If your laptop has two video ports, you're good to go. If not, you'll need an external USB display or display port splitter adapter or Thunderbolt port to connect two monitors to your laptop. The graphics or video card in most laptops is built into the motherboard, so you can't replace it or add a second card easily.
The hardware you choose depends on the existing ports on your laptop that you already have available for use. This article discusses three different ways to connect two or more monitors to a laptop.
Connect two monitors to the laptop using an external USB display adapter
These are adapters that turn your USB port into one or two external monitor ports. Most commonly, USB external display adapters are available to add an HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, or DVI port to your laptop.
Pay close attention to the USB port version required by these devices. Most modern USB video adapters require USB 3.0. You can check the version of the USB ports on your laptop by opening the Control Panel, selecting Device Manager and expanding the Universal Serial Bus controllers. You will see the USB ports listed there.
Before installing the adapter, you need to install the driver software that came with the adapter for it to work properly. If the driver software does not come with the adapter, you can download and install it from the manufacturer's website. The driver software allows the computer to communicate via the USB port to the adapter as if the USB port itself were multiple display ports.
Once the driver software is installed, shut down your computer. Plug the USB end of the adapter into the correct USB port on the laptop. Then, start your computer and let it boot completely before moving on to the next step.
With the driver installed, the computer should detect the two monitors. If the second monitor shows nothing after starting the computer, you may need to perform some troubleshooting steps to determine the cause of the added monitors not working.
Adjust the monitors so that the mouse cursor slides smoothly between the laptop display and additional monitors. Select the Start menu and type Display. Select Display Settings. You will now see the second and third displays. Adjust the display so they are positioned as they are next to your laptop display. Select Apply to accept the monitor positions.
Connect two monitors to the laptop using a Thunderbolt port
If you have a newer laptop, you may not even realize you have a special port on your computer called the Thunderbolt port. These ports are available on macOS and Windows 10 laptops.
This port is usually located near the power adapter port. The latest USB Type-C connector is a small oval port that packs powerful technology developed by both Intel and Apple. Older versions have a more rectangular shape and may be found on older laptops.
The port allows you to connect to a docking station with a single cable. The docking station provides video, audio, power, and even a data connection through that cable. More importantly, they provide access to two external monitor ports from that single Thunderbolt connection.
If you don't want to buy a full Thunderbolt docking station, you can buy a less expensive Thunderbolt adapter instead. These extend the single Thunderbolt port on the computer into two external monitors. If your computer also has an HDMI or Displayport port, that means you could connect up to three monitors to your laptop in addition to the laptop display.
If you have newer monitors, they may include a Thunderbolt input. In this case, you won't need to purchase a dock or hub to connect an external monitor to your laptop. However, if you want to connect two monitors to your laptop, your laptop will need two Thunderbolt ports.
The process of using a dock or hub is the same. Simply connect the Thunderbolt cable to your laptop and connect each monitor to the appropriate ports on the device. Then, adjust the position of each monitor in the Display Settings as described in the first section of this article.
Connect two monitors to the laptop using a display port splitter adapter
Older display port splitter devices were primarily for switching between two external monitors or for displaying the same video output on two screens. However, if you're looking to connect two monitors to a laptop, you're probably hoping to extend the display rather than mirroring.
Thankfully, the newer display port splitter adapters are able to take the single HDMI or DisplayPort output from your laptop and extend the video display output to two or more monitors.
When you need to connect two monitors to your laptop shop carefully, when looking for one of these display adapters that can extend displays, as most are mirroring only. Look carefully at the specifications before making your purchase.
Once purchased, simply connect the single display port cable to the laptop. Then use the cables to connect each of the adapter ports to each of the adapters. Many of these adapters provide plug-and-play installation without any software. Others may require driver software. Some may also require an external power adapter.
Once you have connected all the cables and turned on the splitter, you can adjust the monitor positions in Display Settings.
Choice of how to connect multiple monitors
When it comes to connecting two monitors to your laptop, the choice depends on the hardware capabilities of the laptop and monitors. Whether you are working with old technology or with the latest laptops and monitors, there is always a solution to connect two or more monitors to one laptop.
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