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

Because your laptop screen could only offer so much for your viewing, multi-tasking, or gaming enjoyment, just using one screen for everything doesn’t make the cut. In fact, there are many laptop savvies out there that opt to purchase an additional monitor for them to be able to have the optimum laptop-using experience by extending their view to make way for immersive viewing.

This need satisfies many demands including the itch to watch movies or play video games while monitoring your CCTVs or keeping yourself up to date with real-time data from various programs.

So, whether you’re into delving in your first-person shooting games with a wider stretch, or seeing your favorite series like never before, it would be great if you have the knowhow of connecting an extra monitor to your laptop like playing cards in the back of your hand.

There are different ports that support connecting an additional monitor and each port has its own set of cables that correspond to the connection needed to have everything working.


Video Graphic Array Cables: Known to be one of the legacy connectors that support many monitors over the years, VGA cables are staple to many laptop brands. In fact, VGA cables are available across different devices such as projectors, graphics cards, home theater systems, and TVs among others. When you purchase quality VGA cables, you’re in for high-resolution display support that can display 800×600 pixels and even beyond that of 1920×1200 pixels, with ease. Performance VGA cables can be identified with Foil & Braid shielding, as well as integrated dual ferrite cores. What these features do is that they suppress noise that occur due to electromagnetic interference (EMI), along with radio frequency interference (RFI) that commonly compromise image quality. It is also notable that connectors should be gold-plated with conductors that are made with copper. This is to assure that the needed electrical current for processing and transferring signals are uninterrupted. And because the fitting of the pins to the VGA slots are loose and easy to remove or connect, the purchased VGA cable should have molded strain relief connectors, grip treads, and finger-tightened screws so that the cables are secure and safely connected, promoting longer usage of the cable.


Digital Video Interface Cables: Created to be an industry standard in displaying video across devices, DVI cables provide better clarity and fidelity than VGA cables. They provide and present almost all of the same features and qualities found in the VGA cables such as shielding, interference blocking, and gold-plated connectors. However, unlike VGAs that transfer visual data via analog channels, DVI cables are meant to support analog and digital data. In a way, you could consider DVI cables as a younger but better sibling. Connectors are differentiated into three major types, with pins of which are different from each other. There’s the DVI-I that supports digital and analog connections, DVI-D for digital only, and DVI-A for analog only. In most cases, you could get the DVI-I for generalized support across different device brands and models.


High Definition Multimedia Interface Cables: Famous for displaying high-quality videos that support huge size resolutions, as well as audio that are crisp and powerful to the detail, HDMI cables are becoming a norm for many display devices, especially since most displays are into the 1080p, 2K, 4K, and even the 8K resolution range. Many people opt to choosing HDMI cables against other cables in the market due to its capability of delivering uncompressed audio and video regardless of size and quality. In fact, many of the modern-day devices and gadgets, such as projectors, monitors, and TVs are HDMI compatible. You will no longer find finger screws on the sides as HDMI cables are designed to interlock with its male-female ports internally. However, it’s still industry standard that ports are gold-plated to promote quality in transferring digital data across devices.


DisplayPort Cables: With the concept of unifying cables that transfer different forms of data, such as HDMI transferring both audio and video from the same source, defying the concept of VGAs that are only capable of transferring video, DisplayPort cables offer much more. These standardized cables can not only transfer uncompressed audio and video, but data, which also includes USB and other types. With the idea that DisplayPort is created to replace VGA and DVI, these systems are developed to support backwards compatibility with HDMI and DVI connections, provided that appropriate adapters are in place for playback and transfer. DisplayPort cables are all-in-one as it can support pretty much everything you could think of, from 4K to 3D, even working well with audio for home theater systems that deploy 7.1 channels.  As for features, DisplayPort cables are at best with interference blocking elements, with gold-plated cables. This time, however, quality cables are single-molded to body and frame to avoid cracking and displacement that occur due to frequent attachment and detachment from the ports.

USB Type C Cables: Over the years, we have seen the USB grow from its appearance to flash drives, down to connecting mobile phones for charging and data transfer. But as of recent, USBs have the capability of transferring large amounts of data, bigger and faster. With the dawn of USB Type C Cables come support for multiple device modes, such as audio and video.

Now that we’re aware of the different cables that could be used to connecting a monitor to a laptop, let’s get into the process of adding that extra monitor and have both the main and the sub monitor active and used at the same time.

Step #1: Check Spare Connections

Before you connect your second monitor, you need to confirm the connections available. Usually found at the edges of your laptop, it could be different ports such as VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB Type C (Thunderbolt 3).

Step #2: Supply Appropriate Cable

Once you confirm the port that’s available for you to use, supply the cable that would connect both the laptop and the monitor. While it is common sense to provide a cable that has the same ports on both ends, such as VGA to VGA or HDMI to HDMI, there are scenarios when you need to use a different ended port for the sake of compatibility and availability, corrected by adapters. Such common connectors include VGA to HDMI, USB Type C to DisplayPort, and many more.

Step #3: Connect the Cable

When you have the correct cable to use, it’s time to bridge the gap between two displays by connecting the cable to each device’s port. Once you’re successful with the connection, you’ll hear a notification tone confirming that the connected device is recognized by the laptop.

Step #4A: Choose to Extend on Windows 8 or 10

Because you’re looking to use two monitors once you have them connected and working, keep in mind that you need to extend your display. After you hear the notification in your laptop, press and hold the Windows Button, then press the P key. Doing so will open the “Project” option from the right-hand side of the screen where you could choose to use either one of the screens you connected, or you could Duplicate, and Extend.

Step #4B: Choose to Extend on Windows 7

If you wish to extend your screen on Windows 7, you simply right click anywhere on the Desktop screen. Click the “Screen Resolution” option, all you’ll be brought to the screen with the monitors numbered 1 and 2. Under the “Multiple Displays” option, click “Extend these Displays” then you’ll see your screens project wider or click “Apply” in case there’s no automated process going on. Click “Okay” when you’re done.

Step 5: Fine Tune Extended Monitor Settings

When the screen has been extended, Windows usually set things by default when it comes to placing which monitor is the main and the sub. While some are fine with the said automated configuration, others are comfortable with switching the extended monitor either to the left or the right of the laptop screen. To change it, just right click anywhere on the desktop screen and it should bring options for you to choose. It would be “Screen Resolution” for Windows 7 and “Display Settings” for later OS models.

Clicking on screen 2 gives would show the option “Make this my main display” underneath “Multiple displays”. Once you click the check box, your screen 2 becomes screen 1.

And that’s it. You’re now able to use both screens for your laptop where you can enjoy doing many things at the same time. Because Windows makes it easy for users to add multiple screens, even those who aren’t familiar with doing the said procedure won’t spend too much time tweaking stuff or fixing problems in case things doesn’t work for them.

One word of advice. If you’re quite the critic when it comes to setting resolutions before doing anything with your new setup, just sliding the resolutions up or down should do the trick.