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Connecting Your Laptop To A T.V. Screen

Rose from OK writes:

I am wanting to hook up my laptop to my big screen TV to talk to my brother in Colorado. I have acquired an HDMI cable for this purpose, but I have no idea what else is needed or the steps to follow to make this happen.

With the prices on huge HD enabled, flat screen TVs always tumbling further down, you may want to connect your laptop to your TV when at home to have a bigger viewing area. Using your TV as an external monitor is a handy way to show something on your laptop to your whole family, to view computer games in a much larger format, or even to see video chat sessions on a bigger screen.

Connecting a laptop to your TV requires using the correct type of video cable, as not all TVs or laptop models support all cable connections.  Attach the cable – whether it be S-Video, HDMI, DVI, or even VGA – from the port on the side of your laptop to the corresponding port on the back or side of the TV. If you aren’t sure what ports your television has, check the manual or swivel the TV around to visually check the ports. Most new television models available support connecting S-Video cables (at the least) to offer connectivity with mobile devices like laptops.  Keep in mind that S-Video cables only allow the transfer of images and not sound, so any audio or video file you play on your laptop will play through the computer’s internal speaker and not through the television’s sound system.

Many laptop models include a built-in shortcut for switching over to another monitor detected by the operating system. After connecting the cable, tap the shortcut key combination, which is generally the “FN” and “F8” keys pressed simultaneously. If this combination doesn’t work, check your laptop’s user manual or head over to the support website for your computer manufacturer to find out the key combination your computer model uses.

The Windows 7 operating system also has a built-in shortcut for switching between external monitors by tapping the “Windows” key (the key with the Windows picture positioned to the left of the “Alt” key) and the “P” key together.  Tapping either the “FN” and “F8” or “Windows and “P” shortcut combinations more than once lets you cycle through the monitor options, which are:

Laptop screen only
Duplicate image on both screens
Extend image across both monitors
External monitor only

Extending the image across both monitors means your desktop will be half on your laptop’s screen and half on the TV, which is useful if you have many icons that need to be positioned on the desktop, or if you need to be able to view several different windows at once. In the event that your laptop doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut, or you have changed the shortcut settings, you can instead manually change the external monitor settings by opening the “Start” menu and navigating to the “Control Panel.”

The Control Panel

Inside the Control Panel window, click the green “Hardware and Sound” heading listed below the “Network and Internet” Heading.

Hardware and Sound Heading

Locate the green “Display” heading listed above the “Windows Mobility Center” heading. Click the blue link below the “Display” heading labeled “Connect to an External Display.”

Connecting An External Display

Click the “Detect” button in the top-right corner of the window to detect your connected television as an external monitor.

Detecting The TV

Open the “Display” drop-down menu and select the option for your connected television. Open the “Multiple Displays” heading and select which of the four previously mentioned external display options you want to use, such as extending the display across both monitors or only using the external television.

Choosing a Display

Open the “Resolution” drop-down menu and select the new resolution you want to use on your external display if your laptop’s standard resolution doesn’t look good on the TV. Click “OK” to save your changes to the monitor settings. When you are ready to switch back to your laptop screen, either use the previously mentioned keyboard shortcuts or return to the “Connect to an External Display” window and select your laptop’s screen in the “Display” drop-down menu.

~Ty Arthur