How to watch shows on your HDTV: through your MacBook Print
Written by Ed Eusebio   

Update 3-31-10: Now you can also watch instant view videos using this same method. And there are now tons of them! Netflicks has finally made instant viewing available to us Mac users (Intel-based). You'll have to load up Microsoft’s Silverlight software to play videos, but a screen will pop up asking your permission.

So you love, and have watched a couple of your favorite TV shows, and maybe a movie or two on your MacBook or desktop iMac monitor.  Small but nice. But now you want more. You'd like to kick back on your sofa or easy chair to view that glorious High Definition video on your big screen HDTV.

You only really need 4 things to start enjoying shows on your HDTV.  And fortunately, except for the adaptor, you probably already have this stuff laying around.


Screen shot of my HDTV. Watching Battlestar Galactica on

1. SIGNAL: connection

This goes without saying (but I'll say it), but you need to be able to watch shows on your MacBook as it sits next to your HDTV. Wifi G network speed will do fine, but if you don't like waiting forever for the movie to buffer, think about running some Cat5 cable from your router to the HDTV area.  I did, and yes it's great!  If you're running wireless N, you'll probably be fine.

2. VIDEO: An Adaptor

Think of your HDTV as if it's a really big external monitor for your MacBook, because that's essentially how we're using it.  It's the second screen for your MacBook, and for those of you who have never attached an external monitor to your MacBook, it totally ROCKS! And yes, you can do exactly the same things on it, with your mouse, as you do on your regular laptop monitor.

Here's the adaptor I use on my little-old white MacBook, (with its "Mini DVI Port"), and the link at the Apple Store , where it retails for $19.00.

Here's the adaptor if you have a new aluminum MacBook (with its "Mini Display Port."), and the link at the Apple Store, where it retails for $29.00.


I like this Macbook Mini-DVI to VGA adaptor because it's flexible for use with: HDTVs, old and new monitors and projectors. I actually stayed away from the other "to video" and "to DVI" adaptors you'll see in the Apple store. because I like the flexibility of using this adaptor on any device that accepts VGA (RBG), which is most of them.

Big Warning: Make sure you use the right adaptor for the right kind of MacBook port. They are NOT interchangeble.  Mine is Mini-DVI, but the new MacBooks use something called Mini Display Port, which look physically smaller.

FYI: I have a little white MacBook with a 13 inch screen. (Which is a reason why I use external monitors most of the time I'm at my desk. We all could use a little more real estate! Laughing)

3. VIDEO CABLE: VGA to VGA cable

If you've ever owned an external computer monitor. you probably have some of this laying around,  This is likely the cable (or one of them) that came with it.  Monitors today usually ship with both VGA (some call it RBG (for red-blue-green)) and DVI cables. Plug one end of this cable to your adaptor, and the adaptor into your MacBook.


Now look at your HDTV, there should be an input/output area on the back or side that's labeled, "PC In."  In this area there should be the female plug for your VGA (RBG) cable. Put the male end of the VGA cable there.

Your HDTV has the ability to change inputs choices. Change input to "PC in." It will take a couple seconds for your TV to recognize your attached PC, and "realize" that it is now being used as a big, honkin monitor.  Then an Mac background should show up.

Drag your browser window over to your new, big monitor, and expand to fill screen.  Should look something like this screen shot from my HDTV (monitor).


Notice the buffer indicator just under the play button? I'd recommend waiting a couple minutes until that hits at least 4 bars, before starting the show. There's also a "Watch Hi-Dev" button you'll want to click, and a "Full Screen" button once you get your buffer bars.

4. SOUND: Audio Cable

Nothing too fancy here, but I borrowed a 1-prong to 1 prong cable from the back of an unused computer external speaker system. Note the two black bands on each plug.  You need two bands to be able to hear your shows in stereo. One band = mono.


One end goes into the headphone jack of your MacBook. The other end goes into the audio input in the "PC in" area.

You might want to adjust the screensaver and sleep settings on your MacBook, so they're not going off during your show, but if you've got Audio and Video running, then you're done. Congrats, you now have yet another excuse for spending more time in front of your big screen HDTV!

4a Audio Cable (option 2)--Article modified: 6-11-10

OK, so lately I've been cheating. Instead of going MacBook to HDTV (using the above cable), I've been enjoying the booming bass thrill of my home audio system, when watching Hulu and espcially Netflicks movies on HDTV.  Since my home stereo system sits right next to the HDTV (and is even connected to it), you know, WTH!  Laughing


I found this fun little cable in my big-box-of-old-chemical-smelling-cables-and-electronic-parts (admit it, you have one too). As you can see, it's a headphone jack prong on one end (that goes in your MacBook) and a Right and Left thingy on the other end (that goes in your home stereo system). I plug the red/white things into the area labeled AUX (for auxilliary I suppose). Match color to color, of course.

Then, here's the tricky part, go to your stereo system control panel (or remote) and select AUX as the sound input.

BOOM!  Now you've got Movie Theatre Sound to go with your Netflicks movies! (Because, let's face it, Hulu TV is great, but their choice of movies blows!)