How to Add a Second Monitor in Windows

Double your screen space with relative ease

What to Know

  • Connect your monitor and PC using an HDMI cable (use VGA and DVI on older computers).
  • In Windows 10, go to Settings > System > Display > Detect > Identity to turn on and configure the monitor.
  • Under Display > Multiple Displays, choose how you want the second monitor to display.

This article explains how to add a second monitor to your Windows laptop or desktop computer. Instructions cover Windows 10, 8, and 7.

Connection Considerations

The first step in using a second monitor is getting it physically connected to the computer.

  1. First, take a look at which ports your computer has. On laptops, they're usually along the sides, but sometimes, you can find them on the back. Desktops always have them on the back.

  2. Figure out what display ports you have. Some might be familiar to you, like HDMI. Others might be entirely alien.

    Display connector types
    Nathaniel Gardner [CC0]
  3. Next, take a look at your monitor. Which ports does it have? The ports are usually on the back of the monitor. They're also commonly on the underside of monitors too.

  4. Select the correct cable to connect your monitor and your PC.

    VGA and DVI: Older computers may have DVI or VGA ports. These connectors rely on a series of metal pins, which are usually on the cable. The ports, then, have a series of holes to accommodate the pins. VGA is a lower resolution standard definition connection. DVI is capable of basic HD. If you have a newer monitor, you may have difficulty connecting because support for DVI and VGA has been dropped by most. You may have luck converting from DVI to HDMI, though.

    HDMI: HDMI is the most widely supported type of display connection. Almost all TVs rely on HDMI, and most computer monitors have at least one HDMI port.

    HDMI might be the ideal option. It's widely used, and you shouldn't have a hard time finding a cable.

    There are multiple types of HDMI cables and ports. Laptop manufacturers may opt for smaller mini and micro HDMI connections to conserve space and build a smaller device. In those cases, you're still working with HDMI, and you can easily find cables with a micro or mini connector on one end and a standard HDMI connection on the other.

    DisplayPort and USB-C: Things get a little more complicated with DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, and USB-C connections. You won't find these as commonly, but dedicated graphics cards and higher-end laptops may have DisplayPort connections. Relatively recent computer monitors also support DisplayPort. As with HDMI, Mini DisplayPort connections save space on mobile devices, and you can find cables with Mini DisplayPort on one end and standard DisplayPort on the other.

    You probably know USB-C as the connection on current Android smartphones, but it's a fast enough connection to support a monitor. It's also an option in recent Macbooks. If your computer only offers USB-C video output, consider a monitor that supports USB-C input. Otherwise, purchase a cable with a USB-C connection on one end and either HDMI or DisplayPort on the other.

  5. Plug your cable into both your computer and monitor using a matching pair of ports.

  6. Turn your monitor on.

Detect the Monitor in Windows

Now that your monitor is physically connected to your computer, it's time to configure your Windows operating system to recognize and use the monitor.

In most cases, Windows will automatically detect and configure your second monitor without any prompting.

Windows 10

Each version of Windows has a slightly different process to enable and configure your second monitor. Follow the process for the version of Windows that's running on your PC. Here's how to do it on Windows 10.

  1. Open the Power User Menu (Win+X) or the Start menu and select Settings.

    Start menu in Windows 10 with the Settings button highlighted
  2. Select System from the Settings window.

    Windows Settings with the System item highlighted
  3. From the Display section, choose Detect (if you see it) to register the second monitor. There's also a chance that the monitor's already there.

    Detect button in Windows Display settings
  4. Choose Identify below the monitors to see which one is which. Windows displays the monitor's number on each screen.

    The option Make this my main display, This is my main monitor, or Use this device as the primary monitor lets you swap which screen should be considered the main screen. It's the main screen that will have the Start menu, taskbar, clock, etc. However, in some Windows versions, if you right-click or tap-and-hold on the Windows taskbar at the bottom of the screen, you can go into the Properties menu to choose Show taskbar on all displays to get the Start menu clock, etc. on both screens.

    Dual monitors in Windows with the Identify button highlighted
  5. You can use the diagram of the monitors to re-arrange them. Select a monitor, and drag it into position relative to the other monitor.

    If the two screens are using two different resolutions, one will appear larger than the other in the preview window. You can either adjust the resolutions to be the same or drag the monitors up or down on the screen to match up on the bottom.

Windows 8 and Windows 7

  1. Open the Windows start menu, and select Control Panel.

    Start menu in Windows 7 with the Control Panel option highlighted
  2. In Control panel, open the Appearance and Personalization option. This is only seen if you're viewing the applets in the default "Category" view (not the "Classic" or icon view).

    Windows Control Panel with Appearance and Personalization option highlighted
  3. Now, choose Display and then Adjust screen resolution.

    Adjust Screen Resolution option in Windows
  4. Select Detect to register the second monitor, if it isn't already there.

    Detect button in Screen Resolution settings
  5. Press Identify to see the number associated with each monitor displayed.

    Identify button in Windows resolution settings
  6. Select and drag a display in the picture to reposition it in relation to the other one.

    Windows 7 arrange displays

Change How Your Computer Handles the Second Monitor

Windows gives you a few options for how it will handle the second monitor connected to your computer. You can extend your desktop across both monitors, mirror them, or choose to use one and not the other.

Windows 10

  1. From the Display setting screen that you arrived at in the previous instructions, scroll down until you see Multiple Displays.

    Windows 10 multiple display settings
  2. Select the drop-down menu directly below Multiple Displays to show your options.

    Windows 10 multi-display options
  3. The menu expands to show your choices:

    • Duplicate these displays: Show the same desktop on both monitors.
    • Extend these displays: Stretch the desktop across both monitors, using both and increasing your overall screen size.
    • Show only on 1: Only use monitor 1.
    • Show only on 2: Only use monitor 2.

    Choose one.

    To extend your desktop in Windows Vista, choose to Extend the desktop onto this monitor instead, or In Windows XP, choose the Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor option.

  4. A new window opens asking if you want to keep your changes. Confirm to keep the monitor layout you picked, or select Revert to go back to the way it was.

Windows 8.1 and Windows 7

  1. From the Screen Resolution page that you access the prior instructions, find the Multiple Displays option.

  2. Select the drop-down menu next to Multiple Displays to show the available options.

    Multiple Displays settings in Screen Resolution
  3. Choose the option you prefer. Extend desktop to this display will stretch your desktop across both screens.

    Windows 7 extended display
  • How can I use an iPad as a second monitor?

    To use your iPad as a second monitor, open System Preferences on your Mac and choose Sidecar. Choose your Sidecar options and select Enable double tap on Apple Pencil. On the Select Device dropdown, select your iPad > on sidebar, select Use as Separate Display.

  • How do I use a TV as a second monitor?

    To use a TV as a second monitor, find your computer's video output port and your TV's video input options. Plug one end of the cable into your computer's video output port and the other end into the TV. Power on your TV and switch it to the correct input (usually HDMI). When you see your computer screen on the TV, adjust the display options.

  • Why does my second monitor keep going black?

    Your second monitor may go black due to overheating, particularly if you're gaming or performing other power-intensive tasks. Additionally, check for hardware malfunctions, incompatible display settings, driver issues, and conflicting applications.

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