How To View Your Laptop or Desktop’s Screen on Your TV

Mirroring your laptop or desktop PC’s display on your TV is actually pretty simple, assuming you know what you’re doing. There are several ways to do this, both wired and wirelessly.

The wired methods are the most reliable, although they’ll need an HDMI cable — and possibly an adapter for your computer. Wireless methods can work well, too — they just aren’t perfect.

HDMI Cable, Possibly With an Adapter

A standard HDMI cable is still the best way to get a computer’s screen on a TV. This is true whether that computer is a living room PC sitting under the TV, which only outputs to the TV, or if it’s a laptop or desktop with its own build-in monitor mirroring the contents of the primary display to the TV as a secondary screen.

This is pretty simple. You probably already have an HDMI cable — if you don’t have one, you canbuy a cheap cable like this one and skip the unnecessary expensive cables. Plug one end into an HDMI port on the back of your TV and the other into the HDMI port on your laptop or desktop. Switch the TV to the necessary input and you’re done! You can also use the display options on your laptop or desktop PC to configure how the TV works — whether it mirrors your main display or functions as a secondary desktop.

That’s the theory. In practice, many modern laptops don’t ship with a built-in HDMI port. Those ports are awfully large and don’t work well with modern, super-thin laptops. You can still connect your laptop to a TV with an HDMI cable, though — you’ll just need the necessary adapter for the port your laptop does include.

Many laptops — from Apple’s MacBooks to Microsoft’s Surface Pro convertibles — have a “Mini DisplayPort” port instead of an HDMI port. You’ll need to purchase a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter cable like this cheap one from Amazon to connect that laptop to a TV or other display’s HDMI port. Be sure to check exactly what type of port your laptop has before purchasing such an adapter.

Older TVs (or older computers) may not have HDMI support and may require other cables like a DVI or VGA cable. Modern TVs and computers should support HDMI, and you should use that if possible.

Chromecast Screen Casting

Google’s inexpensive Chromecast offers an easy way to get your computer’s display onto your TV without any cables. While Chromecast is generally used to “cast” content from a specific app or web page to your TV, you can also cast a specific browser tab. Not only that, but there’s an experimental feature in the Chromecast browser extension that lets youcast your computer’s entire desktop to your Chromecast, viewing it on your TV.

How well this works will depend on how powerful the computer is, your Wi-Fi, and other factors. It won’t work as perfectly as an HDMI cable — which just works without any wireless interference issues — but it’s probably the easiest way to do wireless mirroring from any nearby laptop or desktop computer.

AirPlay Mirroring

Apple’s homegrown solution requires an Apple TV box hooked up to your TV. After you’ve got the box hooked up, you can use Apple’s AirPlay to wirelessly mirror the contents of a Mac, iPhone, or iPad’s display to your TV.

Unlike other wireless display options, this requires you go all-in on a specific device ecosystem — Apple’s. However, if you do have Apple devices along with an Apple TV, this solution will work quite well. Miracast, the open wireless display standard that’s supposed to compete with Apple’s AirPlay, doesn’t work nearly as reliably in our experience.

Miracast Wireless Display

Miracast is supposed to be an open alternative to Apple’s AirPlay, allowing you to “cast” an Android or Windows device’s display wirelessly to a TV or set-top box. Support for casting is built into the latest versions of Android, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8. Your TV may or may not include Miracast, although it’s appearing on more streaming boxes like the Roku 3. We couldn’t get Miracast working with the Roku 3, but you may have more luck. Here’s how to start Miracasting.

Due to all the issues we’ve experienced, we recommend you try Miracast last. If you have hardware that supports Miracast, feel free to try — but don’t go out of your way to buy Miracast-enabled hardware, as there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed with all the problems you’ll experience. Miracast clearly needs more time in the oven before it can hope to become the easy-to-use, interoperable standard it’s supposed to be.

There are other ways to get stuff onto your TV, of course. If you’re into PC gaming, you may want to try getting a living room box that can stream games from your gaming PC and display them on your TV. However, you’ll still get better results with a long HDMI cable that connects that gaming PC directly to your TV. When it comes to getting the contents of your computer’s display on your TV, the wired HDMI cable is still king.
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