Mac computers can do a lot, but they shine even brighter when they’re connected to a TV. You can watch your iTunes videos on the big screen, listen to music on your home theater setup, play games without squinting, and much more. What you’ll need to connect your Mac to a TV depends on the model of your Mac and the kind of connectors on both your Mac and the TV. Read this guide to find out how.
Part 1 of 2: Getting the Right Equipment
Examine the type of video port used by your Mac computer. Macs produced after 2008 use Mini-DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, or HDMI. The type of port you have will help determine the kind of adapter you will need, if any. Older Macs may have Mini-DVI, DVI, or Micro-DVI, which require different adapters.
- Look on the back and sides of your Mac to locate and examine all the existing video ports. You can also refer to your computer user’s manual to determine the names and locations of video ports.
Examine your TV to determine its video port type. If you cannot locate the video port on your TV, consult with your TV manual or with its manufacturer for further assistance. They are typically located on the back of the TV, though they may also be found on the side of the TV.
- For HDTVs, the most common port is HDMI. You may also find DVI on newer TVs, as well as legacy support for VGA connections.
- Older TVs may only have composite (3 plugs) connections, S-Video, or VGA.
Determine the type of adapter needed to connect the Mac to the TV. You will need to buy an adapter that supports the video ports on both your Mac and TV.
- To connect your Mac to an HDMI port on the TV, you will need a Mini-DisplayPort-to-HDMI or a Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adapter.
- If your Mac has a Mini-DisplayPort and your TV has VGA, you will need a Mini-DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter.
- If your Mac and TV both have HDMI ports, you will not need any adapters, just a HDMI cable.
- If you have a cable not mentioned above, or just can’t seem to find one, go to your local Apple Store for assistance, as your Mac may be personalized.
Obtain the correct video cables. Make sure that they are long enough to reach from your adapter to the TV. You will need both the adapter and the cable in order to make the connection (unless you are connecting straight from HDMI to HDMI, in which case only the cable is necessary).
Get an audio cable if necessary. Most adapters do not support audio signals, so you will need to get a separate audio cable. The exceptions to this are straight HDMI connects, or Mini-DisplayPorts that support audio (check your Mac’s documentation). The audio cable required will depend on the inputs on your TV.
- For best quality, use the optical sound port.
- Not all TVs support audio coming from a different source than the HDMI signal, so you may run into audio issues if you are using an HDMI adapter and trying to use a separate audio cable.
Part 2 of 2: Connecting the Mac to the TV
Switch your TV to the correct input. Each video connector on your TV is attached to an input setting on your TV. They are typically labeled so that you can easily switch to the correct one. Make sure that your TV is turned to the input connected to your Mac.
Turn off your Mac. This isn’t really required anymore, especially for HDMI connections, but it can make configuring your display a little more automatic.
Connect the adapter to your Mac. Insert your adapter into the appropriate display port on your Mac. Plug one end of your video cable into the adapter, and the other end into the correct port on the TV.
- Connect the audio cable from your Mac’s headset jack to the audio input on your TV that matches your video input. This is not required for straight HDMI connections.
Power on your Mac. In some cases, your screen will automatically appear on the TV. In other cases you may have to adjust some settings in order for it to appear. There are three main settings for displays: you can have the display span both screens, duplicated (mirrored) across both screens, or have only one screen active (either the laptop or the TV).
- To adjust the settings, open System Preferences by clicking on the Apple menu, and then select Displays.
- Select the Arrangement tab. In the arrangement section, you can choose the way you want your display configured.
Adjust the screen resolution if necessary. Oftentimes, your computer’s resolution and your TV’s resolution will be different. This is especially true with older TVs. Open System Preferences and then select Display. Select the display that you want to change the resolution for.
- Most HDTVs can display up to 1920 x 1080, though some are limited to 1280 x 720. Both of these resolutions have a 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratio.
- If you don’t see a recognizable image, you may have to disconnect your laptop temporarily and adjust your resolution before reconnecting your laptop to your TV. If you are switching between one active display, your laptop will need to have the same resolution as your TV.
Adjust your TV’s zoom level. Some TVs will attempt to compensate for different aspect ratios by zooming the image. If you find that your screen is cut off around the edges when you are viewing on the TV, check your TVs settings to make sure that it is not zoomed in.