Determine your laptop's video output options. Most PC laptops have at least one port that can be used for video output. The most common ports are HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C. There are a few main types of connections that your laptop may have:
HDMI: This is a 6-sided trapezoid-shaped port that's about ¾ of an inch wide.
DisplayPort: The size is similar to HDMI, but one of the corners is bent inward while the other forms a 90-degree angle.
USB-C: This is an oval-shaped port on many modern PC laptops. Not all USB-C ports support connecting to a monitor, though. You can connect to a monitor with your USB-C port if you see one of the following:
If you see a lightning bolt with an arrow at the bottom next to the port, the port supports Thunderbolt 3, and you can use a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3-compatible monitor.
If you see an icon of a black "D" with a white "P" inside, the port supports DisplayPort, which means you can use a USB-C or DisplayPort-compatible monitor.
VGA or DVI: Less common nowadays are VGA ports, which are 15-holed ports with two pins on either side, and DVI ports, which have 24 holes and a gap on one side.
Determine your monitor's video input. Most modern monitors have HDMI, USB-C, and/or DisplayPort video inputs. If you have the same type of port on both the laptop and the monitor (such as HDMI on both), you can get a standard cable.
Otherwise, you'll want to get an adapter to connect two different technologies, such as a USB-C to HDMI adapter, or an HDMI to VGA adapter. All of these adapter types are common and can be found anywhere electronics are sold.
Use the cable to connect your laptop to the monitor.
Plug on end of the cable into your laptop's video port, and the other end into your monitor's video input port. Use an adapter to bridge the connection if necessary.
Plug in and turn on the monitor. Attach your monitor to a power source (e.g., an electrical outlet), then press the monitor's Power button.
- Once connected, you should see your laptop's desktop and icons (or some variation thereof) appear on the monitor's screen, you can proceed with setting up your laptop's display settings.
- If you are using a monitor or TV that has multiple inputs, you will need to select the port you connected your laptop to on the monitor.
. You can do this by clicking the gear icon in your Windows Start menu, or by pressing Windows key + I on the keyboard.
Click System. If you're using Windows 10, it'll be the computer icon in the Settings window. If you have Windows 11, it's the first option in the left menu.
Click Display. It's in the left panel on Windows 10, and in the right panel on Windows 11.
- If you're on Windows 10, click the drop-down menu under "Multiple Displays." On Windows 11, click the drop-down menu to the right of the "Identify" button.
- Select Duplicate these displays if you want to see the same exact thing on both screens at the same time.
- Select Extend these displays if you want to use the second monitor as a continuation of your desktop space. This lets you drag windows between screens.
- Select Show only on 1 if you want to use the monitor labeled "1" as your only monitor. This is your laptop's built-in screen. Choosing this will turn off the external monitor.
- Select Show only on 2 to only show your laptop's contents on the monitor that's labeled "2," which is the external monitor. This turns off your laptop's built-in screen as long as the external monitor is connected.
Choose a main display. If you're duplicating/mirroring your screens, skip this step. But if you're using two monitors together as an extended desktop, you'll want to choose which monitor is the main display, which is where apps open by default:
- Click the Identify button to display each monitor's number each screen it's assigned to.
- Click the display you want to make your main display.
- Select Make this my main display under "Multiple displays."
Rearrange your screens. The position of each rectangle in the Display window should reflect the placement of your monitors. For example, if your second monitor is to the left of your laptop's primary screen on your desk, you'll want the rectangle that represents your second monitor on the left side of the primary monitor rectangle. Drag the rectangles for each monitor until they match your desk's setup, and then click Apply.
- If you're extending your desktop, you can test the new setup by moving your mouse in the direction of the other monitor—the cursor will appear on the other screen when moved in the right direction.
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