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How to Connect a Computer to a Television via HDMI
While it might seem like a simple task of buying a HDMI cable and plugging it in, in practice it might not work at all. So if you have tried and failed or are about to try you should be reading this.
If you are interested in streaming media from your PC to the TV you will need to connect streaming media player directly to your TV over HDMI, connect the player to you local network (LAN or WiFi) and then stream media from your PC to the the player.
Before we begin the discussion, a light reminder that HDMI allows you to transfer both video and audio from your computer to your television using just a single cable and requires that your PC be equipped with an HDMI port. You should also be running Windows XP or later or Linux. This guide is primarily intended for Windows users. Also you can connect multiple HD sources to your TV using a HDMI switch.
Why not Use VGA or DVI?
You should carefully consider your reasons for trying to use HDMI to connect your PC to your television in the first instance. If all you want to do is use your television as an external monitor, you are much better off buying a traditional VGA cable and getting the job done. You will save yourself a lot of unnecessary headache. Most laptops have a VGA port (also called D-Sub) and if your television is modern enough to have an HDMI port, it will have a VGA port as well. Look in the manual. The only downside is that VGA won’t transfer the sound from your PC to your TV; it will transfer just the video.
The difference is that VGA is analogue output while HDMI is digital output. This means the VGA signal has to be converted to digital by your TV before it can be displayed. Some TVs are good at doing this while others not. This can sometimes lead to poor picture quality over VGA. A digital alternative to VGA is DVI. If your TV or PC has a DVI port it is possible to use a DVI-HDMI cable to connect them. Again like VGA, DVI will transfer just video to your TV not audio.
Finally, the quality of sound transferred over HDMI is way better than that transferred over a 3.5mm audio cable. So if you have audiophile sound hardware or a Dolby surround system connected to your TV, using HDMI to watch your movies from PC is a good idea.
The HDMI Cable
If you decide to use HDMI for the interconnection, then understand that the fancy naming of the HDMI cable has very little to do with the success of your interconnection. If you buy a premium 24-carat gold plated or even a platinum cable your chances of success are not dramatically increased. So you can go for a inexpensive (v1.4) HDMI Cable and hope for the best.
The HDMI cable is at its core a set of wires that allow two devices to talk. But to talk successfully, they should be using the same language. HDMI has many versions starting at 1.0 till 1.4 (present day) and growing. Which means if you purchased your TV or PC a while back, the HDMI on it is probably already out-of-date. Newer HDMI versions are designed to support even higher definitions and additional types of devices. Luckily, higher version devices should usually connect with lower version ones.
Enough said, lets get to the task on hand.
Making the HDMI Connection
Firstly stick the HDMI cable into your TV and then into your PC. When you plug it into your PC, it should make some sound indicating a device was connected (like when you plug-in a USB device). Vista users can try detecting the external display using Mobility Centre in the Control Panel. Did you already get the PC display on your TV? Great then you are done. If it did not work, read on…
Setting Up the TV
You may have to change your TV settings to read from its HDMI port. Usually the TV has an input button or option somewhere (look on the remote or in the menu) that allows you to select where it gets its input from3. Usually this is set to TV, DTV or SCART. You have to set it to HDMI. Note that AV is a general term and if your TV only shows options like AV1, AV2 etc. then you will have to look on all AV channels to find which one is receiving the HDMI input, so it’s a bit of trial and error. In most cases selecting the correct input on the TV should get things working.
If you are fairly sure that your TV is reading the HDMI input but still not showing anything, you most probably have a screen resolution issue. Start by right-clicking anywhere on your desktop wallpaper and select Properties from the menu. Go to the Settings tab. Vista users select Personalize and then Display Settings. Does windows detect the external display? Does it let you enable it? Sometimes the external display is detected but not automatically enabled. You have to click the display and tick the box "Extend my display onto this monitor" then press Apply to enable the display.
If it still does not work, try changing your PC screen resolution down by one notch and press Apply. Does the TV light up? If not, go down another notch and try again. Usually the PC resolution of 1280×720 pixels (720p) should work with most televisions and the TV should respond. For the curious, the issue can be that your PC is sending the HD signal at a screen resolution that your TV does not support. Old TVs will display a gawky image but new ones will simply turn their display off. You must find a resolution that both your PC graphics and TV support. Your TV manual may have a list of supported resolutions (toward the end). Usually the most common HD resolutions are 1280×720 pixels or 1920×1080 pixels. Your PCs supported resolutions are already being displayed to you by Windows, so if it is not shown, it is not supported. If you are trying to connect the HDMI cable to a TV for use as a secondary monitor then you must find a resolution that both your primary monitor and secondary monitor (TV) support. In such cases Windows will usually show you the resolutions supported by only your primary monitor under Display Settings.
If you succeeded in getting your TV to display something, but it isn’t looking right or the display is partially off the screen, try playing with the PC screen resolution settings to see if choosing a lower resolution fixes the issue. Otherwise press the Advanced button on the form. Look for your graphics card specific settings. These are different for different cards, but usually the tab will have a logo icon for the card manufacturer, like an NVidia or Intel logo, and a button to open the specific settings. You might find controls here that will let you adjust the HDMI or TV output, move it left or right or scale it to fit correctly on the TV screen. You may have to click several Advanced buttons to get to these settings.
If the display is not clear or sharp on Samsung or LG TVs try renaming the 'HDMI' connection to 'PC' instead. Samsung and LG TVs support renaming a connection using the remote control. This unintuitive step fixes display issues on these TVs.
If the display does not scale to fit entirely on your TV and you see black bars at the top and bottom or left and right, you have a aspect-ratio mismatch. Find out what native highest resolution your TV supports by looking in the manual. The resolution is Width x Height pixels. Dividing the Width by the Height will give you your TVs aspect ratio. So 1280×720 and 1920×1080 pixels is 16:9, 1920×1200, 1680x1050, 1440x900, 1280x800 pixels is 16:10, 1024x768 and 800x600 pixels is 4:3. Now if the PC output has a different aspect ratio to your TVs native resolution, the picture simply cannot scale to fill the TV screen unless you are willing to distort it. Because the width and height of the picture received do not match the width and height the TV can show, only part of the picture can be displayed, or only part of the display can be used to display the picture without distortion. So a 4:3 and a 16:10 screen will show black bars at the top and bottom if displaying a 16:9 picture and this is considered normal.
Still Doesn't Work?
This is as far as I can guide you. If you still can't get it to work, try to see if you can get updated graphics drivers for your card. If the image you see is partially off the screen, updated graphics drivers may address the issue. If that does not help it usually is an issue with your TV rather than your PC. Try it on a friends TV and see if it works.
- 1. High Definition technically means anything above Standard Definition (640x480), the only limit on how high it could get is display technology.
- 2. A display resolution of 1024×768 or higher is already High Definition.
- 3. A TV usually has multiple input ports, but can only read and display images from any one input at a time. A TVs default input is usually set to read from the antenna.