How to Setup Three Monitors on a Laptop

Wow your friends and colleagues with a triple monitor setup

What to Know

  • If your laptop has three video ports, you're good, but very few laptops have this. Likely you'll need an external display adapter or dock.
  • After connecting your displays, arrange them properly on your computer, so each monitor's position is correctly identified.
  • Most modern laptops and operating systems are aware when you've plugged in additional monitors and automatically begin using them.

This article covers how to set up three monitors on a laptop. Depending on your specific setup, you may have to do some tweaking on your own, but this guide will outline the steps required to get the average laptop up and running with three monitors.

Apple's line of notebook computers using the "M1" processor officially support only one external monitor.

How to Connect Multiple Monitors to a Laptop

Depending on your laptop, you might have multiple video ports or none at all. To connect three monitors to your computer, you'll need three video ports.

If your laptop doesn't have three available ports, you'll have to buy a dock or adapter that provides additional ports.

You'll need to determine which ports your external monitors have to know what kind of dock to buy.

  1. Once you have the dock (or the cables), it's really a matter of plugging it all in. Assuming your OS is up to date, the system should recognize each monitor.

  2. That's really it. In fact, it's the easiest part. Now you have to configure it all.

Adjusting Multiple Monitor Settings

Once your monitors are connected, you'll want to make sure you set them up on your computer correctly to get the most out of using them.

Here are the most important settings to adjust:

  1. Orientation is the number one thing to get right with a multi-monitor setup. You want to make sure your monitors' physical arrangement matches the computer's virtual arrangement of them, so your device knows which monitor is next to which.

    On a Mac, you'd go to Apple > System Preferences > Displays and then click the Arrangement tab. Here's an example with just one additional monitor attached (not everyone is fancy with three monitors!). Each monitor will have a separate control for orientation (landscape or portrait).

    The Arrangement tab and additional monitor attached.

    On a Windows machine, you'd go to Start > Settings > System > Display and it would look like this:

    Three monitors hooked up to a PC running Windows.
  2. Resolution is a crucial display setting. With a triple monitor setup, it can be jarring to drag windows across displays with very different resolutions. Depending on your configuration, you might want to run them all at the same resolution or with different magnifications if you have a particularly high-resolution display.

    It's important to keep in mind that whatever your monitor's highest supported resolution is will be the resolution that looks the sharpest and most clean on that display. So, you'll want to decide if consistency or sharpness matters to you most.

  3. Refresh rate is another critical component of any display. With multi-monitor setups, how smoothly you can drag your windows across your screen becomes essential, as it is often visually jarring to see a high refresh rate become a low one.

    Accordingly, you'll want to run your primary display at the highest refresh rate possible and do your best to match this refresh rate on your other monitors.

    However, if you have various displays with various refresh rates and consistency won't be possible either way, it's best to run at the highest refresh rate possible.

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