There’s nothing quite as fun or as necessary as using a projector. Whether you’re a teacher using a projector in your classroom or setting up an outdoor movie night on the wall of your house, projectors are a great way to turn an average space up to 11. However, for Linux users, there can sometimes be difficulties getting different displays to work, and it may be important to walk through some troubleshooting steps to get things to work. Here we walk you through how to connect a projector to your Ubuntu computer.
Note: while we use Ubuntu for this tutorial, the steps are similar for almost every Linux distro.
1. Projector Setup
The first step is making sure your projector is set up in a way that will allow the best use. Is it plugged in? Does it have the right video inputs? Most modern projectors will have HDMI as an input, but you may need some kind of VGA adapter (or a Type C-HDMI adapter if your laptop only has Type C connections). Both my laptop and my projector have HDMI, so we’re in business.
2. Computer Setup
Similar to the projector setup, you have to make sure to match video outputs on your computer to video inputs on your projector. If you’re making a projector station, an old desktop with VGA will do. If you’re looking for an outdoor movie night, a laptop with HDMI may be more necessary. Also, keep in mind that projectors can be loud, so it’s a good idea to have some kind of speaker. A Bluetooth speaker has worked well in my experience, but I’d also suggest some kind of wired speaker setup that you can use as your primary audio output for computers with weaker speakers.
Also make sure that you have the right video drivers installed. Some laptops have the video output ports hardwired to a dedicated GPU in the system, which may come back and be a complication.
3. Connecting Your Ubuntu Computer to a Projector
If everything matches, you can go ahead and plug everything in. Depending on the vintage of your projector, it may automatically switch to the input from your machine, but some newer ones also have menus that are navigated with a remote or buttons on the device to choose the input source.
There could be a few things wrong if the steps above aren’t working for you. One is that your Linux machine might not be set up to use two displays. For this, access your display settings in your settings menu and choose one of the options for multiple displays. In GNOME, there are three options: “Join Displays,” “Mirror,” and “Single Display.” Sometimes when I hook up a new external display to my laptop, the “Single Display” option is the default.
Another thing could be your video driver, as stated above. For an Nvidia GPU, follow our guide on installing the latest drivers to get what you need. For an AMD or Intel GPU, make sure you update to the newest kernel available for your distro, and if you can’t, you might consider installing a custom kernel or using a distro built around a new kernel, something like Arch, a Ubuntu interim releas, or Fedora.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to connect a projector to your Ubuntu computer. If you did, make sure you check out some of our other Linux how-to guides, covering topics such as fixing broken Wi-Fi, using and editing the hosts file, and repairing a corrupted USB drive.