Dual Monitor Setups for Laptops (and Desktops) — Micro Center

Dual Monitor Setups for Laptops (and Desktops)

AlexSAlexS admin


The age of pandemic is among us and has been for a while now.  And while a good handful of us have adjusted and adapted to this "new normal," some may still be wondering what they can do to improve some aspects of their life.  While we don't have all the answers to the many vast questions or problems yet, we at Micro Center would like to share some tips and guides on what you can do to ease your work or school lifestyle.  For starters, let's go with Dual Monitor Setups for Laptops and Desktops.

Why do I need a second monitor? 
While the choice of having a second monitor to your work or school setup is optional, being able to have multiple windows opened at once can be very advantageous and provide a level of convenience you haven't experienced before with a computer. 
Depending on your work or school flow, you could have a window with research data on the left monitor and a Microsoft excel spreadsheet on the right, or you can have your Zoom session opened talking to your teach or classmates whilst taking notes on Google Docs without having to make smaller windows or continuously alt-tab back and forth between applications. 

In this guide, we will provide a hefty guide on how to setup dual monitors on your laptop or desktop.  The process on setting up this nifty trick to expanding your desktop (pending if your physical computer desk or table has room for a second monitor) can be much easier than you think, and this guide should hopefully get you moving in the right direction.

Please use the links below


Comments

  • AlexSAlexS admin
    edited August 27

    General Knowledge for Setting Up Multiple Monitors


    For every monitor you are connecting to your computer, you will need one video port for each monitor.  There are a lot of different video ports that monitors and computers can have, so you need to make sure you are able to connect them.  Here is a collection of commonly used ports.



    Adapters

    You can use adapters to convert the ports coming from your computer to match with the ports on your monitor.  Going from Digital ports (HDMI, DisplayPort) to Analog (VGA, DVI) is significantly easier for the adapter to do and cheaper because of it.  Going from Analog to Digital is more work for the adapter and are usually on the more expensive side.  

    Another common adapter to use is USB to any of the video ports above.  They allow you to use a USB port as a video port to connect a monitor, just make sure that you have the correct USB ports for the adapter.  


    DisplayPort to VGA Adapter

    USB-C to HDMI adapter



    Splitters


    Splitters are devices that plug into a port and provide multiple of the same port.  Although this sounds like an easy way to do multiple monitors, all this will do is mirror the single port to both monitors.  

    It will not EXTEND the monitors and allow them to work together as a larger workspace.  If you do have plans for mirroring your monitors, then a splitter may be the easier solution for you. 


    VGA Splitter

    HDMI Splitter

  • AlexSAlexS admin
    edited August 27

    Setting up an external monitor for a Laptop


    If you plan on using the built-in monitor that came with a laptop as one of the primary displays, then you will need to connect your external monitor to a video port on the side or rear of the laptop.  These built-in ports can range from DisplayPort, HDMI, USB-C, Thunderbolt or if you have an older laptop, VGA.  

    The steps to accomplish this are not very difficult.

    1. Determine which video port is on the side or rear of the laptop.  Once you determine the port, ensure your external monitor has matching ports or you have an adapter available so you can connect the external monitor to the laptop.
    2. Connect the external monitor to the laptop using the correct video cable.
    3. By default, your external monitor should get a display. 
    4. Now, we need to set up some settings for the multiple monitors.  Right click the desktop and select Display settings
    5. In the case the monitors are mirroring each other and not one combined workplace, you will want to scroll down to Multiple displays and select Extend these displays
    6. You should now be in your Display Settings and should be seeing rectangles equal to the amount of monitors you have connected.  Next, you want to click Identify and it should show numbers on your monitors, drag the monitors with the corresponding number into the formation you have your monitors in.  Then click apply when they are in the proper position.  In my example, my monitor that has the number 1 is on my right side. 
    7. One of your multiple monitors will be the “Main Monitor” where programs will open in by default and where most of your programs' shortcuts will be placed in.  Select the monitor you want as your main, it should Highlight Blue.  Then scroll down to Multiple Displays and select Make this my main display.  


    You should be all set from here!

  • AlexSAlexS admin
    edited August 27

    Setting up external monitors using a Docking Station


    Docking stations allow laptops that lack multiple video ports to connect to multiple monitors.  Similar to USB Adapters, they connect to your laptop through a USB port and then provide multiple video ports to connect your monitors.  You may need to download drivers or use an installation CD to get a Docking Station to work.  They also may need to be powered by another power source and aren’t always powered solely through the laptop.  


    Setting up a Laptop with a Docking Station


    1. Check the specifications of your laptop for information regarding the number of displays it can support and the type of connections the laptop has available, such as HDMI, USB, Thunderbolt, etc.

    2. Typically, there will be at least one connection available from the laptop for another display such as HDMI or VGA. You can connect your first external monitor to this connection to get a second display.

    3. For a third display, you will typically need a docking station to add more ports to the laptop. There are universal docking stations that will work with most systems.
    4. Docking Stations may use a USB-A, USB-C or Thunderbolt to connect to your laptop.  Check your laptop connections and make sure you have the proper one. 
    5. Docking Stations may require you to install drivers which can be found with an included CD or can be found at the manufacturer’s website

    6. Connect the docking station to the computer. Connect the external monitors to the docking station using the available video ports on the station

    7. Now, we need to set up some settings for the multiple monitors.  Right click the desktop and select Display settings

    8. You should now be in your Display Settings and should be seeing rectangles equal to the amount of monitors you have connected.  Next, you want to click Identify and it should show numbers on your monitors, drag the monitors with the corresponding number into the formation you have your monitors in.  Then click apply when they are in the proper position.  In my example, my monitor that has the number 1 is on my right side. 


    9. In the case the monitors are mirroring each other and not one combined workplace, you will want to scroll down to Multiple displays and select Extend these displays

    10. One of your multiple monitors will be the “Main Monitor” where programs will open in by default and where most of your programs' shortcuts will be placed in.  Select the monitor you want as your main, it should Highlight Blue.  Then scroll down to Multiple Displays and select Make this my main display.  


  • How to Use External Monitors with the Laptop Lid Closed


    Some users may not want to have their laptop lid open when using external monitors.  We will need to prevent the laptop from entering sleep mode when closing the lid.  If you have already set up your external displays, proceed with the following directions.

    Type Lid into the search bar in the bottom left of your screen, select Change what closing the lid does
    Find the box that correlates to Plugged In and When I close the lid and change it to Do nothing.  Then click Save Changes that is at the bottom of the screen.
     

    Go ahead and close your laptop and your monitors should still be turned on and functioning with an external keyboard and mouse!
  • Setting up Dual Monitors for Desktops - Without a Video Card

    Video Cards

    Your desktop may or may not have a video card inside it.  If your desktop computer does have a video card, then you NEED to use the ports of the video card to receive any video signal.  You can usually tell if there is a video card in your desktop if you see the video ports are horizontal and are usually found away from the USB Ports on the back of the computer.  You may need to add a video card if your desktop computer doesn’t have enough visual ports or non-compatible ones


    Desktop without a Video Card

    1. Find the Video Ports you have on the back of your Desktop, they should be close to where the USB ports are on the back.  In the example picture, this desktop has a DVI, a VGA and an HDMI port.  If you do not know which ports your desktop computer has, please check this chart.  If you see additional ports in the middle on the back of the computer, please check this guide. 

      Connect the Video Ports on the back of your Computer to the monitors, turn on the system and sign in. 
      NOTE, when at the sign in screen, only one monitor will display.  Once signed it, you should get your multiple monitors.
      Now, we need to set up some settings for the multiple monitors.  Right click the desktop and select Display settings

      You should now be in your Display Settings and should be seeing rectangles equal to the amount of monitors you have connected.  Next, you want to click Identify and it should show numbers on your monitors, drag the monitors with the corresponding number into the formation you have your monitors in.  Then click apply when they are in the proper position.  In my example, my monitor that has the number 1 is on my right side. 


      In the case the monitors are mirroring each other and not one combined workplace, you will want to scroll down to Multiple displays and select Extend these displays

      One of your multiple monitors will be the “Main Monitor” where programs will open in by default and where most of your programs' shortcuts will be placed in.  Select the monitor you want as your main, it should Highlight Blue.  Then scroll down to Multiple Displays and select Make this my main display.  


  • AlexSAlexS admin
    edited August 27

    Desktop with a Video Card


    1. Find the Video Ports you have on the back of your Desktop, they should be found about halfway down the back of the computer.  In the example picture, this video card has 3 DisplayPorts and 1 HDMI Port.  If you do not know which ports your desktop computer has, please check this chart.  If you do not see any ports halfway down the back of the computer, please check this guide. 

      2. Connect the Video Ports on the back of your Computer to the monitors, turn on the system and sign in. 
      NOTE, when at the sign in screen, only one monitor will display.  Once signed it, you should get your multiple monitors.
      Now, we need to set up some settings for the multiple monitors.  Right click the desktop and select Display settings

      3. You should now be in your Display Settings and should be seeing rectangles equal to the amount of monitors you have connected.  Next, you want to click Identify and it should show numbers on your monitors, drag the monitors with the corresponding number into the formation you have your monitors in.  Then click apply when they are in the proper position.  In my example, my monitor that has the number 1 is on my right side. 


      4. In the case the monitors are mirroring each other and not one combined workplace, you will want to scroll down to Multiple displays and select Extend these displays

      5. One of your multiple monitors will be the “Main Monitor” where programs will defaultly open in and where most of your programs will be defaultly placed at.  Select the monitor you want as your main, it should Highlight Blue.  Then scroll down to Multiple Displays and select Make this my main display. 


    You should be all set!
  • sdlansdlan
    edited September 6
    This is a good guide to adding an external monitor to a PC. 
    What is your advice on connecting an external monitor to an Apple MacBook Air?  With the Thunderbolt display no longer available from Apple, what would be some monitors to look for and what cables and accessories would be needed for this type of set up?
  • @sdlan
    Thanks for your feedback. You may have a Mini DisplayPort on that Macbook Air. If you do then you could easily use a mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable or adapter. If not, then you can use this Apple Type-C to HDMI adapter: https://www.microcenter.com/product/626725/apple-usb-type-c-male-to-usb-type-a-female--usb-type-c-female--hdmi-female-digital-av-multiport-adapter---white
    As for monitors, you would just want to look for any with an HDMI port. If you would like, I can help find one for you. Is there a specific size you are looking for? Also, how much would you be looking to spend on this? 
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