Laptops have gotten increasingly powerful in recent years, but there’s one trade-off that’s hard to beat: a small screen. Unless you’re going to be carrying a 17-inch monster, and even a 17-inch screen is small by today’s standards, you’re bound to work on a screen between 11 and 15 inches.
so when you’re at a desk, it’s worth hooking up a large monitor to make things a little easier. and you can even continue to use the laptop screen to get more desktop space.
Reading: How to connect monitor with laptop
an increasingly popular option is a portable monitor that you can carry with your laptop and power from a usb-c port. The Lenovo M14, pictured 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 connect a monitor, be it hdmi, vga, dvi, or displayport. some of the very thin laptops require an adapter as there is no room for a full size display port or hdmi output and this is not always included in the box.
Although we’re talking about laptops, it’s just as easy to connect a second display to a PC – just take a look and see what ports are on the back.
If you don’t already have a display, be sure to choose one with an input that matches your laptop’s output. Conveniently, we’ve listed our recommendations for buying the best monitors.
sometimes it is possible to mix and match some of the digital options. for example, you can convert dvi to hdmi with a basic cable. but you can’t convert an analog signal (like vga) to a digital one, like hdmi, without an active electronics box – any passive cable you find for sale won’t work.
newer laptops may only have a usb-c port. 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 cable, or a usb-c to displayport cable, depending on which of these inputs your display has.
Here’s what to look for both on your laptop and on screen:
another option is to use a usb docking station that has one or more hdmi, displayport, dvi, or vga ports, as well as additional usb ports, memory card readers, gigabit ethernet for internet via cable access and more.
You connect to the base with a single USB cable and immediately gain access to all ports on the base.
Check if your laptop uses USB-C or the old USB-A (also known as USB 3.0) to choose the right dock. we’ve 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. uu. through amazon.
how to set up a second screen in windows
once you’ve connected the appropriate cable between your laptop and the monitor (and supplied power to the monitor, if necessary), it’s time to configure windows to use both displays.
In most cases, windows will automatically detect when a monitor is connected and turned on, and mirror the content of your laptop’s screen onto it. if you don’t see anything on the screen, use your buttons to find the menu and see if you can select the correct video input, as not all of them will automatically switch to an input with an incoming video signal.
then right click on windows desktop and choose display settings. or click start, settings and system. here you will find options such as orientation, text size and resolution.
how to mirror or extend windows desktop on two monitors
You have several options for what to display on each of the two screens.
• mirror: the second monitor mirrors what’s on your laptop screen. • extend: the windows desktop is distributed between the two monitors. • show only on 1 or 2: only one of the screens will be used (click identify to see which is which).
Another way to toggle between these modes is to look for a function key on the top row of keys on your laptop that shows two monitors. press the fn key and that function key and it should toggle through the various settings: laptop display only, laptop + external display, external display only.
In almost all cases, you’ll want to choose “extend these displays” so you can treat the second monitor as a separate desktop where you can run a different application than the one displayed on your laptop screen.
then drag monitor 2 in the diagram under the “customize your display” heading to where it is physically located on your desktop. By default, it appears on the right side of your laptop screen, which may be fine if you put it there.
if your monitor’s resolution is higher than your laptop’s, the rectangle will be larger on the diagram; it has nothing to do with the actual size of the monitor.
You can drag the second monitor icon so the bottom edges line up, or you can have an equal area above and below – it’s entirely up to you. but remember that this will affect the way you have to move the mouse between screens.
verify that the resolution of each display is set to the native resolution of each monitor; you may need to check the specs if you don’t already know these numbers.
for screens with high resolutions (mainly 4k monitors), you’ll probably want to use the “change the size of text, apps, and other items” slider to make sure everything is easy to read. typical settings are 150%-250%.
once you’re satisfied, click apply and the changes you just made should be reflected on the monitor connected to your laptop.
And now you can use your connected monitor like your laptop screen: you can put shortcut icons on it, open apps, and even run multiple apps.
If you have one of Apple’s MacBook laptops or Mac desktops, check out MacWorld’s tips on how to connect a second display to a Mac.