Do you think your current laptop or PC monitor isn’t large enough to accommodate all your open projects?
Setting up a second display is a common solution to this problem without causing significant issues.
However, not all computers can accommodate two monitors.
Although most modern PCs are advanced enough for the dual monitor setup, you may wonder how to make sure.
Let’s explore the ways to make sure your PC accepts two monitors and how you can connect them.
How to Tell If Your Computer Supports Dual Monitors (3 Ways To Check)
1. Connection Ports
The most visible sign that you can connect your PC to multiple displays is the ports that enable such connections.
The number and type of connections on your laptop or desktop PC depend on its make and model.
However, most modern PCs offer a wide range of connections to let you hook up different devices, including displays, to your PC.
You can find these display ports on the back of your case and the sides of your laptop.
Here’s what you may find:
An HDMI connection port is one of the most common connections on almost all modern devices.
This universal connection type allows you to transfer pictures and sound, offering a great advantage over the older connection types that don’t transfer sound.
To identify the HDMI port on your PC, you can see its label printed next to the port, but it doesn’t have any specific color coding.
You may also see a number (like 2.0) next to the label that shows the HDMI version.
The Video Graphics Array is an older connection type you may find on older computers.
It looks like a female D-shape port with 15 pins in three rows with blue or black color coding and screw prongs on both sides.
You can find the VGA port on the graphics card’s slot to output video, but it doesn’t transfer audio sign
Digital Visual Interface ports are newer than VGA.
They can transfer digital signals, while the VGA can transmit analog signals.
It looks like a VGA port on your computer, with the same trapezoid shape but different numbers and shapes of pins.
The number of pins is different since there are various DVI ports, namely DVI-D (transmitting digital signals), DVI-A (transmitting analog signals), and DVI-I (transmitting analog and digital signals).
DisplayPort is the most recent connection type found on most modern computers and monitors.
It’s physically similar to an HDMI port, which has 19 pins.
DisplayPort has 20 pins and features two tiny latches that prevent the cable from loosening and disconnecting accidentally.
You can find different USB versions on your desktop and laptop computers, allowing you to connect different types of devices to your computer.
Even if you can’t connect your monitor to the PC through a USB port, you can use it to expand connection choices by connecting adapters.
F. Connection Ports On Mac Computers
Mac computers allow dual or multiple display setups depending on their model and hardware.
For example, if your Mac has the Apple M1 chip, it doesn’t support a dual display setup.
Mac computers with Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 ports can support up to two monitors.
However, you can increase the number of displays by daisy chaining if the display has a Thunderbolt port.
To do so, connect one display to the Mac and hook up the second display to the first through the Thunderbolt port.
If your Mac has Thunderbolt 3 ports, you can connect monitors equal to the number of ports.
Some Mac computers have Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI ports, allowing them to support up to four displays depending on the model.
2. Graphics Card
The ability of your PC to support dual or multiple displays comes from your graphics card.
The connection ports you check on the back of your PC case are connected to the dedicated or integrated graphics cards, allowing you to connect them to more than one display.
The number of display ports on your PC depends on whether you have an integrated or dedicated graphics card.
You may not get more than two display ports with an integrated graphics card, but a dedicated card will add to the number of ports.
In addition, having a certain number of display ports doesn’t mean you can use all of them at once.
Sometimes manufacturers include different connection ports to give you more freedom to select your desired connection type.
Even if you have multiple display ports, your graphics card may not support all of them.
You can check the graphics card’s specs to ensure it supports multiple displays.
You can find out through system Information if you don’t know what graphics card you have.
Type “System Information” in Cortana’s search box and click on the first result.
On the left panel of the window, expand the menu under Components and click Display.
You can see the name of your graphics card on the right panel.
Alternatively, you can access your graphics card through Device Manager > Display Adaptors.
Now, you can go to the manufacturer’s website and look for the graphics card’s specs.
You could also search the name of your graphics card + dual monitor, and you can easily see if it supports this setup.
3. System Settings
You can also check if your PC supports dual or multiple monitors through your system’s settings.
It’s also the quickest way since you only need to take a few steps.
Right-click the Start menu and go to Settings.
Click System to see a number of system settings in the new window.
The default window is Display, where you must scroll down to see the Multiple Display option.
If the option is available, your PC can handle dual monitors, and you can set them up via the same settings.
On a Mac computer, you can access this information by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
Navigate to About This Mac > Support > Specifications.
Expand the menu under Specifications to see the number of displays supported by your Mac.
What If Your PC Doesn’t Support Dual Monitors?
As mentioned, most computers manufactured over the past decade support dual and multiple displays since graphics card manufacturers offer their products with this capability.
However, if your computer is old and doesn’t support dual displays, you’re not out of luck.
You can overcome this limitation by upgrading some hardware.
Here’s what to do.
1. Get A New Graphics Card
As mentioned, your computer’s graphics card determines whether or not you can connect more than one display to your setup.
You can easily overcome this limitation by getting a new graphics card that supports dual monitors.
However, you need to consider different factors.
Firstly, laptops can’t have dedicated graphics cards.
You can use external GPU docks that sit on the desk and come with different connection ports that allow you to use dual displays.
For a desktop, you should consider the tower’s form factor and the number of PCIe slots.
You should also ensure your motherboard and power supply support the new graphics card.
The graphics card’s form factor can affect other components, and you may be unable to house it inside the case if it’s too big.
More importantly, you should consider the graphics card’s power requirements and make sure the computer’s PSU can handle it.
Some graphics cards come with dedicated power supplies, allowing you to get the full performance out of them.
The good news is that you don’t need a high-end, expensive graphics card if you only want to expand your display numbers.
However, if you want to boost your PC’s graphical performance or future-proof your system, you can invest in a more powerful card.
Installing an external graphics card is easy.
If it’s a GPU dock, you can simply plug it into the case, install the drivers, and get it going.
For a desktop PC, you’ll need to uninstall the old graphics card’s drivers, turn off the PC, and unplug all the connections before opening the case.
Install the card on the right PCIe slot and connect all the required cables.
After turning on the PC, you’ll need to install the drivers.
2. Get An Adaptor
If your PC only has one display port (which is unlikely), you can extend the number of ports using an adaptor.
Sometimes, the output ports on a PC don’t match those on your display, which you can handle using these adapters.
These adaptors come in various shapes and connection ports, allowing you to convert a connection port (like USB) to another (like HDMI).
Each adaptor has two or more connection ports, allowing you to connect more than one monitor to your PC.
You can also get a docking station, which connects to the computer via the USB port and gives you several connection types, including HDMI and DisplayPort.
3. Daisy Chain Displays
DisplayPort connections allow you to connect several displays by daisy chaining.
Of course, the DisplayPort is a relatively new connection type, indicating that if your computer has a DisplayPort, it’s recent enough to support multiple displays.
You can keep this in mind for other situations, like when using a docking station with a DisplayPort.
In such cases, your monitor needs to have a DisplayPort-out connection.
After connecting the monitor to the PC, you can connect the second monitor to the first one through its DisplayPort-out.
4. Screen Mirroring
If you have a smart TV, you can connect your PC to it without using ports or cables.
Windows 10 can project the contents of its screen onto compatible devices wirelessly.
Setting up the devices for a wireless connection is straightforward.
Go to Settings > Devices > Display > Advanced display settings.
Click Select Wireless Display and find your TV from the list of available devices.
If you can’t find the option, you need to enable it first.
Go back to the system settings window and click Projecting to this PC on the left panel.
Click Optional features, go to the new window, and hit the + icon next to Add a feature.
Scroll down to find the Wireless display towards the end of the list, select it, and click Install.
This option requires a fast and reliable internet connection and a smart TV.
If you don’t have a smart TV, you can use Wireless display adapters.
These adapters don’t require a WiFi connection and connect to your PC automatically, allowing you to project your PC content onto the TV screen.
You can use the mirroring technology on a Mac computer, too.
Access the setting via the Apple menu > System Preferences > Displays > Display Settings.
Select your monitor or TV from the list and click Mirror for Display.
How To Connect Two Monitors To A PC
After making sure your PC supports a dual-display setup, connecting the monitors is pretty straightforward.
All you need to do is get the right cables, connect the devices, and tweak some settings.
Here’s what to do:
1. Select The Best Connection Type
If you have the luxury of choosing from different connection types, you may wonder which gives you the best performance.
As a rule of thumb, the newer ports are better because of their newer technology.
As a result, you should go for HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB-C instead of VGA and DVI.
In addition to being old, VGA doesn’t transmit audio signals, so you’ll need another cable to transfer audio.
HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C are all viable choices allowing you to get high-resolution images, although USB-C seems like a simpler option because it can replace the other standards.
The only thing to consider is getting the right type of cable that matches the port and its standard and can deliver the highest image quality.
You should also pay attention to the port size because DisplayPort and HDMI have standard and mini ports, requiring different cables.
Another important consideration is whether the port is connected to the dedicated or integrated graphics card if you have two cards.
The dedicated card’s slots are near the bottom of the case on the back, while the integrated GPU ports are higher near the PSU.
It’s better to choose the ports from the same graphics card to prevent lag and different graphical quality.
In addition, if you have a dedicated card, chances are high that you’ve disabled the integrated graphics card, so you can’t use its ports.
2. Connect The Devices
After deciding on the connection type and getting the right cable, setting up a dual monitor is easy.
You can connect the cables without turning the devices off.
The only exceptions are VGA ports, which aren’t hot-swappable, so you should turn off the devices, connect them, and then turn them on.
However, if your PC can’t detect your HDMI or DisplayPort-connected monitors, you may want to turn them off, reconnect the cables, and turn them on.
3. Adjust The Settings
After turning on the devices, you can get images on both screens and start working.
You can tweak some settings to tailor the displays to your needs and preferences.
Right-click a blank space on your desktop and select Display Settings.
In the new window, you can see the connected monitors and select one of them as the main display.
The main display is marked with the number 1 and shows your taskbar and start menu.
You can also adjust the two displays’ resolutions and refresh rates through the Advanced display settings option.
Select each monitor and tweak the settings that you want.
Now, press the Windows key + P to open the Project menu.
Here, you can decide what part of the screen to have on each monitor.
The Duplicate option will show the same image on both monitors, and Extend will divide the desktop between them.
If you have a laptop, you can choose the Second screen only option to leave out the laptop screen.
Can Dual Monitor Affect Performance?
Adding a second monitor to your setup is exciting and can increase the real estate on your desktop.
You may wonder if it affects your display’s performance or strains the GPU.
After all, you’re doubling its task by adding more pixels to cover.
However, if your graphics card supports dual display, it shouldn’t have issues performing regular tasks.
Demanding jobs, like playing games, can increase the workload on the GPU.
In that case, you may want to get a powerful dedicated GPU that can take the extra burden.
In addition, you may experience lags while playing games on dual monitors, which you can overcome by tweaking settings and getting a powerful graphics card.