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How do I connect my laptop to my television?

I have DivX movies on my laptop that I want to play through my television. Is there an easy way of connecting the two?

I have DivX movies on my laptop that I want to play through my television. They're karaoke movies, so I really want to get them running through the big television so the whole family can join in. Is there an easy way of connecting the two?

James Ballantyne

Connecting your PC to your television is quite a straightforward process if you have a modern television. PCs and newer televisions feature similar input ports, so it's often just a case of running a cable from the PC to the TV. You'll either have a choice of D-Sub (VGA), DVI, or in some cases HDMI inputs. You will of course need to select the correct input source via your TV's menu system, but after this, Bob should be your proverbial uncle.

Things are much less straightforward for those of us with old televisions. For these, you'll more than likely need a scan convertor -- a little box that lets the television understand the type of signals being spouted by your computer. PC monitors and TVs have different scan rates (the speed at which the picture is drawn on the display), so the scan convertor is required to change the faster scan rate being spouted by your graphics card to a slower one that is compatible with your TV. Scan convertors also serve the function of changing the separate red, green and blue signals transmitted by your PC into a single composite signal, which TVs use.

To physically connect a scan convertor to an older TV, you'll need to attach it via the circular RCA input jack round the back. If your TV doesn't have RCA input, you'll need to attach an RF modulator switch to the antenna jack before attaching the scan convertor. RF modulators will be familiar to anyone who's ever tried to connect a games console to an old TV -- they allow your computer's video signal to temporarily hijack a TV channel (eg channel 5).

Now you're connected, you're probably wondering why Britney Spears looks so low-res and why the subtitles from Hit Me Baby One More Time are almost illegible. Let's not forget that the very reason computer monitors were invented is because standard-def TVs can't display high-resolution images. To avoid this problem, get yourself a high-quality scan convertor, as these can help clean up the images, but don't expect miracles.