How to hook your TV to your computer – Watch Internet Movies on your TV
Here’s my Retro guide for hooking your computer or your laptop to your TV so you can watch online movies on your television set. You could buy a Roku or an Apple TV, but for this authors money, a computer is still the best way to enjoy internet movies on your TV screen.
Older Tube TV hookup
Older tube TV’s are the hardest to hook up. You need a video card which has TV output and a TV which has either svideo, component or composite inputs. You can buy a video card like this pretty reasonably if you don’t have one. Make sure you choose the type of card your computer uses (PCI-E, AGP, PCI) if your computer doesn’t have a TV output already.
Usually, your TV enabled video card has an svideo or composite output or both. Your TV may have composite, svideo or component inputs or all of the above. If it has none of the above, you can use an RF modulator to use the TV’s antenna input. Hooking up an RF modulator is pretty simple. Red, White and Yellow from the computer into the modulator. Put the modulator between your antenna and your TV. Then you set the modulator to channel 3 and watch it on your TV.
If your TV has svideo and your computer has svideo, the best way to hook up it up is with the svideo. Just hook the output of the computer to the input on the TV using an svideo cable. If your TV has component inputs, you can use an svideo to component adapter cable. Svideo and component inputs are electrically identical. It’s just that the svideo is in a neat little plug instead of 3 RCA cables.
The difference between component (svideo) and composite is that component has twice the resolution of composite. Composite has 480 interlaced lines, where component carries 480 non-interlaced lines. You’ll see this mentioned on DVD players that say they are “progressive scan”. You usually have a choice and can use the composite video. If you have the choice you should use the component or svideo cables. You will notice the difference. Don’t expect your computer screen to look very crisp. TV’s are pretty blurry compared to a monitor.
Like I said, svideo and component are identical electrically, so if your TV doesn’t have svideo inputs, you can buy a cable with an svideo plug on one end and 3 RCA’s on the other. Red, Blue and Green RCA to svideo. Again, you do want to use the svideo or component cables for hookup if you have them.
Usually TV enabled video cards only have one resolution where the TV output works, so you’ll have to set your screen resolution correctly. Usually that’s 1024X768 resolution. Set that in your display settings in windows and make sure TV output is turned on. Usually there is an addition to the typical driver that allows you to turn the TV output off and on from windows control panel. In windows XP and later, you will be able to make the TV a second monitor. There is a little problem. You can only show overlayed full screen video on your primary screen, so you need to make your TV the primary screen and the monitor the second screen. Windows 7 doesn’t have this problem. XP and Vista do. This is sort of a hassle. You’ll see why.
Plug the stereo cable in on your laptop and hook it to the TV set. White is left. Red is Right. Your TV will be color coded that way too. Plug a VGA monitor cable in and set the screen resolution to the native resolution of the monitor. 1080p monitors will be 1920X1080, but 720p monitors aren’t usually 1280X720 which is 720p. Usually they are some odd resolution like 1366X768. Look it up in the TV manual. It will look better at the native resolution.
HDMI, it’s wonderful.
If your computer has an HDMI output, you can usually just plug the TV into the computer with one HDMI cable. It even carries the audio. If you are using XP or Vista, you must set the TV to be the primary monitor, or you won’t be able to display full screen overlay video on it. You can get at that from windows display control panel. You must set the screen resolution to the resolution of the TV. That’s either 1280X720 or 1980X1080, which is 720p or 1080p respectively. You might find it useful to use 720p, even if you have a 1080p TV. The reason is that it’s easier to see the screen icons and to navigate windows if it’s bigger.
Does your computer have a DVI output? You can get a cable that changes that to HDMI. Unlike the real HDMI cable, it doesn’t carry the audio, so you’ll still need your 1/8th inch to RCA audio cable to get sound.
HDMI is the best way to hook your computer to your TV, because it’s digital. Using an Analog VGA cable or the composite or component outputs don’t work as well.
Here’s our parts list with comparable Amazon Marketplace links:
When you have an old tube TV:
- An svideo to component cable (svideo on the computer… 3 RCA component to the TV)
- An RF modulator (only if your TV has no composite, svideo or component inputs.)
- A RCA video cable (composite video)