HTC Vive Compositor Error

HTC Vive Compositor Error

Have you ever received the "Compositor is not fullscreen" or "Compositor not available" when setting up your HTC Vive while not able to get the VR headset to connect or display anything? I encountered the issue over the weekend when setting up a VR event for my family and close friends. My hope was that their first experience with such a brilliant device would be one they would remember and share with their peers. However before I could make it so, I stumbled across the above error when setting up the VR experience and it took me a good chunk of time to find the solution. My hope is that by sharing my experience, it will help others who come across the same issue find a solution and get to being immersed in the VR universe quicker and with less headaches.












What is the error?


I would like to start with "what" the error is and "why" it occurs.

Both errors "Compositor is not fullscreen" and "Compositor is not available" are caused from issues with your VR compositor intializing or displaying properly in the background. The Compositor's function is to make sense of all of the VR overlays and put them together to create a realistic VR visual. When the compositor is not active or not set to the proper size/resolution, it cannot perform its role of displaying the intended visual. Many times if the compositor is not functioning correctly it will restrict Steam from even opening the intended VR application or game and sometimes even cause a strange red headset visual.



So what causes the Compositor to not work correctly?

I spent several hours (even after finding the solution that worked for me), to identify different causes of the display problem. I will post many off the typical causes below:

  • Compositor simply did not launch
  • The Vive headset is not being read by the system's intended hardware
  • Incompatible hardware
  • Failure of cords/ adapters
  • Outdated communication from the video card
  • User restriction


I have noted many solutions for different users from forums or support pages I believed were applicable. Also I tried to post the solutions in order for easiest to apply to hardest in hopes a simple solution is the right one for you.

  1. click the underlined "make compositor fullscreen" or "launch compositor" below the error message. While it seems like a straightforward solution, it looks like it generally is too good to be true but could work. 
  2. Update video card drivers. Many times if your hardware is unable to communicate with applications or games, a good measure to take would be to verify you are on the latest driver or an approved driver for your software.
  3. Move your mouse outside the right side of the screen and click. This can be known to wake your compositor if you system has been inactive for some time or it has some wonky sleep settings. 
  4. Check your permission settings. The VR compositor needs to be running without restrictions or you could be limited to certain apps or games. To be safe I would always recommend either being signed into an admin account, or getting admin permissions on approved VR software to avoid any permission based restrictions.
  5. Check cabling and where your Vive is plugged into your system. A common mistake made is to plug the Vive headset into onboard video or plugging into a secondary video card. The Vive needs to be plugged into your primary approved video card. Check here for Geforce VR supported cards:
  6. Check adapters and extenders in the cabling. This is where I goofed and found the solution. The video card I was using was a Geforce 1080Ti card with 1 HDMI and 3 display ports. I was using a display port to HDMI adapter to connect the headset while the TV was connected with the HDMI. I just needed to switch the cabling between the two to get it to work properly. Another common mistake I read about was older versions of HDMI cabling(specifically before version 1.4) causing the problem.
  7. Launching Steam VR before you open the VR game/application. In some cases, this helps initialize the compositor so it runs properly before opening up the game or application.
  8. Disable unneeded displays. Depending on the VR display you are planning on setting up, it can be a good idea to limit your displays to a  single monitor/TV display and the Vive headset as a display. Also if your motherboard supports it and you have an active video card in your system, I would recommend disabling the onboard video to ensure the compositor won't get confused on which display input to use. 

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