Notes on How to Connect a Laptop to a Projector (Sept 10, 2009)

Most rooms with projectors at Emory & Henry have a VGA cable to use with laptop computer. Users connect their laptops video output to this cable to project the laptop screen through the projector. This only works if all the equipment is working properly and the appropriate settings on the laptop, and sometimes other equipment, are made.

These instructions deal mainly with three sets of settings :

  1. Windows Laptop Settings,
  2. Macintosh Laptop Settings
  3. Podium Settings

1. Windows Laptop Settings.

Most Windows laptops use function keys to cycle through three states:

  1. Laptop screen only
  2. Projector only
  3. Both Laptop and Projector


function keys
The F key usually has a picture of a computer screen on it like one of those shown at right: screen keys

Users should start off assuming the laptop is set up to project. At this point you may want to press the "search" function on the projector remote to cause it to look for a signal. If it does not project, then try the following:.

Use the function keys to cycle through the three states. If you can get to a state where the laptop screen is blank, that means the laptop is probably sending video information out of the VGA port. In this state you can have the projector "search" to find the signal.

Once you have the projector working from the laptop, use the function keys to go to the state where both the laptop screen and the projector are used.

2. Macintosh Laptop Settings

At this time (September 2009) I know of three different "vga" ports on Mac laptops. Each one uses a different adaptor cable to connect to the standard VGA cable used by projectors. We have all three kinds of cables available for brief loans, but it would be good to buy one to keep with your laptop.

Screen settings:

Our experience has been that Mac laptops will not project correctly (or a all ) through a VGA cable unless a particular, somewhat obscure, setting box is checked in Mac preferences.

The odd thing about this check box is that it is only visible when the laptop is actually connected to a working projector. You can't set it, or check it, before hand. Also, this box may not remain checked and may have to be re-checked when the Mac is again connected to a projector.

To check the correct box, connect the Mac laptop to a working projector and then do the following:

Go to :  

 System Preferences
         Displays                                            Arrangements

 AND then check the box for "Mirror Displays"

This allows, or cleans up, the screen display from the Mac laptop.

mac pref

Note: I recently worked with a Mac laptop that had display preference setting screens different from the above. It was probably an older system. However, we were able to get it to start displaying by working with the preference settings... I think we chose "Find displays" in the process.

3. Podium Settings

There are at least 5 different kinds of podiums on the Emory and Henry campus. Though they differ in some ways, they are all fairly user friendly in relation to using a laptop with a projector.. with ONE exception.

The simplest set up consists of just a laptop cable and a projector with a remote controller. Hook up the laptop to the cable and use the remote to turn on the projector and search for the signal.

The next level consists of a laptop cable and some sort of switch box that allows the user to choose the source of the signal being sent to the projector. Ther is usually a switch box with several buttons or settings and one of the settings is labeled "Laptop". Another will be "DVD/VCR" and, when appropriate another may be "Computer" for the built in computer, when there is one. Some podiums also have a "Elmo" choice to display from the digital camera on the podium.

Users should check the podium to see if there is a switch box with lables and then push, or turn to, the one for "Laptops". This is usually sufficient. Users should not have to use the projector remote. However, if all else fails, users may then want to press the "search" button on the projector remote to see if it can pick up the laptop screen signal.

The tricky exception: There are several podiums, including the one in MS 102, that use an odd little switch to toggle between projecting from (a) the built in computer and (b) from a laptop. This tiny button is on the podium next to the VGA port used for the cable to the laptop. When it is pressed a blinking blue light next to it goes on. This indicates that the signal from the laptop cable is being projected.

This creates two problems:

(1) It's hard to find, or notice, this button. If you don't know to look for it there is a good chance that you won't notice it.

(2) Once this button is pressed and the blinking blue light goes on, users cannot use the projector with the built in podium computer. They have to press the button and turn off the blinking blue light before they can get the built in computer to project. In fact, usually, the podium computer won't even display on it's own screen when the light is blinking. Needless to say this can be very confusing.

If you have any questions about the above information, or suggestions for making it more usefu, please contact Harry Baya, ext 6809.