MacBook to VGA Projector
May 24, 2010 5:00 PM   Subscribe

How to get an aluminum MacBook (2.4 GHz) to recognize a VGA Projector?

I had to set up a presentation in which an out-of-town person will do a training using DVDs. The boss took the one laptop which is set up for this, out of town, so after trying and failing to find anything else that would work, I went home and got my MacBook and bought a MiniDisplay to VGA adapter.

After about 90 minutes of flounder, I had to give up and will show the DVD's on a television set tomorrow.

I used a lot of resolution settings, and every other tweak (not many) I could think of but the computer never recognized that external display. Put the MacBook to sleep, woke it up, made sure the software was up-to-date, downloaded some sort of fix from Apple that was probably already on Snow Leopard, etc. No dice.

Other AskMe's about this but I did not find anything about this specifically. Is there something obvious that will help me snatch victory from the jaws of FAIL, in the morning?
posted by Danf to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
This should just work (and it has many times for me, with that model laptop). In the cases that it hasn't, the problem has been hardware, not software. In particular, I've encountered both bad cables, and bad projectors (i.e. the projector inexplicably would not recognize certain types of mac regardless of what you did). But, I'd also check the adaptor with a regular monitor just to confirm that the jack and adaptor work.
posted by advil at 5:12 PM on May 24, 2010

If you comb through the product reviews for the adapter at you'll find that support for projectors is really spotty. It does appear hardware-related. You could try switching out the VGA cable.
posted by phaedon at 5:15 PM on May 24, 2010

There is a button in Displays preferences called Detect Displays. You likely already tried it, but just in case...
posted by reeddavid at 5:54 PM on May 24, 2010

I went through this same problem until I found out that my adapter was faulty. I took it to the Apple store and had them use a system there to hook it up to a display, which proved it. I walked out with a new one after protesting the fact that they wanted me to go home and schedule an appointment to come back and then have it swapped out.

i mean that they came to their senses and swapped it out, not that i stole it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:57 PM on May 24, 2010

Tried Detect Displays. . .nada. . .but thanks, everyone, so far.
posted by Danf at 6:35 PM on May 24, 2010

I frequently use my macbook with an old VGA projector. It will only work if I connect things in the precisely following order:

1. Book up and log into OS X.
2. Power up the VGA projector.
3. Wait until the project lap is lit and displaying a bright image on the wall.
4. Connect the projector to the macbook.

I assume you've probably tried things in precisely this order, but on the offhand chance...
posted by centerweight at 7:45 PM on May 24, 2010

Make sure the input is set as digital in.
We have a bunch of projectors at school with the same exact same hardware: Macbook to VGA. By default, the projector expects the VGA input to be an analog signal and the projector will not display. It's only by going into the projector settings and changing it from analog to digital that the projector detects the signal. This is even with auto-detect on.
posted by jmd82 at 7:49 PM on May 24, 2010

But the projector worked fine from a Dell XP desktop . The problem being that I could not get the Dell to play DVD's, even after downloading a free player.
posted by Danf at 7:54 PM on May 24, 2010

This is a long shot, but easy to try: hook up your laptop to an external monitor, (I'm assuming you have tried this and that you can mirror your laptop). Don't shut down your laptop though, and now unplug the cable from the monitor and attach it to the projector.

You may need to press the input button on the projector to force it to search for a signal.
posted by jeremias at 8:20 PM on May 24, 2010

What make/model projector is this?
posted by at 6:33 AM on May 25, 2010

Well it turns out to have been a projector problem. The guy who installed it showed up and changed the settings. All is OK.

Thank you all again for chiming in.
posted by Danf at 8:03 AM on May 25, 2010

If you're still reading, it probably worked from the Dell Desktop because you were coming from VGA (the 15-pin connector), which is analog. The MacBook's display is digital, which is what can throw projectors off if they they need to be set to accept analog or digital. Just depends on the projector.
posted by jmd82 at 4:30 PM on May 27, 2010

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