How to Connect Mac to Projector (Wirelessly & HDMI)

You can use your Mac laptop as a wired or wireless input source for your HDTV and large-screen projector. In this article we’ll show you how to make those connections.

Cast Your Mac Screen to an HDTV

Before we cover how to hook up to a projector, let’s see how you can run a practice presentation from your Mac to a home television monitor. To do this you will need the following:

  • A Mac computer with an HDMI or USB-C port. Note: The new 2021 MacBook Pro models now include an HDMI port. You won’t need an adapter.
  • An HDMI connection adapter cable (for older Mac models)
  • A VGI adapter and cable for monitors that don’t have a VGI port
  • A monitor with an HDMI or VGI port for a wired connection
  • A networked monitor or smart TV for a wireless connection

Follow these steps to use your TV as a mirrored monitor for your Mac:

For a Wired Connection to a monitor

1. Connect your HDMI or VGI cable to the mirrored monitor. (Make sure the Mac is booted up.)

2. On the mirrored monitor, select the PC input option (either a button or an on-screen menu—some TV remotes have an “input” button where you can dial up the PC option.)

3. Connect your HDMI or VGI cable to the USB port (HDMI for newer models).

4. If your TV monitor instantly mirrors your Mac screen, you’re ready to go. If all that it shows is the Mac desktop wallpaper, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Click the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen.
  • Select System Preferences.
  • Select Displays.
  • Click on Arrangement.
  • Select Mirror Displays.

5. You can further tweak your connection by selecting Display Settings at the bottom right of the Displays Dialog box.

6. To make sure your television will pick up sounds from the Mac connection, select the Sound icon on Systems Settings. On the Sound dialog box, select the Output tab. Highlight the name of the monitor screen detected by your Mac.

How to set up a wireless connection to a monitor

Use Mac AirPlay to Set Up a Wireless Connection To an HD TV

The above steps work well in a home theater setting and without a WiFi connection. If you want to go to the extra trouble and expense, you can connect your Mac wirelessly to an HDTV using AirPlay mirroring

You can run AirPlay on most Macs, and pair up your Mac with a compatible smart TV or an Apple TV controller. You’ll need to purchase the Apple TV black box, and your Mac and Apple TV must be on the same network.

Follow these steps:

  • Make sure your Apple TV box is connected to your TV.
  • To activate AirPlay, click on the Control Icon at the top right of your Mac menu. (It’s the little double stacked icon just to the right of the Spotlight Search (magnifying glass shape).
  • Open the Screen Mirroring panel, just below the Focus selection.
  • Your television screen should now be the exact double of your Mac display.  

How to run a Large-Screen Projector With a Mac

Projectors come with a variety of prices, capabilities, and features. The good news is that prices have dropped and start at well under $200 on Amazon. So, the key is to shop around and choose the right projector for your particular business needs.

How to set up a wired connection to a projector

Most projectors now come with an HDMI connection that you can plug into your MacBook and blow up that 13-inch laptop display to around 200 inches. The problem is that pre-2011 Macs don’t have an HDMI port. You’ll need an adapter. Another problem is that older Mac laptops (2008-2009) only show video—no sound–with HDMI. 

Although Apple restored the HDMI port to its 2021 laptop models, any model before that year needs an USB-C to HDMI converter. You’ll have to buy the connector through a third-party, like Belkin and Griffin, available on Apple’s online store. Also, Ugreen offers a USB-C to HDMI converter for MacBook Pro 2019 on Amazon.

If your projector only has a VGA connection, you’ll need a VGA Mac adapter. An Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter works with Mac Books.

Follow these steps to set up a wired connection between your Mac and a projector:

  • Turn on the projector
  • Boot up your MacBook Pro and plug the cable into the projector HDMI slot.
  • The MacBook should automatically detect that your display is available, and the projector will display the Mac screen.
  • Adjust the resolution of the projector’s image through the Display dialog on the System Preferences window.

How to set up a wireless connection to a projector

For wireless connections, Apple AirPlay is the name of the game. AirPlay depends on WiFi, so any device using it must be on the same network. Exceptions to the latter requirement are the newest Apple TV and iOS-8, in which case you can go peer-to-peer, or use the Mirroring360 screensharing app.

How to use AirPlay With Apple TV to wirelessly run a projector

If your projector has built-in wireless capability, follow the steps below to connect it to your Mac:

1. Connect your projector to the Apple TV device with an HDMI or adapter cable.

2. Locate the “AirPlay Mirroring” icon on your Mac menu bar. (It’s a blue double-stacked square shape.)

3. From the drop-down menu, select “Apple TV.”

You are now ready to run your projector using your Mac.

Note: You can close your MacBook and run everything from the big screen. To do that, connect a keyboard and external mouse to your Mac.

Alternatives to Apple TV for Screen Mirroring

Google Chromecast Ultra has lots of cloud-based entertainment, but does not natively support AirPlay. There are downloadable apps that can enable Chromecast to partner with AirPlay. Air Parrot 3, for example, it is a wireless streaming app with a download cost of less than $12.00.

The Roku streaming device can also use AirPlay. The device comes in a variety of models, and must run Roku OS 9.4.

Other Devices and Dongles that Support AirPlay

If you don’t want to shell out $179.99 for the Apple TV black box, there are other products that work just as well for a fraction of the cost. These alternatives don’t have Apple TV programs and features. Rather, they serve as AirPlay streaming receivers.

Here are two representative alternative products featured on Amazon:

  • TOOTREA 4K HDMI Wireless Display Dongle
  • VCAST Wireless Display Dongle

Not All Projectors Will Support Airplay Directly

Panasonic projectors can connect to your Mac wirelessly, but require native ME 5.5 Wireless Manager software. You turn the projector on and launch the software, and the application scans and connects to the projector.

Casio projectors come with a CD-ROM that must be launched from the Mac. Then the projector input button must be pressed until “Wireless” appears on the screen. You’ll need a login code from the projector documentation. Enter it, and your Mac is now connected wirelessly to the projector.

Let’s Recap

You can hook your 13-inch Mac laptop to a 50-inch large television screen, complete with sound. All you need is an HDMI cable connection, but you’ll probably have to buy an adapter to complete the connection.

To go wirelessly from the Mac to the TV screen, you need a network connection, a quick hookup through Mac Air Play and a networked streaming device like Apple TV.

The steps for connecting a Mac to a projector are similar. Your projector must be able to receive either an HDMI wired or AirPlay Wireless connection. Also, for a “semi-wireless” connection, you’ll need to connect an Apple TV black box to the projector. You can also use a screensharing app like Mirroring360.

There are less expensive alternatives to Apple TV—TOOTREA and VCAST, for example. Also, Panasonic and Casio projectors have separate wireless setup instructions.

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About S. Santos

I am a tech columnist and blogger by trade, but I'm also an avid tennis player. In my spare time, I enjoy reviewing gadgets and gizmos from the world of tech.

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