Dual monitors are a life (and neck) saver. They allow you to quite literally double your workload with only a few minutes of work, and the difference is truly night and day. And for the gamers reading this, you’ll love to know that dual monitors allow you to run Discord, Spotify, and any other apps you want while gaming – it really doesn’t get much better than that! If you’re trying to figure out how to connect two monitors to the same computer, look no further – I’ve got you covered.
There are three main ways to connect dual monitors: the “traditional” cable method, docking stations, and KVM switches.
Now without further ado, let’s hop right in, shall we?
Dual Monitor Setup 101
Let’s start with the simple stuff and work our way into the more technical ways of going about things. The first manner in which to set up dual monitors is quite simple – all you’ll need is a couple of output cables and five minutes.
Setting Up Two Monitors With The Traditional Method
Start by figuring out what you cables you need. You’ll find that the most common ones are HDMI cables, VGA, DisplayPort, or USB-C. Now, all you need to do is:
- Connect the cable to your computer’s display output port (it’ll be labeled).
- Connect the other end to the monitor you’re trying to attach – it should have a slot on the side or back.
- Activate the monitor.
- Go to your Windows or Mac menu and find:
- Windows: Settings > System > Display.
- Apple: System Preferences > Display > Arrangement
- Locate the “multiple displays” menu or dropdown box.
- Choose a setting:
- There are generally three – extend, duplicate, or show only 1/2. We’ll get into that momentarily below.
Now all that’s left is to enjoy your newfound freedom of display!
Setting Up Two Monitors With a Docking Station
Docking stations are fantastic. For the uninformed, docking stations are essentially a one-stop shop for your computer and all of its gadgets. They provide a wide range of plugins that your computer or laptop may lack, allowing you to connect monitors, speakers, microphones, webcams, and more to one universal central station.
As such, setting up dual monitors with a docking station is quite simple:
- Attach your docking station to your computer. They generally take either USB-C/A or Thunderbolt ports.
- It should provide a chime to indicate that it’s connected.
- Connect all of your gadgets and monitors to the docking station, ensuring that each one registers (it should “ding”) before continuing.
- From here on out, it’s pretty much steps 3-6 from up above.
- To ensure you’re done before fully wrapping up, check your drivers. Docking ports are often a bit intensive on older computers, so ensuring you have the software to actually handle two or three monitors is essential.
KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) switches are precisely what their name implies – it’s similar to a docking station, except it’s focused on running multiple computers through a single box.
To set up multiple monitors on a KVM switch, do the following steps:
- Turn off all computers and monitors you want on the KVM switch.
- Connect the power adaptor to your KVM switch.
- Attach your display (likely DisplayPort) cables going from your monitors to the KVM switch’s ports.
- Turn on your monitor.
- Attach your keyboard and mouse using the proper connectors (likely USB).
- Connect your first computer to the KVM switch.
- Bring all cables from the first computer to their matching input ports on the KVM.
- Power up your first computer.
- Ensure the mouse and keyboard are working.
- Don’t skip this. It’s a pain if you have to troubleshoot with semi-functional monitors and no mouse or keyboard.
- Repeat this process for all of the computers you wish to hook up.
Now enjoy! Seriously – that’s it.
Display Configuration (Windows & Mac)
This is where the fun begins! (Okay, it’s not fun, but it’s a sign that you’re close to being done.) Display configuration is the last big hurdle, no matter how you attach your monitor. Mac or Windows, it’s a simple process.
If you’re on Windows, take the following steps to get your monitors properly set up:
- Go to your Start (Windows) menu at the bottom of your screen.
- Locate Settings > System > Display. Generally, your computer will automatically detect any properly-attached monitors.
- Double-check that your cables are correctly and firmly secured if you aren’t finding your second (or third) monitor. Select Detect to find “missing” monitors.
- Select the native resolution for your monitors.
- Go to Multiple Displays, located below the resolution and orientation section as of the publication of this article (April 2022).
- Choose between extend, duplicate, or show only ½:
- Duplicate replicates the primary monitor’s desktop on the second and/or third screens.
- Extend stretches the display into “one big monitor” and is helpful for those who are constantly switching back and forth or working on larger design/artistic projects.
- Show only 1/2 will disable the nonselected monitor(s), making you unable to use your other monitors – this is not the goal, so don’t do this unless you’re trying to troubleshoot.
If you’re on Mac, here’s what to do:
- Go to the Apple menu, located on the top right of your desktop.
- Select system preferences > displays > arrangement.
- You’ll find that there’s a box that says mirror displays. This does what “duplicate” does for Windows – check it if you want; otherwise, leave it empty.
- Select the native resolution for your monitors.
- You’re done!
No matter your chosen platform, you’ll likely find a display depicting two monitors with numbers on them, labeled as “rearrange your displays” or something along those lines. The monitor labeled as one will be your primary monitor, the one labeled as two will be your second, and so on. Simply click and drag if you’d like them switched (say you have a 4k monitor and want that as the primary). They will automatically snap together and rearrange their ordering.
By Ethan Hauck