Connecting your laptop to a TV is straightforward in most cases. Just use an HDMI cable and use your TV's remote control to select the correct HDMI input. Windows should detect the TV as an external display and mirror what's on your laptop screen to the TV.
And because HDMI also carries audio as well as video, any sound from your laptop should be played through your TV's speakers.
If your laptop or TV doesn't have an HDMI port, or you can't use a cable at all and need to connect wirelessly, read on.
What cables do I need to connect my laptop to a TV?
First, take a look at what ports are available on both your laptop and TV. This easiest way to connect the two is with an HDMI cable (we've rounded up the best HDMI cables to buy).
The HDMI port is highlighted in red below.
If your laptop or TV is older, you might need to connect it via a VGA cable and a 3.5mm audio lead. Again, both devices will need both connectors, one cable each for video and sound. The VGA port is the blue one in the image above, marked PC IN.
If your laptop has no video output, you can connect your laptop to your TV via a USB to HDMI adapter which plugs into your laptop's USB port and provides an HDMI output. These cost from around £10 / $10.
How do I make Windows 10 use an external display?
When you plug in a TV using HDMI or even VGA, Windows should detect and display an image on it. Just make sure the TV is turned on and set to the right video input.
If not, you can try the Windows 10 shortcut: Windows Key + P. Hold down the Windows Key and press P multiple times to cycle through the various options: Laptop Screen Only > Duplicate > Extend > Second Screen Only. You'll probably want Duplicate or Second Screen Only.
If that doesn't solve it, on your laptop right-click on the Windows 10 desktop and choose Display Settings:
If you don't see two displays (similar to the image below) it means that your laptop cannot detect the TV. The problem could be that the cable is faulty, so try a different HDMI cable or a different input on your TV.
Once you do see the number 2 screen appear in Display Settings you can scroll down to see the Multiple Display options. In this menu you can choose whether to mirror (duplicate) your laptop screen, extend these displays (so you can show different content on each display) or show only on the TV (which is usually screen number 2).
How do I connect a laptop to TV without a cable?
If you can't or don't want to have a cable between your laptop and TV, another option is to go wireless.
Unfortunately this is a bit of a minefield. Older laptops might have have a built-in wireless system called WiDi (Intel Wireless Display) which works with a compatible receiver such as Netgear's Push2TV.
It's a Wi-Fi direct connection using a system called Miracast, but this is no longer used these days so you might well find that neither your laptop nor TV supports it.
One way to approach the problem is to use a dedicated media streamer such as Google's Chromecast. This can mirror tabs from Google's Chrome web browser on your laptop, but that's only useful if you want to display something from a web browser and unhelpful if you don't. Plus, some plugins such as QuickTime and VLC don't work. You can find out more about casting to a Chromecast.
The main alternative to add wireless video capabilities to both your TV and laptop is to use a so-called wireless HDMI system which uses the HDMI output on your laptop and HDMI input on your TV but replaces the cable with a proprietary wireless system.
For example, if you want to transmit full HD 1080p video and audio, expect to pay around £300-400 for a transmitter and receiver kit such as the IOGear GW3DHD Kit which works to around 100ft.
Can I connect a laptop to a TV using USB?
Strictly speaking, a USB connection from a laptop to a TV shouldn't work. However, there are several companies that have developed adapters that will convert your USB port to a HDMI out. The only catch here is that you need additional software for your laptop to turn the USB port into a Video out port, so we strongly suggest you check the USB to HDMI adapter you want is compatible with your laptop before you buy. Also bear in mind that it may only work for static images (such as presentations or web pages) but not for videos or games.
If the adapter is compatible, then setting up this method is largely straightforward. First of all you need to install the adapter's software/driver, then it's simply a case of running the software and connecting your laptop to your TV. Find a USB to HDMI adatper on Amazon.
You can't connect your laptop to a TV using a USB cable. However, if your goal is to watch a video that's stored on your laptop on your TV screen, then you should be able to copy the video file to a USB stick / external hard drive and then plug that into the TV's USB port.
Providing the video format is supported by the TV (MP4 is almost universally supported), watching content should be as easy as plugging your USB stick / external hard drive into your TV, selecting the USB input and choosing the video you want to watch via the TV's file explorer software.
If it isn't supported here's how to convert video to a different format.