How to Close Your Laptop and Use an External Monitor

How to keep a monitor on when your laptop is closed

Your laptop is the ultimate in portable productivity, but sometimes you just want to settle down and get some really nice screen real estate. So you pick up an external monitor, and now it's time to use it. We'll show you how to keep your laptop on when closed in Windows 10.

This procedure only works for Windows 10. macOS has a closed-display mode that automatically kicks in when your laptop is plugged into power and an external monitor is connected.

Of course, you can always use your laptop monitor as a second screen and get even more real estate. But there are a lot of times you might just want to close the lid and just use one screen. But, Windows puts your laptop into a power-saving mode when you close the lid. This prevents the computer from working too hard, which in turn conserves the battery. At the same time, low power mode allows the computer to start back up quickly when you open it again.

Unfortunately, this usually means that your computer will power down when you close the lid, even when an external display is connected. Sometimes a computer will work as long as it's active (you're doing something) but will switch to low power mode once you walk away.

How to Keep Your Laptop On When It's Closed

To prevent this, you need to tell the computer not to go into low power mode.

  1. Right-click the Battery icon in the lower right-hand corner of your desktop.

    If you cannot locate the battery icon, click the arrow that points up (Show Hidden Icons) to reveal more icons. If it's not visible on the desktop, the battery icon will be there.

    Right click the battery icon in the system tray.
  2. Click Power Options.

    Click Power options in the system tray.
  3. Click Choose what closing the lid does.

    Click Choose what to do when lid is closed.
  4. There are two categories here: On Battery and Plugged in. Under each column, select the drop down box to choose what happens when you close the lid.

    Choose the drop down menu and select do nothing.
  5. Select Do Nothing for one or both columns, depending on your needs.

    Screenshot of selecting "Do nothing" so when you close the lid of your laptop, it doesn't go into sleep mode.

Going forward when you close the lid the computer will continue to run, and will not disconnect from your monitor. That's the good news. But, there are two very important things to keep in mind here.

Warnings About Keeping Your Laptop on When Closed

First and foremost, if you choose Do nothing under the On battery category, that is fraught with risk. When you close the lid and toss the computer in a bag, it will continue to run and it can get very hot. Increased heat can damage your computer. It's vital that when you are not using the computer, to press the power button and put the computer to sleep.

Also, depending on the monitor you're using, your laptop may be powering the monitor as well, which can drain your battery a lot more quickly. For this reason, you can choose different settings for when your laptop is on battery and when it's plugged in. Chances are if you're using an external monitor, you're probably near a power source, so it may be a good idea to only change the close lid behavior when your computer is plugged in.