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Have you tried replacing the cable (sorry I have to ask). Make sure the Dell (model would be helpful) is sending the video out the video port (FN+F8 are the usual keys to press). Also try right click on your desktop and check your Graphics Options.
power ON your projector and laptop
connect your laptop and projector with VGA cable and press
if your laptop PANASONIC or NEC (Fn+F3) ACER, HP,SHARP,TOSHIBA (Fn+F5) LENOVO, SONY (Fn+F7)
DELL, EPSON (Fn+F8)
If problem exist remove the VGA driver in your laptop and reinstall the correct driver not a standard display driver
check that you have a signal going out of the monitor socket on your lalptop.
On Dell with projector connected and switched on, press the blue fn button bottom left usually, and while holding, press one marked CRT/LCD, (maybe f8) this will cycle to the following.
laptop only, laptop and monitor, monitor only, while holding Fn button press until you have desired outcome.
check device manager to be sure your video card is functioning properly. If it looks good in device manager, shut off the pc, connect the external monitor/projector to the pc and start up the pc with the external device powered on. if no video from external device, then the video card/external connector is probably bad. Contact Dell if in warranty.
maybe the fn/f8 keys are not working. Can you get a safe mode boot prompt by repeatedly pressing the f8 key immediately following power up on the laptop? if no, f8 key is likely dead and you need a new keyboard. If f8 is okay, does the fn key work with other functions? if no, fn key is bad - new keyboard.
Don't forget to select the Fn key and F4 on HP laptops. It could also be the Fn key and F8 depending on the laptop brand. It is the apple key and the F7 key on a Mac notebook. On Laptops this will toggle the video to the aux port where the monitor cable connects to the projector. There are 3 modes. video on the laptop screen, video on the laptop and projector, or video to the projector only.