Setting up a second monitor in a standard Microsoft operating system (Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8) will quickly and inexpensively double your amount of on-screen work space.
Why Have Two Screens?
There are many benefits in having dual monitors which include:
- Doubling your computer’s desktop so you can work on one screen whilst keeping reference materials handy on the other.
- Keeping your email or social media accounts open whilst you’re working, so you don’t miss any important messages or updates.
- Making it easier to scan large workspaces.
- If you use a laptop, letting you share documents and presentations on a larger screen.
- Ergonomics – for example, positioning a larger screen above a laptop might help you work more comfortably and avoid neck/eye strain.
Don’t be afraid to be creative with your dual monitors! Try out different sized application windows and experiment with keeping different information in constant view while you’re multi-tasking. Using two screens could change how you work with your computer for good – and for the better.
What You’ll Need
- A second monitor and a monitor cable that are compatible with your computer or laptop. The monitor can be either flat-screen LCD or CRT – an old or spare screen might do the trick, or you could even use a TV screen.
- Two monitor connections on your computer, or a single monitor connection on your laptop. The connections will need to match your monitor cables.
- If the connections don’t match the cables, you can fit a video adapter. Or, if you’re using a desktop computer, you can replace the graphics card or install extra cards.
Setting Up the Second Monitor
Connect the new monitor’s cable to your computer or laptop, making sure that that monitor is plugged in and switched on. Your computer should detect the monitor but if it doesn’t, try shutting down and restarting.
Choosing Your Display Settings
1 – Bring up the Screen Resolution menu by right-clicking in any blank area of the desktop and selecting ‘Screen Resolution’ from the pop-up menu. You’ll see a screen that looks like, or is similar, to this:
If you don’t see a dual monitor display, click ‘Detect’ to bring up the second screen.
2 – If you like, you can drag and drop the monitor icons so the on-screen configuration matches your real-life monitor set-up. Then, click ‘Identify’ to tell your computer which screen is monitor 1 and which is monitor 2. These numbers will then appear on the monitors.
3 – Now it’s time to choose how your monitors will operate, using the ‘Multiple Displays’ drop-down menu. There are three basic options:
- Duplicate these displays (default setting for laptops). This shows the same display on both monitors. It can be handy in some situations, especially when you’re giving presentations on a laptop that’s connected to a larger screen.
- Extend these displays (default setting for desktops). This creates an extended desktop across both monitors. It allows you to move items between the screens by using the mouse to grab the title bar of a window and drag it across. This is a popular way of using dual monitors as it’s great for multitasking and complex desktop setups.
- Show desktop only on 1 or Show desktop only on 2. This will probably be your chosen configuration if you simply want to work from a larger screen connected to a laptop. Your laptop screen will be left blank so you can focus on the second monitor.
This is just the basics for getting started with two monitors. Once you’re used to dual monitor working, why not try exploring different functions in the Control Panel for more options?
Disconnecting the Dual Monitor
When you unplug the second screen, your computer or laptop will automatically revert to your original display settings, and everything on your desktop will appear on your original screen. If you connect the same additional monitor again, Windows will have remembered your chosen display settings from last time and will automatically apply them.