In need of extra screen space? Having two monitors or multiple monitors increases the productivity by expanding the amount on-screen space. In this guide, I will walk you through all the required steps that will get you started with your dual monitor setup.
First, let’s take a look at what it’s required in order to achieve a dual monitor setup. A setup of this kind won’t be possible if your computer doesn’t support multiple video connections. At the minimum, you’ll need two video out ports to connect both your monitors. Generally, there are four types of ports: VGA, DVI, HDMI and Display Port.
Note: If you do not have the required ports, then you’ll need an external connector/adapter to hook up the monitors to the system.
Most systems (laptops and desktops) nowadays are capable of accommodating a dual monitor setup. However, there may be compatibility or support issues depending on your specs, so be sure to check the manual on the availability of ports. Generally, desktops have more ports capable of outputting to multiple external monitors. But even with laptops, most of them have either two HDMI ports or HDMI + DVI.
Continue with the next section to make sure your equipment checks out.
Gathering the hardware
The best way to set up your dual monitor setup is highly dependable on how your monitors connect and the ports on your laptop/desktop. It’s very important that you take your computer ports into account before you buy a second monitor. This will save you from having to spend extra money on an additional adapter.
Start by inspecting your computer’s video ports and see what you’re working with. See if you can set up the connection without an adapter. However, you might not have a choice.
For example, if you want the second screen to be your old VGA monitor, you’ll likely need an adapter like this one in order to connect it to the HDMI port of a new laptop. Likewise, if you have an old DVI monitor, you’ll need an adapter of this kind in order to plug it into an HDMI port.
Most laptops comes with multiple video ports. Let’s take the popular Dell Latitude E6230. It contains one 19-pin HDMI connector and one VGA connector. Looking at these options, one monitor can be hooked up to the HDMI port and the other one to the VGA port.
Desktops, on the other hand, have a built-in VGA on the motherboard and multiple HDMI and DVI ports on the dedicated graphics card. This is why desktops are ideal for dual monitor setups.
In case you only have one port (VGA, HDMI or DVI), you will need a dual adapter. If the port is VGA, you’ll need a Monitor VGA dual splitter. If your port is DVI and your two monitors are both VGA, you’ll need a DVI-I Analog to 2x VGA Video Splitter Cable. But keep in mind that this is not ideal since it will only duplicate the display – won’t work with the Extend mode.
Note: Usually, the motherboards built-in VGA ports are not powerful enough to support two monitors so you can expect some blurred pixels.
Once you have both your monitors, made sure that your ports check out and brought the required adapters (if required), it’s time to configure it all under Windows.
Connecting the equipment
If you were prepared for a lengthy tutorial, you can rest easy. Windows makes it extremely easy to connect multiple monitors. And for the most part, this is true for all the recent Windows versions.
All you have to do is plug in the second monitor into the appropriate port (via an adapter if required) and Windows should automatically extend your desktop onto it. That’s it.
However, depending on your settings, Windows might mirror your second display instead, showing the same thing on both screens. In this case, you’ll need to make additional adjustments.
Configuring The Settings
Windows 8 and Windows 10 users
If you’re seeing a mirrored display on both monitors, you’ll want to press Windows key + P and choose the Extend option. This will make up for an entire monitor worth of additional screen space.
If you want to take the long route, you can also right-click anywhere on your desktop and select Display Settings. From there, click the Identify (Detect) button, then drag & drop both displays until you position them however you want.
Note: Keep in mind that number 1 is always the primary display.
Windows 7 users
The Windows key + P shortcut can also be used on Windows 7. If your display is mirrored by default, use the shortcut to select the Extend mode.
Or you can do it by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing Screen resolution. Once there, click the Identify button if the second monitor doesn’t already appear and then position them however you want.
Once the monitors are connected, you will need to adjust the settings – this can be easily done from the Display Settings on your computer (Windows Vista / 7 and 8) by right-clicking your desktop and selecting Personalize -> Display -> Change Display Settings
Note: The Extend mode will not work if the monitors are getting the same signal. You’ll need signals coming out from two ports if you wish to get the extended feature.