How Do I Hook Up My PC to My Stereo

"How do I hook up my PC to my stereo?" is a logical question if you've got an awesome stereo system and you want to avoid using your tinny, crappy computer speakers to play the music you have stored on your hard drive. With more and more people listening to music or watching movies on their computers, hooking them up to better-quality stereo components just makes sense. All you need is the right hardware and a few minutes.

You need a stereo with an input.
First and foremost, if you want to hook up your PC to your stereo, your stereo needs an input. You can't just hook up your stereo speakers to your computer; most stereos are configured to handle signal inputs, so you'd need to run a cable from your computer to your stereo components and let your stereo send the signal to the stereo speakers.

Depending on your stereo's age, you might encounter several types of inputs: RCA, component, line in, Dolby Digital 5.1 or even HDMI. Make sure your stereo has an input, and then you can worry about the hardware your computer needs. If your stereo doesn't have any kind of input, you'll need different equipment in order to hook your PC up to it.

You need a sound card with an output.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to hook your PC up to your stereo, you need a sound card with an output. Some motherboards have sound cards built in, but some come without even basic sound, and they require a separate sound card. Figure out what kind of hardware you have, and whether or not the output matches your stereo's input.

For example, if you have a 1/8-inch output, and your stereo has a set of RCA jacks, you can easily use a 1/8-inch to RCA cable to hook up your PC to your stereo. However, if you've got a sound card with a 1/8-inch output and your stereo has HDMI inputs, you'll need a little something extra.

Match your PC output to your stereo input.
Matching the PC output with the stereo input is where things can get tricky. If your sound card outputs Dolby Digital 5.1, for example, while your stereo takes only RCA cables, you must downgrade to match your stereo's sound. On the other hand, if your PC has only a basic speaker output, and you want to run digital sound or HDMI, you'll need to upgrade your computer's hardware. Then it's just a matter of getting the right cable, and you're good to go.

Fortunately, you can add sound cards to your computer to run virtually any type of sound setup you want to use. Simply shop around for a sound card that your computer can support, and make sure your stereo matches the output. The biggest point is to make sure that, if your stereo has analog inputs, you get an analog sound card, or a digital sound card for digital stereo inputs.

Before you shop, though, check what kind of card slots your computer has, and whether one is available. Many sound cards run in PCI slots, and newer computers may have limited PCI availability. On the other hand, newer computers might have built-in HDMI for video and sound, so check what your computer has and supports.

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