How to Add a Second Monitor in Windows

Double your screen space with relative ease

Adding a second monitor to your laptop or desktop computer is a straightforward task in the Microsoft Windows environment.

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 right 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 a hard time 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 the most widely used by devices, and you shouldn't have a hard time finding a cable.

    There are multiple types of HDMI 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 its a fast enough connection to support a monitor. In fact, it's the main 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 in to 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.

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. If your computer was made any time in the last few years, it's probably running Windows 10.

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

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. The Windows Settings app opens. Select System from the 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 of them 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 so that they 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 resolution from the left.

    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 re-position 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 will expand 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, and select it.

    Extend Your Desktop on Vista and XP

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

  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