How to Connect a Mac Laptop to a TV

by Jeff Grundy

Mac laptops let you work and play virtually anywhere. In fact, anything you can do with a desktop, you can do with a Mac notebook -- including watching movies or playing 3D games. While Mac laptops offer adequate power and speed for just about any application you want to run, there is one potential drawback when watching videos or gaming -- the small screen size. Therefore, if you want to enjoy movies, games or any other application from a Mac laptop on a much larger scale, connect the notebook to a TV and immediately increase the size of your screen real estate.

Connect and use an HDMI cable if your Mac laptop and television have an appropriate port. This is perhaps the easiest way to connect modern Mac laptops and Minis to a LCD or LED television and enable HDTV streaming support. Connecting an HDMI cable means you do not need to connect a separate audio cable, as you do with other connection methods. HDMI supports audio and video over a single cable and provides the best video output resolution to TVs that support HDTV formats. After you connect your Mac laptop to a television with an HDMI cable, you need only select the correct input source on the TV's remote control to see the display from the computer. If you want to stream content from the computer that does not use an HDTV resolution, a handy pop-up menu enables you to choose from other screen resolutions and adjust picture height and width as needed to suit your viewing needs on the television.

Connect the laptop to your TV using the Mini Display Port on the rear or side of the notebook if it does not support HDMI. Many TVs made since the early 2000s include a DVI or VGA port even if they don’t support HDMI connectivity. While most modern Mac laptops do not include a DVI or VGA video-out port, you can purchase adapters to convert the Mini Display Port to either type from many sources. Connecting a TV using the Mini Display Port is as simple as plugging the adapter into the port, then connecting the appropriate cable type to the adapter and the video-in port on the television. After you connect your Mac laptop to the TV, click the "Apple" menu, then choose to mirror or extend the notebook display in the Displays section of System Preferences.

Connect an older TV to a Mac laptop using an RF modulator and a VGI or DVI adapter connected to the Mini Display Port. Many older TVs don’t have modern ports such as DVI or VGA and rely on older RCA, coaxial or S-Video connections to receive video signals from player devices. However, you can still connect a Mac laptop to an RF modulator using a Mini-Port to VGA or DVI adapter first, then connecting the modulator to the TV with a coaxial, RCA or S-Video cable. Of course, this type of configuration does not support HDTV resolutions. In fact, the best resolution you can usually achieve on older TVs is 800x600 and with some models only 640x480. However, if you need additional screen space, this is a suitable alternative for viewing applications or videos that don’t require high definition resolutions.

Connect your Mac laptop wirelessly to a television with Apple TV. Apple TV is a set-top media player that connects to your television and streams video from the player, the Internet or other computers connected on the same wireless network. If you have an Apple TV player, ensure that you connect to the same wireless router and then simply open iTunes on your Mac laptop. After you open iTunes on the notebook, the Apple TV players appears as a connected device in the side bar. You can then transfer music, pictures or videos to the Apple TV device just as you would to an iPod or iPhone. After you transfer media to your Apple TV, you can view it directly from the television.


  • You can connect your Mac laptop to a TV and use it even if you close the laptop display. This is known as "closed clamshell" mode. To use the laptop in this mode, you must connect the power adapter as well as an external USB keyboard or mouse. After you connect the laptop and the computer display appears on the television, you can close the notebook, while still viewing the screen on the TV.

Items you will need

  • HDMI cable (optional)
  • VGA/DVI cable (optional)
  • RCA A/V cables or coax cable (optional)
  • RF modulator (optional)
  • Wireless network and Wi-Fi TV adapter (optional)

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images