As you begin working from home full-time, you will appreciate the value of having extra screen space. If you have an extra monitor or two, you can keep your applications accessible at any time.
This eliminates the need to switch between windows and alt-tab. Many desktop PCs can support multiple monitors. However, laptops aren’t likely to provide a similar solution.
However, did you know that a Windows laptop can support up to seven displays? In the following guide, we’ll show you how to set up multiple monitors on your work device.
Adding Your First Extra Monitor
The first thing you should do is to look at your computer. What ports do you have available? These are the most common display output slots you can work with: HDMI, USB-C, and miniDP.
When you have any one of these, your next step would be to choose a monitor supporting what you have. Most displays support HDMI, while newer ones have USB-C cables. MiniDP and DisplayPort technology, meanwhile, are usually found on Pro-level monitors.
It is pretty straightforward to add an extra display. All you need is to set up your new monitor, make sure it has the correct connection adapter, and plug it in. After that, your Windows laptop should detect it and start displaying your desktop automatically.
Using Your Laptop Screen as a Second Monitor
If you want to use your laptop’s built-in screen as a secondary display, you need to set it in your display settings.
All you have to do is to right-click on your desktop and choose Display Settings. You will see two boxes in the new window that will open representing your monitors.
Click Identify to know which number corresponds to which screen. You can also rearrange the boxes so to match the physical arrangement of your displays.
When you know the number assigned to which display, choose the screen you want to use as your primary screen. Scroll down to Multiple displays.
Click on the dropdown menu and choose Extend desktop to this display. Don’t forget to tick the Make this my main display checkbox!
Sometimes, when you do these, the computer will ask if you want to Keep changes or Revert. Click on Keep changes if you’re happy with it or Revert if you want to go back to the way it was.
Using Two External Monitors
The 15-inch screen in your laptop may not be enough, so consider adding a second monitor. Here’s where it gets a little tricky.
Firstly, you need to find out what other ports you have available on your Windows laptop. Are there any spare HDMI or miniDP ports? If you do, you’re in luck! All you have to do is get a new display compatible with your available port, and you’re ready to go.
But if all you have is an extra USB-C port, you have to check if it supports transmitting a video signal. You can look at this table Kensington made to see if you can plug a monitor into your USB-C outlet.
The rule of thumb is if you see a Thunderbolt or DisplayPort logo beside the USB-C port, then it will work with a screen. All you need is a proper USB-C to HDMI or USB-C to DisplayPort/miniDP cable.
But if you don’t see any of the above logos beside your USB-C port, you can check your laptop’s manual. You can also contact your laptop’s maker and ask if it will support a video signal. If they say that it doesn’t support any display protocol, I’m afraid you can’t connect a monitor via that port.
If you don’t have an extra video port and absolutely need to have that extra monitor, get a USB 3.0 to HDMI adapter. It will be able to display your screen at full resolution, depending on the adapter.
Connecting Three Monitors or More
If you find two external displays lacking, you can use your laptop screen as a third monitor. Use the same procedure we described above, and you’ll be good to go.
But if you must have three (or more) large displays on your Windows laptop, you have to do a little bit more digging.
Check first if your laptop sports either one of the following ports:
- USB-C with DisplayPort Alt Mode
- USB-C with Thunderbolt3
- Mini DisplayPort
Also, you must have Multi-Stream Transport (MST) compatible monitors or an MST hub.
If you have existing or want to use HDMI monitors, I recommend going for the MST hub. This plugs into your DP-compatible port and then splits the signal into up to 4 distinct monitors.
These hubs come in either DisplayPort or HDMI outputs. Thus, allowing you to use HDMI monitors in your setup. The advantage you get in this method is you can use more affordable HDMI monitors. However, it will also limit you to a maximum of four displays.
Your other option is to use MST-compatible monitors only. These displays connect via a daisy-chain configuration. This would allow you to have up to seven screens on a single port.
One downside to this is that these displays are few and far between. Furthermore, they are far more expensive than their non-MST counterparts. This is because they tend to be considered professional displays. That is why they typically have enhanced features such as color accuracy.
This daisy-chain option is usually best for professionals. Especially those that require high video standards, like photo and video editors.
Also, take note that your laptop must have a discrete graphics card with more than three external displays. This is because most built-in graphics usually supports up to three displays only. You should check your laptop’s specific model before committing to any purchase.
Now, whether you choose the MST hub or the daisy-chain method, setting up your monitors is easy. You only need to plug and play, and you’re ready to go. Automatic detection of these screens works well in Windows.
Go to the Display Settings menu to change the monitor placement. Then, scroll back up to the Using Your Laptop Screen as a Second Monitor section and follow my instructions for each display.
Enhance Your Productivity
Multiple displays aren’t just for bragging or a conversation piece. You can use it at work to improve your quality of life. In addition, it will increase your productivity. Additionally, it will be a great entertainment and gaming rig.
Author: Jowi Morales
Source: Jowi Morales.” How to Connect Multiple Display Monitors Using Your Laptop”. Retrieved From https://www.makeuseof.com/connect-multiple-display-monitors-laptop/
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