A Guide on How to Connect Your Mac to TV without Having an HDMI

Do you wish to know how to connect your Macintosh computer like your iMac desktop or your MacBook Pro laptop to your television set? You’ve come to the right article. It depends on what connections are available on your Mac that you could work with. Otherwise, you’ll need to start investing in adapters, especially if you’re connecting your old-timey Macintosh to your legacy CRT televisions.

It’s typically the latest editions of the Mac laptop like MacBook Pro 2016 and above that has issues with HDMI because of the format shift to Thunderbird 3 ports. At any rate, here’s what you need to know.

Determine Your Mac’s Video Output Type

A laptop will need either a standard HDMI cable or a USB-C to HDMI cable, adapter, or converter in order to work with an HDMI connection usually needed for HDTV. It depends if it still has an HDMI port or not. You need to be aware of your Mac’s output types to make this work.

  • MacBook Pro 2016 and Above: These computers use Thunderbolt 3 ports. They require USB-C connections to work with HD monitors and HDTVs with HDMI ports in turn. To be more specific, you need to purchase a USB-C to HDMI cable or adapter as well as a Thunderbolt 3 to HDMI converter to be able to connect your laptop on one end with a USB-C connector and the other end with an HDMI connector.


  • MacBook Pro 2015 and Below: Ironically, the earlier versions of MacBook have HDMI ports. Therefore, you should be able to connect them to your HDTV and HD monitor (or even a projector with an HDMI port) with a standard HDMI cable. The change to Thunderbolt 3 was mostly facilitated to standardize portable device connections with PC hardware the same way USB was standardized for standard non-Apple desktop and laptop PC rigs.


  • Get a TV That Works with AirPlay: An Apple TV works fine with any Mac PC for your lap or your desk because of AirPlay technology. Alternatively, you can get a TV supporting AirPlay tech that’s not necessarily an Apple product. The TVs that work with AirPlay or Apple TV and the app include Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung TVs since 2018, Sony TVs made since 2019, certain 2019 LG TVs, and certain VIZIO TV models from 2016 to present.

Connect Your Mac to TV

Connecting a Mac to an HDTV

  • Purchase a Video Cable: Buy a video cable depending on the video output of your Mac. You will need either a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C to HDMI cable or separate standard cables for USB-C and HDMI ports if you’re using a converter or extractor for the job. It all depends on what sort of ports are available on your Mac that you can work with.


  • Plug The Cable to The Mac: Plug one end of the cable to your Mac. If you’re using a MacBook Pro 2016 and above, plug the USB-C end of your cable adapter to it. If you’re using a MacBook Pro 2015 and down, you’re good to go with an HDMI cable and a direct connection to your HDTV. Regardless, you should have an HDMI connector on the other end to allow HDTV linkage. The cable should have a snug fit but don’t force or jam it down the port.


  • Plug The Cable into The HDTV: Now that you have an HDMI connection by cable or converter, you can plug the HDMI end unto your HDTV’s HDMI port. This 5-sided port should be available on the back or side of the unit. Sometimes, you might even have 2 ports available to you. You might even have to plug it to a splitter in case you’re using other HDMI source devices with your TV like a game console or Blu-Ray disc player.


  • Setting Up The Port: Take note of the HDMI input number or name that’s next to the port. This will allow you to know which port you’re using in order to select the correct channel when setting things up with your HDTV. Turn your HDTV on and change the TV’s input accordingly. Go to the input number or name, like HDMI 1 or HDMI 2 using your TV remote. Once arriving at the correct input, expect to see your Mac’s screen appear on the TV screen.

Changing Sound and Video Settings 

If the image on the HDTV’s screen isn’t correct or the sound is playing on the Mac’s speakers instead of the television’s speakers, you can further tweak settings from Mac’s system preferences menu as shown below.

  • Open the Apple Menu of Your Mac Computer: Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple logo on the screen’s top-left corner. A menu will then dropdown. Click the “System Preferences” option near the top of the drop-down menu’s list of commands. This then opens the window for System Preferences. Click “Sound” or the speaker-shaped icon on the window.


  • Click Output on the Sound Window: Once you get to the Sound window, click the “Output” option located on one of the window’s topmost tabs. Click on the HDMI or TV option at the top of the page to choose your TV’s speakers. This ensures that the speakers of your HDTV are the ones delivering the sounds coming from your Mac instead of your Mac’s speakers.


  • Go Back to the Systems Preferences Window: On the upper-left side of the Sound window, there’s a back button. Click on that to return to the page for System Preferences. Now click “Displays”, which is the monitor-shaped icon in the middle of the window. At the upper-left corner of the window, there’s a tab for Displays. Here you can change the TV’s resolution if needed.


  • Changing the HDTV Resolution: First off, check the box for “Scaled”. Afterward, pick a proper resolution. Your TV’s built-in resolution should serve as a guide for the resolutions you can use. For HDMI 1.4 it’s 1080p. For HDMI 2.0 it’s 4K. For HDMI 2.1 it’s 8K. You can also change the scaling of the screen for good measure by clicking and dragging the “Underscan” slider at the bottom of the page. Go left to show more of Mac’s screen. Go right to zoom into the screen.

Connecting Your Mac to a CRT TV

What if you’re connecting your Macintosh desktop or laptop to a cathode-ray tube (CRT) television set or a TV that literally has no HDMI port? What should you do in order to make the linkup happen? It again depends on the output of your Mac. Also, be prepared to buy converters or adaptors galore to make a modern machine work with a legacy one.

  • The Olden Days of VGA and iMacs: In the olden days, CRT connections to Macs for audio-video presentations in school and whatnot required your typical RCA or VGA cables, whichever is applicable. The iMac G3 from 1998 to 2003, for example, can be connected to a television set provided that it has a VGA port. Otherwise, if it instead has a Mini-VGA port, you’ll need a Mini-VGA to VGA converter to be able to use your G3 with a CRT. It’s kind of redundant though since the iMac G3 is basically a monitor with computer parts in it.


  • MacBook Pro 2015 or Older: What’s applicable before when it comes to HDMI connections is also applicable when talking old AV connections for CRT televisions. If you’re using a MacBook Pro 2015 laptop or older, you essentially need either an HDMI to AV converter or an Mini DisplayPort to AV (with 3 RCA, Composite Video, and R/L Audio output) Converter to make it works with your Thunderbolt 1 or 2 port, with AV being either made for analog RCA or component cables.


  • MacBook Pro 2016 or Newer: If you’re using a MacBook Pro 2016 laptop or newer, look into getting a Thunderbird 3 or USB-C to AV converter. Even Apple itself is selling a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter specifically made for the job of allowing any Mac to connect to any vintage CRT TV or flatscreen without an HDMI port or without AirPlay support. You can also go third-party with this but it’s usually better to use a product specifically made by Apple for Apple products like the newest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebook PCs.

To Wrap Things Up

In the 2010s, most people have switched to flatscreens or HDTV setups that don’t have RCA connections. Thus, they necessitate getting an HDMI connection. If your Mac has HDMI (to allow it to connect to HD monitors) then that’s all fine and dandy. However, if the computer instead lacks HDMI, you need to adjust accordingly. As a rule of thumb, if you lack the connector, there’s an adapter available to make the linkup possible.

Is your Mac a legacy or vintage Macintosh? Then it should have its own monitor along with the rest of the computer, all for the convenience of its casual or non-tech-savvy target audience. Usually, the ones that need the monitor the most are laptops, particularly those that could use huge flatscreen HDTV monitor for HD streaming or video viewing, with the machine acting as the Blu-Ray or DVD player.

See more: How to Convert Different Cables to HDMI 101


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