How to Use Two or More Monitors

By | March 4, 2022

Using two monitors is a fairly simple concept. You would think that all you have to do is plug any video display into any applicable port on your laptop or PC

There are a lot of things to consider when you want to use two more monitors. Does your computer support dual monitors? How many outputs does your graphics card support. What type of video port does your computer have?

Once you’ve assessed these basic questions, you’re ready to start configuring your multi-monitor setup.

How to Set Up Dual or Multi Monitor

There are three things you need to consider when you want to use the extra screen with your computer.

  • Does your computer support dual monitors?
  • Is your video card capable of more than one monitor?
  • Have you set up your dual monitors properly?

This article will cover each of these areas and will help you troubleshoot any issues you may encounter with the extended view.

1. Check What Ports Are Available

Before you start pushing cables into ports on the back of your PC or the sides of your laptop, stop and take a closer look at those ports so you know what you’re looking at.

Modern computers handle video via the HDMI port, but older computers have a variety of other ports:

  • HDMI: High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port is a computer interface that transmits uncompressed video and audio.
  • DisplayPort: A DisplayPort was originally designed as a superior video port to the older VGA and DVI ports, but is much less popular on modern computer systems than the HDMI port.
  • DVI: The Digital Visual Interface was originally designed by the Digital Display Working Group, and is the next generation of the inferior VGA port. Many older computers have one of several DVI port configurations.
  • Thunderbolt: A Thunderbolt port is a combination of several technologies, including DisplayPort and PCI Express, combined with a power supply to power an external display when needed.
  • VGA: Older computers usually came with the famous blue VGA port. The 15-pin VGA has been used for computer video for years, but has been largely replaced by newer video ports such as Thunderbolt and HDMI.

Many computers include a mix of these ports. Check the back of your desktop PC or the side of your laptop, you will see one or more of them.

Usually, if your computer has two ports on it, the video card is usually capable of sending output signals to both. If there is only one port, then probably not.

However, your desktop may have a slot available for an additional video card. So even if there is only one port on your desktop, feel free to open the cover and check every available slot for another video card.

When it comes to laptops, another option is to purchase and use a compatible docking station. You may have the option of a docking station that can extend your laptop (which may only have one video port), into a docking station that has two or more ports.

So even if you only have one video port available, definitely research the graphics card if you want to set up a dual monitor laptop.

2. Check Your Video Card Settings

If you have two ports but you can’t seem to get both ports working at the same time, the next step is to determine if your video card even has the capability to display to multiple monitors.

Pretty easy to check just plug in both monitors. Click on the start menu and type Display. Click “Change display settings”.

In the display settings, you may actually see several views appear, with some disabled and others set as your primary display or as an extended view.

You can ignore it for now and instead click on Advanced display settings at the bottom of this window.


On the next page, you will see the Display properties of the adapter for each connected display if your graphics card “sees” the number of monitors you have installed.

If more than one appears, then the card is capable of displaying to multiple monitors.

If you only see one, then you should stop here because even though there are two ports, the card can only utilize one at a time. Much of your success at this boils down to hardware capabilities, so checking this first is of the utmost importance.

However, if you’ve confirmed that your video card can “see” all the displays you’ve installed, but you can’t seem to get the extra monitor to work, don’t give up. There are a few small techniques you can use to fix the problem on your own.

3. Research Your Graphics Card

If you’re still not sure if your computer can support dual monitors, another option is to research your graphics card.
First, find the brand of your graphics card.

  • Click Start and type display manager. Click to open Display Manager.
  • Expand the Display adapter.
  • Pay attention to the make and brand of your graphics adapter.

Go to Google and research the brand of your graphics adapter, followed by the words “multi-display” or “multi-monitor”.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to find some evidence of whether your graphics card can handle multiple monitors.

Other Ways to Use the Daisy Chain Arrangement

If your laptop or PC has DisplayPort, then you might be able to utilize what is called multi-stream transport (MST) to daisy-chain two monitors from a single DisplayPort.

Requirements:

  • Your graphics card must have at least a DisplayPort 1.2 port.
  • You need a monitor that has DisplayPort 1.2 MST capability.
  • Update your graphics card driver to the latest version.

Daisy-chaining with DisplayPort is very simple.

  • Connect your PC to DisplayPort on the first DisplayPort capable monitor.
  • If your monitor is MST-enabled, you’ll see a DisplayPort Out port. Connect that output port to the DisplayPort input port on the second monitor.
  • Go to Display Settings on your computer and Enable DisplayPort 1.2
  • In the settings menu on the last monitor, disable DisplayPort 1.2 mode.

Now, in the Display Settings screen, you will see both monitors detected. You can set it to mirror or extend your desktop.


Other Ways to Use a USB Monitor With DisplayLink

Even if your PC or laptop graphics card supports only one output port, you can still expand your system with a second display using a USB-enabled monitor and DisplayLink software.

You can find many external displays that will connect to your computer system and provide a second display. The great thing about this monitor is that a lot of it is powered by the USB port itself, so you don’t need another power supply. This is great for using a laptop with a second screen while you’re on the move.

Setting up one of these monitors is as easy as plugging in, and installing the free DisplayLink software will make it all work.

Configuring Your Dual Monitor Settings

No matter what approach you take to setting up a dual monitor setup, you configure everything in the Display Settings area.

Open Display Settings by pressing Start, and typing Display Settings. Click on Display Settings to open the configuration menu.

Once you have one or more external displays connected and detected by your computer, click on one of the detected monitors to configure it.


The example above is a laptop with a connected USB-enabled monitor mounted in a vertical position. You can change the monitor from landscape to portrait mode in the display settings under the Scale and layout section.

Thanks to the various technologies available today, there is always a way to attach an additional monitor to your computer. This is even true if the system itself does not have a secondary port.

Better Productivity With Multiple Monitors

As you can see, there are a lot of points in the process where some people will give up and conclude that it doesn’t work.

It comes down to simply making sure your video card is capable of this (mostly these days), and then playing around with the display settings and making sure that the monitor is configured properly. If you have one DisplayPort, consider the daisy-chain option. And if all else fails, buy a USB monitor and install the DisplayLink software.

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