How to Connect your Laptop to a Monitor and Use Both Screens

Laptops have become more and more powerful over the last few years, but there’s one thing that’s hard to overcome: small screens. Unless you’re going to carry a 17-inch monster around – and even a 17-inch monitor is tiny by today’s standards – you’re forced to work on a monitor from about 11-15 inches.

So when you’re at your desk, it’s a good idea to hook up a large monitor to make things a little easier. And you can even continue to use the laptop screen for more desktop real estate.

An increasingly popular option is a portable monitor that you can take with your laptop and power it from a USB-C port. Lenovo’s M14 – shown above – is a good example and isn’t terribly expensive at $199 (about £220 in the UK).

Most laptops have at least one connector that can be used to plug into a monitor, be it HDMI, VGA, DVI, or DisplayPort. Some very thin laptops require adapters because there’s no room for a full-size DisplayPort or HDMI output, and this isn’t always provided in the box.

Although we’re talking about laptops, connecting a second monitor to a PC is just as easy: just look and know which port is on the back.

If you don’t have a monitor yet, be sure to choose one whose input matches your laptop’s output. Simply put, we have a list of our recommendations for the best monitors to buy.

It is sometimes possible to mix and match several digital options. For example, you can convert DVI to HDMI with a basic cable. But you cannot convert an analog signal (such as VGA) to digital, such as HDMI, without an active electronics box: any passive cables you find for sale will not work.

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The latest laptops may only have USB-C ports. This is the same physical connector you’ll find on most new Android phones. It’s reversible, and you can buy a USB-C to HDMI or USB-C to DisplayPort cable, depending on which of these inputs your monitor has.

Here’s what to look for on both your laptop and monitor:

Connecting a monitor to a laptop - port diagram

Another option is to use USB socket boasts one or more HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI or VGA ports, as well as additional USB ports, a memory card reader, Gigabit Ethernet for wired Internet access, etc.

You connect to the dock with a USB cable and instantly have access to all of the dock’s ports.

Pluggable USB socket

Check to see if your laptop uses USB-C or older USB-A (also known as USB 3.0) to choose the right dock. We tested the best USB-C and Thunderbolt docks. A dock like Plugable’s UD-3900 works well for older USB-A/USB 3.0 laptops: under £100 in the UK and under $90 in the US via Amazon.

How to set up a second monitor in Windows

Once you’ve connected the right wires between your laptop and your monitor (and powered the display, if needed), it’s time to configure Windows to use both displays.

In most cases, Windows will automatically detect when a monitor is plugged in and on, and copies the contents of your laptop’s screen onto it. If you don’t see anything on the screen, use its buttons to find the menu and see if you can select the correct video input as not all will automatically switch to the available input. video signal.

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Next, right-click on the Windows desktop and select Display settings. Or, click Start, Settings and System. Here you will find options like orientation, text size, and resolution.

Connect the monitor to the laptop

How to duplicate or extend Windows desktop on two monitors

You have a variety of options for showing what’s on each of the two screens.

Replication: The second screen mirrors what’s on your laptop screen. • Extend: The Windows desktop is spread across two monitors. • Show only on 1 or 2: Only one of the screens will be used (click Define to see which).

Another way to switch between these modes is to find a function key on the top row of keys on your laptop, where two screens are displayed. Press the Fn key and that function key and it will cycle through different profiles: laptop screen only, laptop + external monitor, external monitor only.

Dual screen option

In most cases, you’ll want to select ‘Extend these screens’ so that you can treat the second monitor as a separate desktop where you can run an application other than the one currently displayed. displayed on your laptop screen.

Then drag display 2 in the diagram below the ‘Customize your display’ heading to its actual location on your desk. It defaults to the right side of your laptop screen, which is probably fine if that’s where you put it.

If the screen’s resolution is larger than your laptop’s, the rectangle will be larger in the diagram – it has nothing to do with the actual size of the screen.

You can drag the icon of the second monitor so that the bottom edges align, or you can have equal area top and bottom: that’s entirely up to you. But keep in mind that this will affect how you have to move your mouse between monitors.

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Check that the per-monitor resolution is set to each monitor’s native resolution – you may have to check the specs if you don’t already know these.

For high-resolution screens (mostly 4K screens), you’ll probably want to use the ‘Resize text, apps, and other items’ slider to make sure everything is in place. easily readable. Typical setting is 150% -250%.

Dual screen resolution

When you are satisfied, click Apply and the changes you just made will be reflected on the screen connected to your laptop.

And now you can use your connected display like a laptop screen: you can place shortcut icons on it, open apps, and even run multiple apps.


If you have one of Apple’s MacBook laptops or desktop Macs, check out Macworld’s advice on how to connect a second display to your Mac.

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