How to Connect a Mac to a Projector

Create a theater experience with your MacBook by connecting it to a projector

What to Know

  • Plug an HDMI cable into your MacBook and the projector. (You might need an adapter). Turn on the projector and open the lens.
  • Check Apple's support pages if you don't know which ports your Mac has or which adapter you need.
  • Go to your Mac's display settings to complete the setup.

Connecting a projector to your Mac can help you easily share your screen with a whole room of people for presentations, movies, and more. Here's what you need and how to set it up.

Identify the Ports on Your Mac

The key to connecting your MacBook to a projector is understanding the ports on your computer. Many MacBooks don't have a built-in HDMI port, but you can still connect with HDMI using a port adapter.

Apple publishes user guides for its products so you can see which ports and adapters you'll need. You can also look at the Apple port shapes and symbols guide or enter your Mac's serial number on the Apple Tech Specs page to guide you. Here's an overview of the types of ports found on Macs.

  • HDMI Port: If you have an HDMI port on your Mac, you can connect directly to a projector with the projector's HDMI cord without using an adapter. The HDMI cable is likely included with your projector.
  • MiniDisplay Port: A MiniDisplay port looks a bit like a smaller version of an HDMI. You'll likely need an adapter, but your projector may include one.
  • USB-C or Thunderbolt Port: You can choose either the official Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport adapter or any other product with a USB-C plug on one end and an HDMI port on the other. If your projector is newer, it may also come with the piece you need.

Most MacBooks that have come out since 2017 only have two USB-C/Thurderbolt ports.

HDMI, MiniDisplay, and USB-C ports


How to Connect Your Mac to a Projector

Once you have the cables and adapters you need, you'll just need to connect the two devices. Power both your computer and projector up and connect them so they can "see" each other.

If your projector has a lens cover, slide it open. Once you connect the two, your Mac should automatically detect the projector and output its display to it.

How to Customize the Display From Your MacBook

Once you connect the projector to your MacBook, you can adjust the picture a few settings in System Preferences. Here's where to find them.

Display settings may differ based on the manufacturer and model of your projector.

  1. Click System Preferences under the Apple menu on your MacBook.

    System Preferences in macOS
  2. Select Displays.

    Displays heading in macOS System Preferences
  3. A window opens with the name of your device at the top. Next to Optimize For, choose either this device or your built-in display to change the resolution of both your MacBook and the projected image, if they're different.

    The "Optimize for" menu in macOS Displays settings
  4. You may also see Rotation settings, which let you change the orientation of both your MacBook and the projection in 90-degree increments.

    Rotation settings in Displays
  5. If you get any lag on the projection, you should also be able to adjust the Refresh Rate using another menu.

    Refresh Rate in Displays settings
  6. The Underscan setting lets you adjust the relative size of the display in the projected image. To make the display smaller, drag this slider to the right.

    Underscan settings in macOS Displays
  7. You can also decide whether the projector shows exactly what's on your MacBook or serves as an extension of it. This setting is useful if you have supplemental windows you don't want to broadcast to a group.

    To change this setting, click the Arrangement tab at the top of the window.

    The Arrangement tab
  8. To use the projector as a second desktop, uncheck the box next to Mirror Displays.

    You may also see this option on the Touch Bar of your MacBook.

    The "Mirror Displays" option
  9. You can drag the two desktop icons around to adjust their relative positions. The one with the white bar at the top represents your MacBook's screen.

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