Connecting a laptop or PC to your TV should be straightforward, providing each has a spare HDMI port that you can use to physically link them via an HDMI cable. Mirroring what's on your PC screen is then a case of selecting the appropriate input on the TV, and the sound should pour out through the TV's speakers.
But, of course, things aren't always as simple as we'd hope. Perhaps your laptop does not have an HDMI port, or your TV doesn't have any spare HDMI slots. Maybe there's nowhere convenient near the TV to place a laptop - a high probability if it's wall-mounted.
In this article we explain step-by-step exactly what you need to connect laptop and TV, as well as some workarounds for some common problems.
How to connect your laptop to a TV over HDMI
HDMI can carry both video and audio, so the simplest solution to connect a PC to a TV is to use an HDMI cable. We've rounded up a bunch of them, and heartily recommend the Amazon Basics HDMI cable at just £4.39, which is much less than you'll pay elsewhere and just as efficient. Do note that this cable is available in different lengths, so choose carefully depending on how far from the TV your PC or laptop is likely to be.
It's quite possible you already have HDMI cables lying around at home, but maybe you're not sure what you're looking for. The port highlighted in red in the image below is an HDMI input. Do not that some devices (primarily tablets) also carry smaller versions of this port known as Micro-HDMI, and to confuse matters more there's also Mini-HDMI, but if your laptop or PC does have an HDMI port it's likely to be of the full-size variety, which measures around 14x4.5mm. This is also known as Type-A.
If you have a really old TV or laptop, it may not have any HDMI ports at all. In this case you'll need to connect the two using a VGA cable and a 3.5mm audio lead. The VGA port is the blue one in the image above, marked PC IN.
Conversely, if you have a really new laptop, it might have a single USB-C port rather than HDMI. You can purchase adaptors for turning both a standard (full-size) USB port and a smaller USB-C port to HDMI. If this means you are then unable to power the laptop and stream video over HDMI at the same time, also consider a USB-C hub, such as this £22.99 model from Amazon.
Should both your TV and PC support HDMI, but the problem is that you don't have a spare HDMI port on either device, consider an HDMI switch or splitter that can add HDMI ports and switch between them at the press of a button.
How to connect your laptop to a TV wirelessly
If your TV is wall-mounted then physically connecting a laptop to it can be difficult. But even if your TV is on a desk, you might prefer the less cluttered appeal of going wire-free.
There are plenty of gadgets out there that can act as a bridge between your laptop and your TV, allowing you to 'cast' content from one to the other. You'll also hear the term screen mirroring used, though technically the two are slightly different, with one streaming content from within an app and the other simply replicating your laptop's screen.
Because there are so many technologies and terminologies in use out there, including dated solutions such as Wireless Display, Wi-Fi Direct and Miracast which may be supported by none, one or both of your devices, we usually find it pays to just keep things simple.
We like the Roku Express (reviewed). It's a £29.99 media streamer that plugs into your TV over HDMI and allows you to install apps for various catch-up TV services and movie-subscription services. It also allows you to cast from a compatible device in much the same way as the £30 Google Chromecast, but with the addition of a user-friendly interface.
If you don't need a media streaming box - perhaps you already have a smart TV and don't need to add apps - there are also solutions that are no more than wireless HDMI dongles, such as this £24.99 4K dongle from Amazon. It's exactly the same as connecting the two using an HDMI cable, except that the cable itself is replaced with a proprietary wireless system.
How do I make Windows 10 use an external display?
When you connect your PC to a TV over HDMI or even VGA, Windows should automatically 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).