Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Your TV can often be used as a second monitor, but unless you have a newer digital TV, the results will likely be very disappointing.

I have a Dell Computer with Windows XP and a regular (non-flat) TV. How can I connect my computer to my TV such that I can see everything I am doing in the computer on my TV screen. I am not trying to use the TV as a primary monitor but as a secondary one; like the one you can see in a computer show on TV.

If you're planning on using just a normal, plain old television, let me put it this way:

It can be made to work, but "sucks" doesn't even come close to describing the visual result.

And here's a hint: those aren't plain old TV's you're seeing on computer shows.

The problem is simple: broadcast quality television just isn't the same as a computer's video display.

At best a regular TV display is around 640x480 resolution. Years ago, when personal computers were first introduced to the mass market, they were actually designed to use TVs as monitors, at a default resolution of 320x240, if I recall correctly. (Anyone who had an Apple ][, as I did, will remember the 40 character display width.)

"Those TV's on your favorite computer shows? They're not regular TV's at all ..."

Today, many video cards don't even go down to 640x480 any more. 800x600 is a common starting point, and even then - you've probably got it set higher, since most computer monitors support resolutions of at least 1024x768, if not much, much higher.

Resolutions that simply won't work on a normal TV.

Those "TV's" on your favorite computer shows? They're not regular TV's at all. They're actually computer monitors that support the resolution required to properly display the computer's output.

So. What are your options?

If you can take your computer down to 640x480, you can try connecting it to your TV. Many laptops actually include an "s-video" out for exactly this purpose. Depending on your laptop, it may be treated as a mirror of your laptop display, or as a second monitor, or you may be able to switch between them. You will quickly see that the quality of the display is, likely, very, very poor.

If S-video is not an option, there are converter boxes available from places like Radio Shack that will take a standard VGA connector and turn it into a composite video signal that can be plugged into a TV with a composite input. In general, this results in roughly the same poor quality computer display.

Surprisingly, in both of those cases, video playback can actually look quite good. What I mean is that if you're using your TV as a computer monitor and to do typical things like reading email or surfing the web, you'll be quite disappointed. However if you are playing back a video - say playing a DVD in your computer and watching it on the monitor - it seems to be quite acceptable. My theory is that most DVDs and other videos are targeted at exactly the TV's resolution, and that, plus the fact that for video we're "used to" that resolution, our expectations for that type of display are simply met.

Oh, and as to using it as a second monitor - to mirror what's going on on your primary computer screen: many laptops support using both the internal LCD screen and the VGA (or S-Video) output at the same time, so you may be able to simply hook it up. If you don't have that option, you'll need to get a splitter of some sort that will allow you to take your computer's monitor output and send it to two different devices: your regular computer screen, and a VGA converter box as I described above. Alternately you could purchase a video card that supports TV-out, or supports dual screens.

Now, there is salvation on the horizon, but it'll require a new TV. Newer TV's are going digital, and many do, in fact, have digital (DVI) input - particularly those that are High Definition (HD) ready. In these cases you actually stand a chance of being able to connect your computer directly to the TV. The TV may not support the same higher resolutions that your computer monitor might, but they'll almost certainly support resolutions that are much more acceptable for computer usage.

(All this is based on my own set of experiences some time ago attempting to do exactly what the questioner was asking. If there are particularly new or novel solutions to this problem that I've overlooked, I'd love to hear about them too. Just leave a comment below.)

Article C2597 - March 19, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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50 Comments
Jerry
March 27, 2007 7:32 AM

Hi, I am having trouble connecting my Toshiba Laptop Satellite U205-S5057 to my TV. I am running on windows vista and I have updated my display drivers to the latest version. I have no s-video port but I have a vga port. I purchased a cable(not a converter box or unit) which converts the vga to s-video. I tried connecting the laptop to the tv using this cable and all I get on the tv are horizontal lines. I have pressed the function key with f5 to switch between monitors and I have also tried messing around with the display settings and still not working. Can someone please help me with this matter. Thanks

Deborah Jordan
April 6, 2007 1:56 PM

Hey, I have an S-video cable hooked from my toshiba satelite laptop to my sylvania t.v. that has an s-video hook up in the back, will it display on any channell or does the t.v. have to be on aux? i can'f find my remoto to get it to that channel. nothing is showing anyway. help?

corey
May 19, 2007 6:46 PM

Hey all i hope someone can help me i am running windows xp pro on my ibm t 43 laptop and trying to use my tv as a secondary moniter i have gone into display and set it up restarted my lappy and when it started up the windows start up screen showed and then nothing after stert up when i click on identify a 2 appears on my screen showing it is connected and that is the only time anything is displayed. nothing when i start a game or a movie in any player. Hope somone can help me please i have searched for an hour and found nothing to help me :-(

JG
July 8, 2007 10:34 PM

If a TV has a S-VHS input, then it is possible that the TV will be able to support a resolution up to 800x600. It may even be possible to use 1024x768, but the refresh rate might be so bad, that it would be hard on the eyes. It all depends on the TV. I have an old Sony Wega that works fine in 800x600 mode. It's hard to look at after a while, but I use it mainly for watching movies & recorded TV.

For a desktop solution, I highly reccomend an "All in Wonder" video card. You can use a TV as a second display, plus it has a tuner & video inputs, so you can hook up a camcorder or VCR. Newer versions have digital video capabilities. A TV will never be a readable substitute for a computer monitor, but at 640x480, or 800x600, it's not too bad from a distance.

DA
July 12, 2007 10:46 AM

I'm trying to connect my Dell/HP laptops through S-Video-VGA cable to my TV. But I can't see any video as the laptop doesn't seem to identify the TV.
I tried the same thing on s Sony TV & it worked. Right after that (with Extended Display setting already applied) I connected the laptop to my (non-Sony) TV & it worked. I restarted my Laptop & tried again & it was gone. Somehow my laptop doesn't seem to identify my TV & doesn't let me extend the screen to TV. But if that setting has been checked in through the Sony TV, it works. Can you help me solve this puzzle? Is there anything I can do to make my (non-Sony) TV work with the Laptop.

Krisztián, M.D. Pozsegovits
September 12, 2007 10:30 AM

Hi, I could attach my brand new 32" LCD TV to my PC via an DVI-HDMI cable. The second desktop is great but the application windows are slightly but annoyingly enough vibrating. How could I eliminate this?

Leo A. Notenboom
September 12, 2007 10:57 AM

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Nine times out of 10 that's a refresh rate issue. Not sure what your TV
supports, but when this happens with CRT monitors increasing the refresh rate
helps. This article discusses:
http://ask-leo.com/the_images_on_my_screen_seem_to_shimmer_or_flicker_and_give_me_a_headache_is_there_anything_i_can_do.html

Leo


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K. Arthur Larson
February 10, 2008 5:26 PM

I wasnt to connect my AMD/ATI-SLI PC to my Analog Television so me and Mom can see better with the 27 inch TV-screen. I have two X1300 ATI Video Cards installed on the MBD and am hoping to play games using the TV instead of and/or in addition to the 15" CRT monitor we have beren using. Being on a fixed budget prohibits our purchase of a new HD Digital Television any time real soon, but hope to do so when finances allow. Do you have any info and or pointers, or "secrets" that might help us? We will appreciate any help you might give us.
Thank you,
K. Arthur & Nana

Daniel
February 12, 2008 2:11 PM

I have a 30" widescreen Phillips HDTV... I tried hooking it up via a S-Video cable, but all I get is the video no audio. What have I done wrong???

Leo A. Notenboom
February 13, 2008 10:42 PM

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Daniel: S-Video carries only video, not audio. You need to
run a separate audio cable.

Leo


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Phil
March 19, 2008 10:44 AM

I have a 2003 Samsung Tube style TV and want to use it as my computer monitor for watching movies. My computer(Compaq Presario SR1011NX) only has a VGA outlet for the monitor and my TV only accepts RCA inputs for Video or Audio. Is it possible to hook the two up with an adapter cable? I bought what looks like a VGA to RCA adapter, but when I hooked it up nothing happened. Does it matter that the cable packaging says Connection Cable YUV 3 RCA Plugs to 15 pin HDD Plug? The packaging picture shows only DVD to Projector. What should I do?

HWG
May 13, 2008 3:45 PM

On my XP laptop, after I connect the S-video and audio cables, I then have to go into control panel/display/settings/advanced/monitors and change the display monitor there. Then the picture comes up on the TV. On my Vista laptop, it does it automatically.

flexo
July 21, 2008 5:04 AM

there is another option if u only want to watch movies downstairs from your computer which is upstairs in the office: streaming.

anyway, I have ati radeon 9200 le(kinda old) and I heard that the extra pin from the s-viqdeo output are actually composite, but I would still buy an s-video cable and an adaptor for better quality

Dcosta
July 23, 2008 3:14 AM

I have a tv in my PC. I can watch now every channel live in my PC in a full screen by the software named satellite-tv-player. Satellite-TV-player (http://www.satellite-tv-player.com) is very easy to use; I use it with ease and it works all the time no problems. I guess this is the official player, the new ability to play live channels in full screen. I watch my favorite Channel Live CNN & NFL Sports through this software. Channel selection is very good. It is simply great; it also seems to be very good on my Vista Ultimate system. I have tried many players claiming to be top of the line but none of them deliver as much content as does satellite TV player. The price is very reasonable for all the stuff you can watch.

Dave
October 10, 2008 8:43 PM

After reading everyone's comments...I'm having the same problem. I'm running a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop with a ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 graphics card with multiple monitor support and I recently acquired a 32" Philips television [model #32PT5441].

By using a VGA to S-Video and RCA adapter, I was able to connect the laptop and the tv...however, when on the SVHS channel, all I see is a blank screen. When I use Fn + F8 [which toggles between CRT and LCD] the tv screen flickers but nothing else happens. In the Display Properties, it appears as though the laptop cannot identify the tv as a secondary monitor, regardless of any and all changes to resolution, refresh rate, color scheme, and driver updates.

I'm thoroughly baffled by this, is there any advice you can give me so I can enjoy using my laptop as a DVD player/satellite radio/game center?

Thank you!

Andrew
December 2, 2008 3:42 PM

Hi Leo,

I've done what you said. I've purchased an adapter which is VGA to S-vid and RCA (so it supports either). I connect my laptop up to my TV (CRT - not digital) and it doesn't see the image. I've successfully used an external monitor with my laptop (through the VGA port in my laptop) as a primary monitor and secondary monitor. I've also successfully got sound through the headphone-out on the laptop.

What am I doing wrong? Is it to do with my video or graphics card?

Thanks a lot mate.

Cheers,
Andrew (from Melbourne - Australia)

zeyad
January 7, 2009 9:51 AM

hey leo. now my moniter is busted and im using my tv as my moniter. but the resoulution sucks and the words are small and although the screen is big in size, the display os bigger and i cant work like this. plzzzz helpp.

Did you read the article? To quote: "... 'sucks' doesn't even come close to describing the visual result." and "... the quality of the display is, likely, very very poor."

Get a new monitor.
- Leo
08-Jan-2009

Richard Ostrand
January 10, 2009 10:20 PM

When I use my Windows display options to "project" my computer images to my TV via my S-video cable (as in showing a powerpoint to a classroom) the image is too large for any TV I use and shifted to the right. Using the various controls within the display menus doesn't seem to help the problem.

Colin Warlow
January 16, 2009 6:07 AM

Hi Leo,

I have succesfully conected my mac laptop to the tv with full colour and it looks as fine as you would expect. However when I connect my PC with Radeon 9550 card via the s-video output into the scart input to the tv I cant get any colour. Even though I'm using the same AV channel (Y/C) as I use when I connect the laptop. Any suggestions from you as to how I can resolve this would be very welcome indeed.

ankush sharma
March 16, 2009 11:17 PM

HEY FRIENDS FIRST OF ALL UNINSTALL YOUR GRAPHICS DRIVER AND NOW YOUR COMPUTER WILL SHOW RESOLUTIONS OF 640 x 480 TO 2000 x 480 .NOW YOUR TV IS READY AS A MONITOR

lee
May 16, 2009 2:40 AM

hi leo ive got a hp compaq laptop i connected it to my tv it work fine then some settings came up somthing about do i want mirror or not i changed it so i could just see it on my tv well i fault i did but i didnt now every time a attach the lead from my tv to my laptop both screens go blank can u please help me

Gonzalo
June 8, 2009 7:40 PM

I have a Dell laptop and I want to use my LCD as my monitor but each time that I get to connect them together, the TV turns blue, so I closed the laptop and works for 15 or so seconds and then, oviouslly, the laptop turned off and that is my issue, I have one cable connected to both items, the RGB-PC

Thanks

David Brown
June 13, 2009 9:45 AM

Just managed to connect my laptop to new wide screen tv with s-video, and got colour. My new problem is that I can´t get it to display anything but the selected wallpaper, and as I wanted to use the laptop and tv as a karaoke machine I need the tv to display whats on the laptop screen, just a click of which button, I´ve tried them all. Please advise

Lp
June 16, 2009 7:26 PM

Hi Leo,

I have a spny vaio laptop with a 4-pin s-video output and I would like to play dvds from my laptop and display them on my tv. now my tv is a little bit older because it has teh s-video ouput as well but not the s-video input. I know there is a small peice i need to purchase and it may be called the rca (female) but I might be wrong. I kind of know what im doing but i do not know the names of the cord i need to buy. I know i need three things: s-video cable, s-video input rca female thing, and a audio-video cable.

please help!
and thanks!

LP

Hammad
July 4, 2009 10:55 AM

ATI's Radeon X1950 PRO video card includes composite, s-video, and component video connections for analog signals.

Tom Cochran
July 26, 2009 5:41 PM

Just managed to connect my laptop to new wide screen tv with s-video, and got color. My problem is that I can´t get it to display anything but the selected wallpaper. I can not see any icons or the mouse or anything but the wallpaper that is on the laptop. Please advise?

drew
July 29, 2009 5:30 PM

Hi i have a problem I dont have a s-video on the back of my computer but my tv does how do I hook it up?

gbenga
August 25, 2009 3:19 AM

pls i dont simply understand how i can connect my TV as a second monitor, pls can you express the full details about how i can connent the TV to the CPU

Mrugesh N. Goriwale
September 4, 2009 10:34 PM

Hi Can i get support of readily available units to connect mt CPU output for CRT monitor to my normal color TV set

s. wilkins
November 3, 2009 3:40 PM

Guys, you will love this.... your digibox that you use 4 watching freeview t.v.? check the back to see if it has an rs323 input, I have a cheap one from the supermarket, cost 15 pound and my laptop plugs straight in with a cable that cost 3 pound!

heather hooks
December 26, 2009 9:19 PM

I bought a vga /svideo hook up for my dell lap top but i cannot get it to reognive the new hardware because i want to connect my laptop to my new tv. but it wont even register

jeff
January 25, 2010 1:22 PM

I have a VGA to green, blue, red connection to high def TV but no image appears on my TV i get purple and green blocks every few seconds how can i get this to work if i can get it to work ??

Marcus Wilson
February 10, 2010 12:51 PM

Hi,
I have a Philips 50PF9630A Plasma TV and I am trying to use it as my monitor for my computer. I am having trouble getting the computer to use the entire display. It currently stretches the length of the TV but there is unused space height wise. I am using a DVI to HDMI cable to connect the computer to the TV. I have got this to work before by using a program to adjust the display settings of my computer but I can not find that program or know which settings to choose. Any ideas?
Thanks!

Mike
February 23, 2010 2:28 PM

I bought an vga to hdmi cable so I can use my tv to wacth show off the internet from my laptop. Can't get it to work. Help?

Matt
April 10, 2010 6:56 AM

To use a tv as a secondary monitor you must go to control panel/appearance and personalistaion/adjust screen resolution. There should be an image representing two monitors. right click the number two box, then attach. then click apply, and your tv should display your desktop background and icons

dorys ricoveri
April 12, 2010 7:55 PM

the sound of My tv plasma start fade (back and for), I can't listen well my tv shows, my games with PS3 and or PC/
Can I fix the tv sound, what do you sugest to me?

Lisa C
May 10, 2010 5:30 AM

My son has just hooked up the computer to his hd tv with success, and he also has his xbox 360 hooked up-everything looks ok but the keyboard wont work and I know it was working before-why wont it register?

Eric Cadwell
May 25, 2010 6:26 PM

Very good article. I was thinking of doing that, buying a new HD TV (say 32 inches) and using it as both a TV and a computer monitor. Your article does not have a date so I do not know how recent it is. Would you mind updating your article to include the new HD TV available. Most of then, at least in the 27 to 32 inches range include a PC input in addition to the regular TV signal input.
I am interested on knowing how much the computer signal would be "degraded" in those new TV sets.
Thanks

randal
June 8, 2010 2:15 PM

i hooked my pc to my tv with d hdmi-dvi cord but under settings it doesn't have a box number 2 what is wrong?

banias
June 10, 2010 4:30 AM

u r right TV display is around 640x480 resolution. but it's more useful than a flat monitor. dvd or vcd resolutions are smaller than LCD or Flat monitör. So try to watch whatever you want on old TV : )( diet linux )

kenneth
August 12, 2010 11:52 AM

i have a new pc with windows7, my hd tv, 42 in. flat screen tv is approx. 30ft away. what do i need to connect the two? there are several hookups on the back of my tv.

peterlin
September 19, 2010 12:06 AM

Very good article. I was thinking of doing that, buying a new HD TV (say 32 inches) and using it as both a TV and a computer monitor. Your article does not have a date so I do not know how recent it is. Would you mind updating your article to include the new HD TV available. Most of then, at least in the 27 to 32 inches range include a PC input in addition to the regular TV signal input.
I am interested on knowing how much the computer signal would be "degraded" in those new TV sets.
Thanks.

Sean
October 21, 2010 3:47 AM

I have got a 32" samsung lcd tv for the bedroom and i plugged my macbook into through hdmi and got 1080p from the computer and i could read emails perfectly and i put photos on it from the computer perfect colour and detail most plasma's and lcd's can plug a computer into and it looks great for slide shows or presertations and it does look good on plasma screen but you can burn in the plasma screen

Joel Burdman
November 10, 2010 2:13 PM

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{removed by commentator.net}

Rick
August 3, 2011 10:18 AM

Dear community help if you can,
I have a new windows 7 tower, with an empty HDMI output. My current monitor is a regular large widescreen, that doesn't require a HDMI cored. In my room I have my 42" 1080p TV with a free HDMI input. Is there a way to have my TV as the dual monitor or just as a mirror monitor for my computer??? I'd prefer to get sound out of the tv but if thats not possible I don't care. Can anyone tell me my options???

It really depends on the computer but the answer is often yes. Best thing: hook it up and try it.
Leo
04-Aug-2011

JADE
September 17, 2011 11:07 AM

Hi Leo,

I have a 10' Dell Inspiron mini laptop and a 73" Mitsubishi TV. I am trying to hook up my Dell to the TV and have been unsuccesful. I have the HDMI outlet on the TV and Dell. I know the "connection' is there, as the Dell makes a sound when the HDMI is plugged in. I have tried using FN and F1, FN and F5, i have also tried going to properties, and changing the resolution and pixel- still no luck, only a blue screen appears on the TV. I have double checked the HDMI option is correctly selected on the TV. Not sure what else to do, the "tech people" i.e. employees at Fry's and Target have said it is possible to make this work, obvisously I am missing something! Please help, I really do appreciate you taking the time. Thank you, Jade

Dan
October 14, 2011 1:47 AM

I have an old IBM think pad with a ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 card. The lowest resolution i can set my laptop to is 800 by 600. Will the picture quality still be terrible? I also noticed you had mentioned that video playback is decent, however you only mentioned dvds. Will the quality still be decent for streaming videos or a video taken with a digital camera?

Depends on the TV you connect it to. Since that article was written many TVs now support HD, which means things up to 1920x1080 will look just fine. On older TVs not so much. Video is video in this regard - it's the motion that allows the eye to overlook the often incredibly poor picture quality.

Leo
14-Oct-2011
Drake
January 8, 2012 4:58 AM

I have my laptop hooked up to a tv as well quality is poor of course but a big issue I have is that I can't get any sound from my tv witch makes no sense because it has connecting video and audio cables and I can't find anything in the audio settings to provide sound

Das
January 23, 2012 9:45 AM

I have a TV that I wanna use as a Second Monitor, is it possible that I can connect using a Ethernet Cable? I don't wanna use wired cables as the distance between the TV and the Monitor would be around 60feet. It would be great if you could help, Thank you.:)

No. You would need some kind of device - like a computer - to connect to the ethernet and provide video output for the TV.
Leo
28-Jan-2012

Mrs L A Gibb
March 24, 2013 12:09 PM

Hi Leo
I have been researching on how to connect my laptop to my two LCD TVs one is an Alba 19 inch the other is 32 inch bush.

My laptop is hp which I bought over the internet.
I accidentally stuck my thumb nail in the groove where the laptop screen joins up with the casing, now I have colored lines down the middle of the screen. Just recently, I lost half a screen to these colored lines.

I have now managed to hook up my laptop to the Alba TV with a vga cable. From reading your articles, I am beginning to realize that it is the resolution on my TV; the colors do not match the colors with my laptop. Have you any solutions on how to correct this. The other TV Bush I have hdmi cable with a vga connector at the other end which plugs into to the laptop. When I hook up laptop to this TV I get no signal

Thank you Mrs L A Gibb

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