks like this:

HDMI input on the TV
Almost all modern flat screen TVs are equipped with HDMI. Often, these ports are also located on the right or left side of the TV. HDMI is the best choice for connecting your laptop to a TV. Why? We'll get to that later.

Connections on the laptop - Which are available?
Now we come to the available ports on your laptop. Essentially, there are four possible ports that your laptop can have to send video signals to an external display:

Which port does your laptop have? Check directly on the device, sometimes the video outputs are also protected by an additional flap.

HDMI is the best choice to connect your laptop to the TV. Why? Firstly, the quality is the best (digital Full HD resolution without compression) and secondly, sound is also conveniently transmitted via this. That is, in the end, the sound to the video does not come out of your notebook speakers, but is also reproduced via the TV.

If your laptop doesn't have an HDMI output, look for a DisplayPort output. This is just as good as HDMI, but it is only very rarely installed. Apple laptops are equipped with DisplayPort by default. If you own a Macbook, jump directly to this guide here: Connect Macbook to TV

If your laptop has neither HDMI nor DisplayPort, then you only have the option of connecting the notebook to the TV via DVI or VGA.

Second: Cabling
Get a standard HDMI High Speed cable (it makes no difference for the picture quality which cable you use) and plug it into a free HDMI input on the switched on TV. Now plug the HDMI cable into the HDMI output of the laptop and power up the laptop. That's it for the cabling for devices with HDMI connection.

For those who don't have an HDMI connection, but only DVI or VGA: Get a sufficiently long DVI cable or VGA cable and connect your laptop to the TV with it. Unfortunately, DVI and VGA do not transmit sound. So you'll either have to listen through your laptop's built-in speakers, or alternatively connect a pair of speakers to the laptop.

HDMI: Best option for laptop to TV
Connect laptop to TV: Connection sketch
Connect laptop to TV: Connection sketch

Highspeed HDMI cable with HDMI 2.0 support (18 Gbit/s), 5m, ca. 10€
Best option: Per Highspeed HDMI cable

Third: Settings on the laptop
Now your laptop is wired to the TV. You only have to make a few settings.

First (and most important): Use your TV's remote control to switch to the HDMI input your laptop is connected to. With some TVs (e.g. Philips) you have to go into the menu and add a "new device". Other TVs let you select the correct HDMI input directly.

Is the correct HDMI input selected on the TV and the screen remains black? That's good! Now press the magic key combination on your laptop:

Windows logo key windows-logo-image+ P
By holding down the Windows key windows-logo-image and repeatedly pressing the "P" key, you can now switch to an external screen. The following options are available:

Double: The image from your laptop will be sent 1:1 to the TV.
Expanded: Your desktop expands around the TV and you can "drag" windows from the laptop monitor to the right onto the TV.
Projector only: The screen of your laptop goes black and only the TV shows something.
The last variant "Projector only" is ideal for watching videos and movies: First, the laptop screen is automatically turned off and does not interfere with playback, and second, the screen resolution automatically adjusts to the external screen.

Have you selected the "Projector only" option and your image appears on the TV? Congratulations, you have successfully connected laptop and TV! Now you just have to choose a suitable movie ;-)

All others, for whom this didn't work out right away, or who are still dissatisfied with the result, read on:

Fourth: Optimizing the laptop to TV connection
The laptop is connected, something happened on the TV. But you are still not satisfied? Here are our display optimization tips for the laptop to TV configuration:

Adjust the resolution of the external screen
The good thing about HDMI: TV and laptop communicate with each other and so the TV already tells the notebook when the connection is established, which resolution is preferred by the TV. Most of the time, nothing has to be adjusted to the resolution. For the exceptions where this does not work, or for DVI or VGA connections, you will have to make some adjustments:

Press the Windows key and select Control Panel → Display → Change Display Settings (top left) or Screen Resolution. You should now see a screen that looks more or less like this:

expand desktop screenshot
The view in system settings shows your laptop screen and the TV, which is displayed as a second monitor. Select the TV and set the resolution to at least 1920 x 1080, which is Full HD resolution. You can now also choose to extend or mirror your display to the second monitor. We recommend the presentation mode "Projector only" (Windows logo key windows-logo-image+ P) for videos and movie playback!

Activate sound output via TV on laptop
Typical technology: Most laptops do not automatically output sound via HDMI when an HDMI cable is connected. You have to activate the output via HDMI separately: Choose Start→ Control Panel → Sound. In the Playback tab, select HDMI / Digital Audio and then click Set Default. Now the sound will be output via HDMI on the TV by default. When the HDMI cable is disconnected, your laptop's built-in speakers take over again.

Common problem: Laptop and TV connected, but no sound
If you have connected your laptop and TV as described above, but can't activate sound output via HDMI in the sound settings, try the following:

Turn off the laptop and TV. Connect both devices with the HDMI cable. Now turn on the TV first and then the laptop. Why is the order important? The TV tells the laptop via HDMI which capabilities it supports (EDID signal). In addition to information about the screen resolution (see above), this can also be information about audio support, among other things. In Windows, this exchange of information - also called HDMI handshake - takes place for the first time during boot-up. If the TV then doesn't respond at the right moment, the audio functionality is not recognized correctly, for example. But also a simple plugging and unplugging of the HDMI cable while both devices (laptop and TV) are still switched on can help. Once the laptop and TV have greeted each other correctly, the sound from the laptop can be played back on the TV without any problems.

No picture or very poor picture quality via HDMI
Some TVs (for whatever reason) don't do so well when a laptop is connected via HDMI. Try the following: Cable the laptop and TV as described in point 2 above. However, before you switch the display on the laptop, go to the TV's menu and select "Add Devices" (or "Video Source" or "Connection"). Select "PC" as device type and select the HDMI input (e.g. HDMI 1, HDMI 2, HDMI 3) to which your laptop is connected. Confirm the selection. Now press the Windows logo key + P on the laptop to switch to the TV.

Everything you need to know about HDMI 2.0, 2.0a, 2.0b and 2.1
HDMI cable 4K guide - Which cable do you really need?
Ratgeber USB auf HDMI: Welcher Adapter ist sinnvoll und wie funktioniert’s?
Enable HDMI CEC on TVs - Here's how!
HDMI splitter in the test: What are the inexpensive distributors good for?
Reasons why an AV receiver should support HDMI
How to play: Record gameplay via HDMI with best quality (for PS3, PS4, X-BOX 360, X-BOX One)
HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort: Interconnecting digital video ports
4 reasons why HDMI cable test reports are superfluous