Cables, connectors and adapters – the curse of technology from the day the light bulb was invented. Lacking the right cable with the right connector can bring the highest high-tech to its knees.
I’ve been the victim of this scourge numerous times.
The long sought goal to connect a TV to a PC is no exception. It’s also one of the most common. Perhaps you’ve encountered it.
PCs and TVs MERGING FROM BOTH DIRECTIONS
A lot has changed since PCs and TVs first started trying to hook up. They used to be completely separate industries. Today, both are coming together from their respective directions, competing and cooperating at the same time to create extraordinary interactive communications products.
Smart TVs are browsing the Internet just as you would on a computer, while also providing access to online video such as Netflix, Hulu, Facebook and others.
Computers are integrating more closely and more easily with televisions so people can turn their small screen displays into big screens, and watch videos that only exist on the computer.
This is becoming simpler every day. It used to be this complicated jumble of incompatible cables, connectors and video standards. Now, wireless technology and standardized cables have provided an easy solution for how to connect your TV to a PC.
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An extension of this has also spawned a growing trend called two-screen viewing. It’s another way television and computers are merging.
THREE WAYS TO CONNECT THE TWO WORLDS
• First, Wi-Fi is the current rage. TV’s have it built-in, or an easily added Wi-Fi module that plugs into a USB port on the TV. Computers have been wireless for years. It’s only natural that Wi-Fi would be the uniting factor in making PCs and television come together.
Because video is so data-intensive, you need all the speed a Wi-Fi network can offer. The best results come from what’s known as the 802.11n standard. It’s the fastest consumer Wi-Fi available now.
• Second, a variation of the full wireless route is Wi-Fi plus cable. Here, a Wi-Fi equipped computer sends signals to a small receiver, which then connects to the TV with a single HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable. Some receivers will also have the RCA connectors (yellow for video and red and white for audio), just in case your TV does not have HDMI inputs.
Intel has specifically engineered this technology into their second-generation i3, i5 and i7 series of microprocessors calling it WiDi (Wireless Display.)
• The third and final method relies on the tried and true cable. This used to be an unspeakable ordeal, but today, using HDMI, it has become simple.
There remain a seemingly endless number of permutations of the cable method, given the many different types of computer outputs and television inputs that have evolved over the years. The possible combinations of connectors, cables, adaptors, converters and alike can be so convoluted, that I’m not even going to get into trying to explain every audio and video option.
HOW TO CONNECT YOUR Wi-Fi TV TO A Wi-Fi PC
The assumption here is that you already have a home Wi-Fi network, your computer is Wi-Fi equipped and you either have a TV with built-in Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi Ready with the adaptor installed following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Note: Instructions will vary with the manufacturer of the TV and/or PC. Read the user manuals.
1. Turn on the TV and Computer.
2. From the TV menu enable the Wi-Fi mode.
3. Select the Wi-Fi input on the TV as you would Video 1, DVR, etc.
4. On the PC, you should be prompted to select the Wi-Fi connection to the TV. Some PC manufactures (notably Sony) have a dedicated button on their laptops to activate this connection.
5. Follow the TV manufacturer’s instructions on how to link the TV with your Wi-Fi network. It may be necessary to enter the security key or password to allow your network to recognize the TV as an access point.
6. A re-boot of the network router may be necessary.
7. The TV may display a four-digit passcode for you to enter on the PC.
8. The PC should then recognize the TV as a device connection
9. Even with the correct input selected on the TV, you may not see a picture.
10. If so go to the PC’s Control Panel and select “Adjust screen resolution.”
11. You will see images for two different displays.
12. Click on display number 2.
13. Now choose “Extend the desktop onto this monitor.”
14. Click “Apply.”
15. The HDTV screen should now show the Windows desktop photo.
16. If prompted, click “Keep display settings.”
17. You may need to adjust the resolution to get a larger image on the TV.
18. Open windows on the PC screen may need to be dragged to the TV.
19. You should be set, but be warned that Wi-Fi networks can be finicky when it comes to adding devices or making changes.
At least there aren’t any cables to deal with.
Note: Mac users will have a similar multi-screen set-up procedure through System Preferences/Displays/Arrangement/Display, to either extend the desktop to two screens, or ‘Mirror’ exactly what’s on the computer onto the TV.
HOW TO CONNECT YOUR Wi-Fi READY TV TO A Wi-Fi PC
Follow the same instructions as above AFTER you have installed the Wi-Fi adaptor (aka dongle) in the TV with the USB connector. Everything else is the same procedure.
IF YOUR TV ISN’T WIRELESS – YOU CAN STILL CUT THE CORD – ALMOST
Don’t have the latest and greatest TV with built-in or Wi-Fi Ready capability? You can still enjoy the freedom of connecting wirelessly to your computer.
A number of third party manufacturers offer wireless receiver solutions. Basically it’s a separate box – a Wi-Fi receiver that then connects to the television by a cable. Many of the new ones are based on Intel WiDi, so you’ll need a computer with the proper microprocessor.
HOW TO INSTALL A COMBINATION WIRELESS & CABLE SYSTEM
NOTE: Depending on the receiver manufacturer, you may need to install special software on your computer. Be sure to check whether that software should be installed Before or After connecting and powering the receiver. Step 2 below could be different accordingly.
Read the instruction manual.
1. Connect an HDMI cable from the receiver to an input on the TV.
2. Plug the receiver into an AC outlet and turn it on.
3. Power up the PC and TV.
4. Select the HDMI input on the TV the receiver is plugged into.
5. Push the activation button on the PC.
6. Because of the way Windows sometimes operates with multiple screens, you may need to also go through steps 9 through 18 above to adjust the correct screen resolution and display settings.
Again, this is similar to the add-on Wi-Fi module that can be plugged to Wi-Fi Ready TV’s USB port. Instead an audio/video cable runs from the new wireless receiver to audio/video inputs on the TV.
Ideally that would be a single HDMI cable. This is the most up-to-date method for transporting audio and video from Blu-ray players, DVRs, cable boxes and other devices to High Definition televisions. All modern TVs are fitted with multiple HDMI inputs.
If your TV is pre-HDMI, this is where it begins to get complicated. You’ll need to find a Wi-Fi receiver that also has the type of audio/video connectors compatible with your TV (typically the yellow, red and white RCA connectors), which some do.
NO Wi-Fi – YOU CAN STILL CONNECT DIRECTLY WITH CABLES
Assuming there’s no wireless option, and the television and computer have to be tethered by cables, you can still get the job done. Which cables, connectors and adaptors you might need depends on the hardware in question.
The simplest and best scenario is that your computer has an HDMI output, and the television has an HDMI input. If so, you’re home free. Just plug one end of the HDMI cable into the TV, and plug the other into the computer.
However, even with the correct HDMI input selected on the TV, you may not see a picture. Go through the same steps 9 – 18 listed above, as if you were connecting through Wi-Fi to be sure Windows knows how to handle the multiple screens. Again, Mac users may have to make similar adjustments through System Preferences/Displays/Arrangement/Display.
The restriction you’ll face now is the length of the cable versus how close you want to be to the big screen. You don’t need to buy expensive HDMI cables.
Beyond using a single HDMI cable that carries both high definition video and sound, it can get complicated with DVI, VGA, Component, Composite, S-video, let alone audio, adaptors and converters. You’re into complex areas, and are in need of more help than I can offer here.
CONNECTING YOUR TV TO A PC IS MORE THAN PICTURES AND SOUND
Sure, it’s great to use your PC to play the video you shot or was sent to you from a friend, viewing it on a big screen TV. It’s cool to browse the Internet from the couch while you watch on a 50” HD display.
It’s even better with Wi-Fi so you don’t get entangled in wires.
But that’s not why it’s important. As the two worlds get closer to each other, it’s the interaction between them, not the sameness that makes them such a powerful team. Keep an eye on two-screen viewing as it becomes more popular and heightens the merging of computers and television.