I’ve been battling with just this very problem for a few weeks now, and have worked out the details the hard way, and now finally I have a decent picture from my PC on my TV. My initial error was thinking S-VHS might work, as my PC video card already has an S-VHS output. But it seems that S-VHS signals don’t like a cable more than a metre or two long, as the weak chrominance (colour) signal gets leached away by the capacitance of the cable, and the TV picture appears black-and-white. Of the 4 S-VHS leads I have, the cheap 5 m lead worked if I wound it round the VGA cable a few times, but there was interference and the colour intensity varied according to lead positioning. A cheap 1.2 m lead worked better, but still with interference. Nicer quality 3 m and 5 m S-VHS leads gave perfect B/W TV pics, but no colour.
So I bought an inexpensive VGA to S-VHS adaptor (just plugs and electric string, no electronics) and that didn’t work at all. Later I looked up the VGA spec, and I can’t see how it would ever have worked, as the required S-VHS signals just aren’t there. S-VHS signals are split into brightness (luminance) and colour (chrominance) signals, while VGA signals are split into red, green and blue, and composite video has the luminance and chrominance mixed together in one signal.
So then I bought an electronic VGA to video adaptor, and I had the same cabling problems with the S-VHS output, but the composite video output works a treat. Even on a 4 m cable run (with decent 75 ohm cable) the picture is as good as it gets on a 625 line TV. I was getting some small interference problems to start with, but I traced these to a SCART splitter lead, and once I’d taken that out the interference disappeared.
pabsist, alas you need to buy an adaptor. You might be able to pick one up for $50 if you shop around, but $100 sounds a little on the high side of just about right. If you do it would be a safe bet to get one with a composite video output unless you only need a very short S-VHS cable.
The electronic adaptors are generally plug-and-play, but the video card on the laptop/PC might need some setting up. In particular, the second video output may need enabling and the refresh rate and the resolution setting (go to the video card manufacturers software from Control Panel). I like to set the resolution the same as the PC, and try some refresh rate settings starting from the lowest and working up. When it falls over, back it off a tad.
Nice cables are important, as the cheap ones let in too much interference. Oddly, I reckon this was the only reason I was getting a colour signal out of my cheap 5 m S-VHS lead, where it was losing its own colour signal, but picking up RGB signal interference from the monitor put a bunch of the colour signal back, albeit rather messily.
Happy viewing; sorry there’s no cheap and simple solution, but it’s worth it as it’s great watching YouTube on a big TV. I’m in MST3K heaven.