Very simple problem: I am trying to hook up a laptop to a projector via a Mini DisplayPort to VGA connector, however it just doesn't work at all.

Where this gets odd is:

  • This all works to the second monitor on my desk - thus the Mini DisplayPort, OS/Drivers & adapter are working.
  • This all works if I take the VGA cable from the monitor and plug in the projector directly this would imply a cable issue to the projector.
  • Other laptops work with the normal monitor VGA cable albeit without the adapter, seems to eliminate a catastrophic the cable issue.
  • There are no pins missing from the projector cable.
  • The projector is pushing out the plug & play info.
  • Tried on a second projector with similar config and same issue occurs.

This leads me to think an issue exists between the combination of the adapter & cable. The only key difference I can see between the screen cable & the projectors cable is length (projector cable is much longer) but still within the 15m.

The question I have is how to get this working?
If you have next steps in troubleshooting, I would love to hear those too.


Laptop is a Dell XPS 17
Adapter is an Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter
Second screen is a Samsung SyncMaster 732N
Projector is an Epson EMP-83
Second projector is an Epson EH-TW6000
OS is Windows 8


Tried with a hama Mini Display Port to VGA adapter and same issues

4 Answers 4


Many people seem to have an issue with linking laptops with Mini DisplayPort output to projectors with VGA input.

Here's the real solution to my similar problem:

I purchased a Dell XPS 8700 one year ago:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 650 Ti 1.0GB GDDR5 card

I paired it with a Dell 1610HD projector, using its stock 6 foot VGA to VGA cable, and an Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adaptor from Best Buy. I had no problems for a year, maybe twenty PowerPoint presentations. Then, the projector failed to detect a signal from the laptop.

I tried all the usual techniques on the laptop:

  • cycling through the displays with the F1 key
  • rebooting etc.

After reading online posts, I believed that my adaptor was broken, so I purchased a Rocketfish brand. Didn't work. So, I purchased the Dell brand. Didn't work.

What, I wondered, were the chances that three different manufacturer's products were defective? Not very high. I reasoned it much more likely that the problem was with the Mini DisplayPort module, itself. Most likely, the more it is used, the "looser" it becomes, making the connection with the adapters more tenuous. So, I did an experiment.


In sequence":

  • I turned on the laptop
  • I then turned on the projector
  • I connected the VGA cable to the projector, and the adaptor to the cable.
  • I used the F1 key on the laptop to toggle through the display choices to the "Duplicate" mode.
  • The display on the laptop then shrinks horizontally, and says that this is isn't the optimum display resolution. I ignored that. This also works with the "Extended" mode, and the warning about resolution isn't displayed.
  • I plugged the adaptor into the laptop, firmly, wiggled it around a bit to secure the connection, and waited to see if the laptop screen was displayed on the projector.
  • I did this ten times for each of my three brands of adaptor, unplugging the adaptor, then plugging it back in, to calculate the success rate of each adaptor.

Results: - the Apple brand, the one which I had thought was broken, connected 90% of the time - the Rocketfish brand, 80% of the attempts - the Dell brand was successful 90% of the time.

The conclusion is that the adaptors don't break. There is no magic adaptor brand any better than any other brand. The connection between the adaptor and the laptop via the Mini DisplayPort is the culprit. The more the Mini Displayport is used, the greater the chance that it somehow works loose and suffers a failure. The key is in seating the adaptor deeply and surely, and even at that, there is an occasional failure to connect, whatever the brand. If it doesn't work once, remove the adaptor and firmly reseat it. Caution! This is very important! On my Dell, the display choice obtained by using the F1 key will always default back to "Disconnect Projector" when the adaptor is unplugged. If you don't use the F1 key each time you unplug the adaptor to reset it, the projector won't see the laptop. Always, always, use the F1 key to reset the display mode to "Duplicate" or "Extended" if you unplug and reseat the adaptor.

This occasional failure of the connection on my Dell XPS is likely the cause of failure on other laptop to projector combinations. I suspect that all Mini Displayport modules are manufactured by a single company and installed on different laptop brands, so all are subject to the inherent weakness of its design. Let's face it: the Mini Displayport isn't as robust as a VNG output found on some laptops.

I have to chalk the failure of these connections up to the inherent design of the Mini Displayport module on the laptop, and to operator error. If you don't make a secure connection, it won't work. If you still believe that the brand of the adaptor makes a difference, here are my observations on the three brands, and some measurements I took to objectify my impressions. Overall, the Dell brand (Model # DAYBNBC084) is the most robust, sturdy and well-manufactured of the three. I plan to keep it, and return one of the others, keeping the third for a spare in case I lose the Dell adaptor before an important PowerPoint presentation. The Dell is black, 8 1/2 inches long, and weighs 40.8 grams on my balance beam scale. The Rocketfish is white, 7 3/8 inches long, and weighs 33 grams. The Apple is white, 5 1/4 inches long, and weighs 32 grams. The greater weight of the Dell is chiefly due not to its greater length, but stronger construction: the wire is thicker, the convertor box is larger, and everything feels more robust. It's my choice, but as the experiment shows, all adaptors have an occasional failure rate, and the fault lies not in the adaptor, but in the Mini Displayport.


I had a similar problem with Apple Mini Display-port to VGA connector. I have an XPS 13 Ultrabook. I decided to order direct from Dell and this has solved my problem.

That means, Dell has apparently designed their own connector. It has dual-link (whatever that means). I tried it on 2 projectors - an old Hitachi and a newer HP potable projector. It worked on both. You might want to order directly from dell.


After trying every HDMI adapter I could & found the failure rate at best 40%, I settled on a USB 2.0 Display Adapter (it has outputs for VGA, HDMI & DVI). It has always worked so seems like a safe choice.


I got initially the same problem with a MacBook pro, and finally returned the laptop to apple, 'cause i work with a second monitor on a regular basis (on a desk or with projectors). I changed to a dell xps 14z, and I was afraid to encounter the same problem I look everywhere in for a suggestion.

At the end, the explanation runs on the line that the mini display to vga from apple, is passive, where there is also 'active' versions of the same connector. The recommendation was to buy an 'active' conector en voila, everything workout.

The one I have used is this one http://www.amazon.com/StarTech-com-Mini-DisplayPort-Video-Adapter/dp/B0031SEMBQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400589997&sr=8-1&keywords=mini+dvi+to+vga+%2B+dell+xps

Here the there is an extraction of the comment, from a reviewer (Alice winter) on the same conector:

The real reason I got this is because it's an ACTIVE adapter. I have a MacBook Pro 15" Late 2011, and when I try to boot in Windows 7 while using an external monitor, there's absolutely no picture on the screen if I'm using a regular VGA adapter. The Mac OS works fine. HOWEVER, StarTech came to the rescue, and after weeks of grueling agony without my nice monitor, I can FINALLY use both operating systems on the big screen!

The problem with regular (or "passive") VGA adapters is that they need software to convert the digital signal to analog. Some computers have it and some don't. The StarTech adapter is awesome because it has built-in hardware for doing the conversion for you without any extra software or drivers. They're called "active" adapters because they actively convert the signal all by themselves.

  • 1
    Can you copy the relevant comment from Amazon and post it in your answer?
    – Dave
    May 20, 2014 at 13:39
  • I just added an extraction of the comment.
    – dacarras
    May 20, 2014 at 14:05

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