How to Turn Your PC Into a Game Console

Christian Cawley 16-01-2017

You’ve got a game console, but you really want to play the games on your PC through your TV 5 Ways to Play Your Video Games on Any TV, PC, or Mobile Device Here's everything you need to know about playing PC and console games on almost any device in your home. Read More . Or perhaps you can’t afford a new console, and want to kick back in the living room with your favorite PC shooter.


Either way, you can’t. After all, your PC is not a game console, is it? It’s not like it supports wireless controls, motion detection, and has a HDMI connection, is it?

Oh, hold on. Your PC probably does do all of that. And if it doesn’t, it definitely has VGA or DVI, which means that there’s a good chance of there being some way of converting that connection to one suitable for your HDTV.

Make Sure Your Hardware Is Up to Date

We’ll get to the main event of hooking your PC up to a nice, big, flat screen TV in a little while. First, we need to make sure that your computer — whether it’s a desktop, laptop, or even a self-build intended as a HTPC 7 Awesome Linux Media Center Distros for Your HTPC Linux offers a superior HTPC than Windows. Want to build your own Linux home theater? Use one of these Linux media center distros. Read More — is up to the task.

While pretty much any computer will run a video game, some older hardware may cause trouble. For instance, old CPUs and ancient, juddery hard disk drives will make the PC game console experience pretty frustrating.

So, opt for new or recent hardware.


An Operating System and User Interface

Naturally, you’ll need an operating system to run your games on to enjoy them on your TV. Windows, Linux and macOS are all suitable platforms, and if you’re happy to simply run your desktop through your TV without a dedicated interface, then this is fine.

Windows Steam Big Picture Mode

But you might also like the idea of a game-centered, controller-friendly user interface. Several are available, but perhaps the most popular is Steam, the biggest gaming digital distribution service. Whether you run this in “Big Picture Mode” or instead opt for the Linux-based SteamOS Gaming on Linux is Here: Install SteamOS Beta Today If you've become interested in gaming on Linux, using SteamOS as your Linux distribution of choice is a good idea. This guide covers every step and possible question you may have during installation. Read More (you’ll have a smaller choice of games, however, but other distribution options are available for Linux-based gaming Not All About SteamOS: Other Great Linux Distros for Gamers SteamOS certainly isn't a requirement for Linux gaming, as games can be played on virtually any distribution. But what SteamOS alternatives are out there, ready to download and install? Read More ) is up to you.

Find the Best Controllers and a Wireless Keyboard

With your hardware setup, you’ll need something to play with. While USB is always a good option for controllers, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are now more than adequate and offer more-convenient cable-free gaming.


DS4Windows Controller Setup

If you don’t have any controllers to hand that are obviously compatible with your PC, take a look at those that you use for console gaming. Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 controllers How to Set Up a PS4 Controller for Windows Games Some PC games just don't work well with a keyboard and mouse. Here's how to easily get your PS4 controller working for PC games that support it. Read More , and Nintendo Wii and Wii U controllers How to Use a Wii U Gamepad With a PC The classic Wii U gamepad can be used to play games on Windows . . . and it's a lot easier than it sounds. Read More can all be used with Windows and Linux computers How to Get Game Controllers Running on Linux Want to start gaming on Linux? Here's a how-to guide on getting your favorite game controllers working. Read More .

And, as this is PC gaming we’re talking about, you’ll need a wireless keyboard too. If you’re playing Doom or some other hardcore shooter you’re probably using a game controller. If you’re more of a Civilization VI fan, however, the keyboard is a must. Various wireless keyboards are available, from hardcore gaming keyboards to lightweight Bluetooth devices.

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(Trust me, Civ VI looks awesome on a big screen TV!)

You’ll Need to Connect to Your TV

If you have reached this stage, then you’re ready to connect your PC to your TV. You have various options here, depending on the output options on offer from your laptop or desktop (or your desktop’s graphics card).

With HDMI Cable

The HDMI cable option is the most obvious. A vast majority of TVs now ship with HDMI as the main (if not only) option, and HDMI cables are far more affordable than they were a few years ago. All you need to do is connect the HDMI out from your computer to your TV, then select the HDMI channel on your TV. On your PC, ensure that the signal is being sent to the TV.

Windows 10 Project Onto TV Screen


You can do this by opening the Project panel, either by pressing Windows + P or clicking the Project option in the Notifications area (your laptop may have a function key for this too).

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Select Duplicate or (for the best results) Second screen only to send your PC display to your television!

With Other Cables

Other cable solutions can be problematic. While many TVs still have VGA connectors, few have DVI (something typically reserved for monitors). The result is that you must find a way of converting the output on your computer to the input on your TV. Often this can turn out well, but with the wrong cables it can turn into a nightmare.

Our look at connecting retro consoles to HDTVs How to Connect Your 8-Bit & 16-Bit Consoles to an HDTV Why let your old console languish unused when you can hook it up to your HDTV and enjoy your favorite games? Don't know how to make it work? We'll show you how! Read More should set you in the right direction here.

Wireless Streaming

With a strong wireless network connection, you can take advantage of wireless streaming technology to enjoy PC games through your TV. An advantage of this is that you won’t even need a dedicated games console PC build: simply stream the game from your PC at one side of the house to your TV at the other side!

However, basic streaming solutions are no good here. For instance, the Google Chromecast Is the New Chromecast Ultra Really Worth Buying? The Chromecast Ultra is a brand new Chromecast offering support for 4K video and more besides. But is it worth buying? Find out everything you need to know about the Chromecast Ultra. Read More should be avoided. While the picture quality is adequate at 1080p, the device isn’t intended for gaming and there is considerable lag.

So what should you use? It probably depends on your budget.

Wireless HDMI

This is the cheapest option, with Miracast What Is Miracast? How to Use Miracast for Wireless Media Streaming HDMI may be the standard for connecting media devices, but it has a lot of downsides. Here's how to use Miracast instead. Read More and Microsoft Wireless Display devices available for around $20. However, these won’t give you the sort of gaming experience you need for fast, frenetic actions. Should be fine for top-down strategy titles, however.

Wireless HDMI Wireless HDMI: What It Is and Why You Need to Start Using It If you're sick and tired of HDMI cable jumbles and knots, then you may want to invest in wireless HDMI. Here's how to get started. Read More is likely to be the best option in future, however, as the technology is refined.

Intel WiDi/AMD Wireless Display

Intel and AMD Wireless Display are processor-based solutions that can be used in conjunction with a Miracast dongle. Usually limited to laptop computers (Intel WiDi can be enabled on desktops too), if your hardware is compatible with this technology, you’ll find that Miracast is a more attractive option.

Steam In-Home Streaming

Released as a pre-cursor to the Steam machine PC games consoles Steam Machines Are Finally Coming! Here's What You Need to Know Read More , the Steam Link box makes this possible, and costs around $50.

While wireless streaming is supported, Ethernet connections are recommended with this solution. All you need to do is hook the Steam box to your TV, log into Steam on your PC, and the device will automatically connect. You’ll then be able to launch games through Steam on your TV!

NVIDIA Gamestream

The final option is NVIDIA Gamestream, which is available to you if you have a suitable NVIDIA graphics card and an NVIDIA Shield streaming media device. The principle is similar to the Steam In-Home Streaming option: you stream games from your PC to your TV through the NVIDIA Shield.

While these are all good options for wireless game streaming, you may find that the best results are afforded with a good quality HDMI cable.

So forget about the Xbox One, PS4, and the forthcoming Nintendo Switch. PC gaming is where it’s at. And you can still play games with your Xbox and PS4-owning friends with these great cross-play games. We’ve already seen 2016 as the year in which PC gaming overtook consoles, and with Windows, Linux and Mac all seeing increasing support from developers and distribution services, this shows no sign of slowing down.

Happen to have an old gaming console stored away? Get it out and check out our guide on how to safely boot that retro gaming console How to Safely Boot Your Old Retro Gaming Consoles Want to plug in and play some retro games on your old console? Stop! First, here's how to check your hardware works correctly. Read More .

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Related topics: Gaming Culture, PC.

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  1. Johng
    January 16, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    If you using a PC and using a controller for Doom and other FPS games, you should just buy a console because keyboard/mouse users will crush your soul.

    • kettle84
      April 11, 2017 at 1:30 am

      ive seen this argument time and time again
      and yet i use controller on pc and see no difference, fps games dont seem any harder than on console

  2. Karl
    January 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Great article!
    I would like to suggest one small edit though. Instead of "by pressing F4 on a laptop", as this differs from OEM to OEM, perhaps replacing it with something like "by pressing Windows Key and letter P".

    Hope that helps!

    • Christian Cawley
      January 16, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Good call, thanks Karl!