You’d think it’d be really easy to connect your laptop, PC, or Windows machine to a projector, seeing that they’re a lot less finicky to deal with compared to an HDTV. After all, early video projectors were mostly sold for the sake of doing presentations made on your computer care of Microsoft PowerPoint. However, you should specifically learn how to connect a notebook or workstation PC to a modern projector on the Windows 10 platform.
How to connect Laptop to Projector? Keep on reading to find out how. It’s supposed to be super simple, with you simply plugging in the HDMI cable from your PC to your projector unit, but there are certain things to keep in mind when making this particular connection.
Most Common Connectors for Projectors and PCs
The most common connectors for projectors such as those made by Epson that you will encounter include the following.
- HDMI: The High-Definition Media Interface (HDMI) specification is compatible with Blu-ray Disc (BD) players, DVD players, the latest laptops and desktops, and most other media players. This is the A/V connection standard you depend on for projecting HD video and audio using just one HDMI cable.
- Full HD and 4K: At present, the currently available modern projectors are capable of transmitting uncompressed video data at 4K resolution or 3840 x 2160 while movie projection standards are at 4096 x 2160 (DCI 4K). The standard HD ranges from 720p HD all the way to 1080p or Full HD. It links source devices to display controllers like projectors, monitors, digital TV, and digital audio devices.
- De Facto Standard: This propriety A/V interface is the de facto standard in light of how it’s the interface most associated with HD video transmission along with HDTVs the same way magnetic tapes are associated with VCRs and RCA connectors. It’s also the port you’re likely to use to connect your Roku or Fire TV Stick unto for Netflix/Amazon Prime/Disney+ streaming.
- USB: The Universal Serial Bus (USB) allows you to connect flash drives or external hard disk drives (HDD) in order to play movies. They can be connected or disconnected while the movie is being played back with hot-swapping. USB devices self-identify and offer various functionalities. It can also be used to power certain peripherals like converters. Don’t connect your PC to your projector using the USB though. It should instead be through the HDMI.
- VGA: The Video Graphics Array (VGA) standard uses a cable with 15 pins on its plug. It was introduced back in 1987 by IBM. It became the standard plug for computers and monitors as well as other displays due to its popular use among PC clones. The most modern video cards nowadays don’t have VGA on them but they were available up until the latter part of the 2010s.
How to Connect Your Windows 10 PC to Your Projector
Long story short, connecting a projector to a PC is mostly an exercise of creating a second computer monitor. Don’t turn off your monitor and then connect the VGA or HDMI plug to your projector alone. It’s better for it to serve as a mirror for presentations and movie viewing.
- Two Video Ports: Your PC should have two video ports that match the connectors of your projector. This shouldn’t be an issue if your PC is only 2-3 years old apart. You’ll need special converters if your Windows PC or laptop doesn’t include HDMI but instead uses VGA unless your projector has an extra VGA port too.
- Adapter versus Converter: You’ll need to buy a special cable adapter that matches the ports of your projector and computer if you lack similar ports. A converter with its own USB plug might be called for if the adapter doesn’t convert well or at all. Usually, an adapter is enough to do the job for VGA to HDMI connections, and converters are reserved for converting things like SCART and S-video to HDMI.
- System Settings and Second Monitor Detection: Go to the Start button and select Settings then the System icon. On the System page, click Advanced Display Settings at the bottom. The window will then display a picture of two side-by-side monitors. If the second monitor (the projector) doesn’t appear onscreen, click the Detect button. You might need to turn the projector off, wait 30 seconds, and turn it back on once more to get it detected.
- Multiple Displays and Duplicate These Displays: Adjust the Multiple Displays setting and don’t move the onscreen monitors at all. You should only move them to match the placement of your real monitors in case you wish to do an Extended Desktop setup. You instead wish to mirror the display on your main monitor to your projector for a presentation, slideshow, and movie-viewing purposes. Choose “Duplicate These Displays” to mirror your desktop on both screens. Don’t choose “Extend These Displays”.
- Business Projectors vs. Home Projectors: Business projectors are easier to work with using a PC than home projectors. This is because home projectors and their native resolution tend to favor HDTVs more than their laptop/desktop PC counterparts. Furthermore, some resolutions that are merely close to 1080p will get a bit of an image crop because they actually have a 16:10 instead of 16:9 aspect ratio. What’s more, certain home projectors outright state they cannot be used for presentation or second PC monitor purposes.
- Types of Business Projector and Their Accompanying PC: Here are the types of the projector to watch out for to ensure your PC matches its native resolution.
- SVGA: These projectors are for vintage PCs made around the late 1990s that have a VGA port, a 4:3 aspect ratio, and an 800 x 600 native resolution.
- XGA: These projectors are widely used for most of the 2000s. It’s for PCs with a VGA port, a 4:3 aspect, and a 1024 x 768 native resolution. It was also the last business projector type to be made for the CRT era of computer monitors.
- WXGA: The widescreen version of XGA with a resolution closest to a 1080p home projector. This is the projector to have for notebook computers and smartphones made in the late 2000s to early 2010s. With its 16:10 aspect ratio and 1280 x 800 native resolution, it offers 20% more horizontal screen real estate.
- WUXGA: The WUXGA projector is the latest projector type used in the late 2010s to present. It features a 16:10 aspect ratio and a 1920 x 1200 native resolution. It’s best used on Windows 10 machines to ensure bright HD content.
Proper PC and Projector Placement
Setting up your projector in your home or office doesn’t merely involve figuring out which connector you should plug unto it. It also requires you to find the right place to set it up or know where it should be mounted.
- Find the Right Location: Is your game room, classroom, conference room, rec room, bedroom, or den large enough to fit your projector, its screen, and the audience of 10-15 people watching your movie or TV show in a cinematic or theatrical manner? If you’re projecting on a wall, is it just the right size so that people at the back of your room can see? Make sure you have space for your laptop or desktop PC too.
- Set up The Screen: If you have a short-throw projector, have a table directly in front of your screen to serve as the mount for your projector about five feet or fewer away. If you have a standard projector, consider investing in a ceiling mount so you don’t need an aisle for it to project unimpeded at the back of your room. You can adjust projector placement manually or through features like keystone correction, lens shift, and zoom.
- Plug Everything In and Turn It On: Although hot-swapping (the ability to plug into a device without restarting it or turning it off and on) is available for HDMI, it’s more prudent to plug everything in from the beginning before turning on your PC/BD/DVD/cable box/satellite box/game console/flash drive as well as your HDTV/monitor/projector. Err on the side of caution as a PC user, since you’re used to restarting the PC to apply all changes or use new hardware anyway.
- Consider Investing in Switchers and Splitters: If you lack HDMI ports for your projector, consider investing in a matrix switcher or splitter. A splitter allows you to split the feed from a media source to multiple displays, like a projector and an HDTV. A switcher allows you to connect multiple media sources to a single display, like linking your game console and cable box to your projector. A matrix switcher allows you to connect multiple source devices to multiple displays.
What Have We Learned?
The projector basically serves as an extra monitor for your laptop or PC. You need to specifically know how to connect your projector on Windows 10, in light of how finicky that operating system can get. Sometimes, you might even need a full-on converter that requires its own USB power or power cord to link your projector to a VGA cord if there’s no port for the cord. From there, you’ll need to find space to place it in, get the image in focus for your projector screen relative to the projector’s throw distance, and a few other things to consider. Ideally, you’ll need a screen but sometimes a wall will do.
- David Katzmaier, “How to set up a projector“, Cnet.com, March 23, 2017
- Andy Rathbone, “How to Connect to a Second Monitor or Projector in Windows 10“, Dummies.com, Retrieved June 27, 2020
- “Projector Connections“, Epson.com, Retrieved June 27, 2020
- “Resolution Projector Guide“, projectorninja.com, Retrieved 2020
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