Hardware Q&A: Connect PC to TV, Add a Monitor
Reader Kyle wants to know if there's "a cord that will play video from my computer to my TV." He wants to watch YouTube, camcorder videos, and the like, so "obviously I need one that will get me video and audio." Excellent question, Kyle. For a direct PC-to-TV connection, your best bet is an HDMI cable. Any $5 cheapie will do; spend more than that and you're overpaying.(For tips on selecting the right cable, read "PCWorld's Giant Cable Guide")
That's assuming, of course, that both your PC and your TV have HDMI ports. If they don't, or you'd rather not park your PC right next to your TV, there are countless other ways to stream video from one to the other.
For example, if you have a game console (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, etc.), check out PlayOn. This nifty service streams not only your own media library, but also YouTube videos and over a dozen well-known sources: Hulu, Comedy Central, CBS, Nick, and so on. The PlayOn software runs on your PC, streaming video over your home network to the game console (or one of a handful of other devices) connected to your TV. You can try it free for 14 days; a one-year subscription costs $39.99 (for the first year--after that it's $20 per year).
No game console? Try the new Apple TV, which for $99 streams YouTube, Netflix, and any videos stored on your PC (provided they can play in iTunes--that's the catch).
These are just a couple of the options out there. My advice: Unless you're planning to use your PC as a standalone media center (an awesome solution, by the way), skip the potential hassles of connecting it to your TV and opt for a newfangled streaming solution instead.
Connect a Second Monitor to Your PC
Reader Maina wants to know how to connect a second (and possibly even third) monitor to his PC. He wants one for documents, another for his Web browser or music software, and so on.
Good news, Maina: Microsoft Windows (especially Windows 7, which you said is one of your preferred operating systems) is adept at running multiple monitors, and there are few specific hardware requirements. In other words, any system capable of running Windows 7 should have no problem driving a second monitor.
If you use a desktop PC, check your video card to see if it has a second VGA or DVI port. If so, just plug in your second monitor and you're good to go. If not, consider upgrading to a dual-port video card, which you can do for under $50.
As for laptops, virtually all models have a VGA, DVI, or HDMI port for connecting an external display. So, again, all you need to do is plug in your monitor and configure Windows.
PCWorld's Patrick Miller explains all this in much greater detail in How to Set Up Multiple Monitors, and also provides complete instructions on adjusting Windows' display settings. However, if your system lacks the ports you need for a second and/or third monitor, one option Patrick neglected to mention is a USB adapter. A quick search for "USB to DVI" reveals numerous products that plug into a USB port to provide a standard DVI (i.e. monitor) input.
If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .