How to Use a Laptop to Display on a Wall

By Shannon Burton

Visual displays add new levels of comprehension and help to maintain audience attention when giving a presentation, whether professional or informal. If you can create impressive visual displays on your laptop, whether with a slide show, a movie, a demonstration of computer usage, or some other method, being able to project your laptop screen onto a wall can come in handy. Most laptops today make this task especially easy, providing shortcut keys that allow you to project your screen more quickly than ever.

Things You'll Need

  • Laptop
  • Projector
  • VGA/USB Cable

Step 1

Plug in the power cords for both the projector and the laptop (you don’t want your battery to run out mid-presentation!) and place them in your desired places for your presentation. The best walls to project on are a solid, light color. Make sure your laptop is not placed in an area where you will block your audience’s view of the projection.

Step 2

Connect the laptop to the projector using a VGA cable. You may turn the laptop on if it is not already, but leave the projector off. A VGA cable usually has blue rectangular plugs at either end, and plug into a trapezoid-shaped port (also usually blue) with three rows of pinholes in it. If you do not see/have a VGA cable, some projectors can connect via USB. Simply connect one end securely in your laptop, and the other in the projector.

Step 3

Turn on the projector once your laptop has started up. Some projectors will automatically detect your laptop and display the screen, others you will need to set to display “Computer,” “VGA Input,” or “USB Input.” If it still does not display your screen automatically, you may need to change the display properties on your laptop.

Step 4

Hold down Fn and whichever function key enables display output, if you know it (for Dell laptops, it is usually F8, Toshiba F5; check your function keys for a symbol that looks like a monitor or big screen). If you don’t know and can’t find the function key, you can go to Control Panel > Displays > Settings and click “Identify.” One of two boxes (labeled “1” and “2,” representing your laptop screen and the projector) will flash on your laptop screen. Right-click the box that does not flash, and select “Enable Display.” The projector should then display your laptop.

Step 5

Click “Advanced” if there are any issues with the projection, such as only showing your desktop background or showing a stretched version of your laptop screen. Change the options under “Advanced” until the display satisfies you, and then you’re ready to begin presenting!

Tips & Warnings

  • If the image on the wall appears blurry, try gently turning the lens of the projector to see if you can adjust the focus. Also check to see if you missed a semi-transparent lens cover.
  • Leaving a projector on and displaying a blue screen for too long can damage the bulb; avoid this by turning the projector on only when you are ready to present, and turning it off immediately as you finish.