How to connect your macbook to a data projector

This is an Apple display adapter. They come in various shapes and sizes. The left hand end plugs into you laptop. There are 5 different possible left hand ends you can choose from: MiniVGA, DVI, Mini-DVI, MicroDVI and MiniDisplayPort! You’ll need to match it to your macbook. The right side plugs into a data-projector or monitor – there are 3 different right hand ends to choose from, VGA, DVI or HDMI. You’ll need to match this to your projector. If you always carry around the adapter to connect your mac to a VGA projector, that should get you out of trouble 99% of the time. If you want to be 100% sure, carry an adapter to connect to DVI as well.

1. The left hand side – your laptop.

All macintosh laptops have a ‘video out’ port, but Apple have changed the format of the port every few years. For this reason you need a special adapter with pretty much every mac laptop to be able to connect it to a projector or monitor. I would suggest you get the adapter for your particular macbook and keep it with your macbook. Here are what some of them look like:

Mini VGA (pre 2002) found on older ibooks
Mini DVI (2003) found on some powerbooks and early macbooks


DVI (2003)found on 15" and 17" powerbooks


Mini Display Port (2008) on new macbooks












2. The right hand side: to the projector.

In the projector world there are two main connections – VGA and DVI. There is also HDMI but most HDMI projectors also have DVI so I won’t mention them here.

VGA. This is the most common projector input. If you are on the road a lot then the safest connector to get is a VGA connector.  Pretty much every projector will have a VGA input. Even though VGA is quite old and not the best quality, almost all new projectors still have a VGA input because it was the standard output of PC computers for many years. VGA looks like this:

VGA projector input – all projectors can accept a VGA input.



DVI is a lot better quality than VGA, so if you are connecting to a projector that has DVI, DVI is a better option. Not all projectors have DVI, although most new ones do. A DVI input looks like this:

DVI projector input – better quality and found on most new projectors.


So what I suggest is that you always carry the adapter to connect your computer to a VGA projector. For example, if you have a macbook with a Mini DVI port, the following adapter is what you need to plug into a VGA projector.

e.g. Mini DVI (left) to VGA adapter plugs a 2005 macbook into a VGA projector


Whatever laptop I have, I always carry two adapters, one for VGA and one for DVI.

My current laptop is a 15″ macbook pro. It has a DVI output. So to be able to plug into any projector, I always carry a DVI to DVI cable to plug into a DVI projector, PLUS I carry an Apple DVI to VGA adapter with a VGA lead so I can plug into any VGA projector.

Here are some of the various adapters in the APPLE USA store.

To a VGA projector:

Apple Mini DVI to VGA Adapter

Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter

Apple DVI to VGA Display Adapter

Mini VGA to VGA Adapter

To a DVI Projector:

Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter

Apple Mini-DVI to DVI Adapter

Apple Micro-DVI to DVI Adapter







10 responses to “How to connect your macbook to a data projector”

  1. Andrew

    Just one minor point …

    As far as I know, clamshell iBooks didn’t have a video out port.
    I remember when I first converted to Mac, and had a clamshell iBook, I’d prepared a slideshow in Keynote. It looked wonderful, but I had no way of presenting it because there was no video out port, and I hadn’t realised.

    How embarrassing!

    1. I think you may be right Andrew they didn’t get a VGA port till the white ibooks. Not sure if there are any clamshells still round – I havn’t seen one for years!

  2. Andrew

    I have two. One still works, last time I checked, anyway. Next time I know that I’m going to be in Dubbo, I’ll bring it with me and you can reminisce!

    The other point I’d like to make about connecting to a data projector is that some projectors seem to be fussy about which order things are connected and/or turned on.

    If the projection doesn’t happen immediately, try a few different combinations of order of turning things on. For me, that’s never failed yet, although it hasn’t always worked first time.

    (Windows laptops, on the other hand … be prepared to have your hair go grey or have none left as you struggle with getting it to project what you want!

  3. Richard

    how do I connect the audio to my sound amplifier?

  4. Gabrielle

    Was this article published in 2011?

    1. It was – why do you ask?

      1. Gabrielle

        I am writing a paper for one of my grad classes on troubleshooting projectors, and I found your article to be helpful. I would love to use your information and cite it properly. To cite it properly, I would need your date of publication. However, if you would not like me to cite your information, that is completely up to you and fine!

        In either case, thanks for helping me as a teacher to trouble shoot some issues with my projector!

  5. Wayne

    Yes 2011. Cite away!

    1. Gabrielle

      Thank you!

  6. Maira Bano

    It is a valuable article for me and for others. I appreciate you sharing this information with us!

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