Working in front of a laptop can be daunting, especially when the screen is cramped with so many open programs. The solution? Multiple displays.

Let’s say you’re working online as a researcher, which is by no means an easy profession due to its strict nature for precision and project management. In many cases, you’d want your favorite browser open all the time and maximized to see all information in one go. You might also need Skype or another messaging app open in case you need constant collaboration with a colleague or your boss. Lastly, you’d want some place to store the materials you’ve obtained for archiving purpose, thus needing another app open such as Microsoft Word or Evernote.

Instead of repeatedly switching between apps or having to resize windows to fit one display, you can make use of additional monitors to accommodate more open applications. With more screen real estate, there’s less pressing of Alt+Tab to bring the necessary window on top of the others. More information would be conveniently viewable with less zooming and scrolling. Prices of monitors have also gone down to attractively affordable levels, giving you even fewer reasons not to install more displays. So if you’re convinced, continue reading this guide.

Scope and Limitations

Before you start tinkering with your computer system, please be reminded that this guide is guaranteed to work with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 only. Linux, Mac, and earlier Windows operating systems also support extra monitors, but they are not covered in this guide. Differences in hardware may also mean compatibility issues.

Owners of expensive computers should also find another tutorial that can teach them how to make the most of their high-end video cards. These top-tier cards from AMD or NVIDIA usually feature multi-display technologies, allowing them to use several displays as if they’re one gigantic display.

So, what exactly is this guide for? To put it simply, this teaches you how to connect one or two displays into your laptop computer. Each additional display acts as extension to the main display, giving more real estate to your workspace.

What You Need

If your work needs only call for one additional monitor for office efficiency, then you only have to acquire the monitor itself and a compatible cable to connect it to your computer. There are a variety of cables/connectors for different video interfaces, so be sure which ports your computer and the monitor have in common. In laptops, the common ports are VGA and HDMI. Also make sure that your laptop’s hardware can keep up with the monitor’s supported resolutions.

Laptop VGA HDMI ports

When you’re planning for more than a single extra monitor, you will then need an external video card or a USB display adapter besides the items mentioned above. One of the finer adapters available for multi-display purposes is the Matrox TripleHead2Go DisplayPort. Its key features are the following:

  • Support of up to three extra monitors
  • Compatible with Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, and Mini DisplayPort video outputs
  • Compatible with PC and Mac systems

How to add more monitors to your laptop computer

Customizing your computer with new peripherals is usually a scary task for computer illiterates, but a task as simple as adding more displays is actually easy and usually without problems. As it only takes a couple of minutes, let’s start with adding just one display.

Dual Display (how-to):

Turn the monitor on and connect it to your laptop through their common port and using the right cable. Older laptops usually come with the VGA port, while newer ones sport HDMI.

If connected properly, Windows should automatically detect the monitor and turn it into a duplicate display, meaning it clones whatever is shown in the main screen. But what we want is for it to be an extended display. Doing so requires going to Screen Resolution, which can be opened in the Control Panel or by right-clicking the desktop background.

Windows Screen Resolution settings

Two monitors should be illustrated in the Screen Resolution window, each marked with either “1” or “2”. Select the one corresponding to your extra monitor (usually “2”). Choose Extend desktop to this display under the Multiple displays drop-down list.

Click OK to save settings.

The relative positioning of the monitors to each other will determine at what screen edge you move your mouse to navigate from screen to screen. So if the extra monitor is positioned to the right of the main display (as configured in Screen Resolution), you just move the mouse to your main screen’s right edge until the cursor disappears and instantly reappears in the extended display.

Triple Display or More (how-to):

If you’ve done the dual display setup effortlessly, then let’s take it up a notch with triple displays. For this guide, I used two 20-inch Samsung monitors. The size and screen resolution you need for each monitor depend on your wants, but most configurations suggest uniformity. With more monitors to connect, your laptop likely doesn’t have the luxury of ports to accommodate them all. That’s where USB display adapters come in. If you can’t afford the TripleHead2Go, there are cheaper options available, such as CD-R King’s ADT-V003-M and VIEWX2 USB to VGA adapters.

CDR King USB to VGA Adapter for multiple displays

Start by connecting the first monitor as described in the dual display setup.

Insert the display adapter into one of your laptop’s available USB ports. Install a driver if Windows fails to find one automatically.

Connect the second monitor through the adapter once the latter is installed correctly.

Open the Screen Resolution settings again in order to set all monitors into extended displays.

Customize the relative positions of all displays. Their placement should match how their physically placed to avoid confusions.

Hit OK to apply and save settings.

Voila! You now know how to set up multiple displays.

  • Marlon Reyes

    Thanks for the wonderful guide. Been thinking of doing this set up din

  • plrgl

    i wanna try this setup but im afraid that my laptop can’t handle another monitor. can my video card (intel hd graphics core i3) handle another monitor?

    • conanhughes

      If its manufacturer did bother to add an external monitor port, then your laptop should be able to handle more displays. Supported resolutions may vary, though.

      • plrgl

        thank you (:

  • John Leonard Fabrero

    My laptop only had an HDMI port while my monitor only had VGA how can I connect the two? thanks in advance.

    • conanhughes

      buy an HDMI to VGA converter cable from computer stores (Octagon, CDR King, etc)

  • FanBoy

    Seriously? lol GMG is the answer to everything

  • I got a ASUS S550C i5, 8GB RAM, 2GB Geforce GT. It’s hooked to a 2nd monitor via HDMI, works well. But now, I’m trying to hook up a 3rd monitor via VGA. Windows 10 detects it but there is no option to run all 3. Is that a Windows 10 issue or a ASUS issue and/or will this USB to VGA adapters work for me? Thanks