How to Use a Laptop to Watch Movies in the Car

By Tom King

If you've got a laptop, it is easy to set it up so your passengers can watch movies while you are riding in the car. It doesn't take anything more than standard software and computer hardware to turn your laptop into a DVD/movie player.

Things You'll Need

  • Laptop computer
  • Extra batteries or car adapter laptop power supply
  • Video software
  • DVD player or USB flash drive
  • Audio sound card
  • DVD video or video loaded on USB flash drive

On-Board Movies With Your Laptop

Step 1

Verify that your laptop has a decent on-board graphics card with at least 64 megabytes of video RAM if you plan to watch videos with any kind of watchable definition and smoothness. The more graphic memory you have the better.

Step 2

Make sure your laptop has something to store movies on. This can be a DVD, a USB flash drive or even your hard drive. Newer laptops often come without a DVD drive which can be a problem. A DVD drive will make your laptop more versatile. With a DVD drive you can just put a DVD video in the drive to play it. It is also possible to download movies to a USB flash drive. Try to get one with at least 4 to 8 gigabytes of memory. You can also load movies directly onto your hard drive from the Internet or another computer.

Step 3

Install video player software on your laptop if you don't already have it. This can be anything from free video players like Windows Media Player, Apple Quicktime, Real Player and VLC to any of dozens of commercial video players. Choose a default video player that plays the widest range of file types. There are lots of downloadable movies on the Internet, but they come in a wide range of formats. Make sure your software plays the formats you use. Companies like Netflix and Blockbuster Video let you download commercial movies with a membership. Some of those subscriptions come with video software.

Step 4

Charge the batteries on your laptop and any extra batteries you have. If you don't have a laptop power adapter for your car, you'll need enough power to keep the laptop going for a couple of hours or more. If you can plug the laptop into your car's cigarette lighter, you're set.

Step 5

Insert standard DVDs into the DVD player. If you have autoplay set, the player will automatically begin to play the DVD. If not, open the video software and open the video file from the software. Click on the play arrow, then click on the screen symbol that expands the viewing area to fill the screen. To play a movie from a jump drive, pull up the Explorer window, find the drive letter and open the drive. Select the movie, double click on it and the default video player for that video format should open and play the movie.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure the audio is turned on and loud enough to hear.
  • Test the video before you leave for the trip to make sure the player will play it. Some video software needs special downloadable codecs to play certain formats. Download these from the Internet and install so your player is movie ready.
  • Double check batteries and adapter connections before leaving to avoid having the player stop playing in the middle of a movie.
  • To prevent driver distraction, have the viewers use headphones.
  • Place the screen out of the driver's line of sight to prevent the movie from distracting the driver.
  • Place the laptop in a secure place to prevent it falling off the seat or wherever you've placed it when the vehicle stops suddenly.