If you feel limited by the size of your computer display, consider getting a second monitor and setting up a dual monitor display. A dual-monitor setup is a great way to expand your computer display and speed up your workflow.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a dual-monitor setup includes two computer monitors. One functions as either an expansion or duplication of the other monitor. We’ll get to the specifics of setting up your dual monitors in a second.
But first, let’s take a quick look at why you might want this setup.
Advantages of dual monitors
Setting up dual monitors can improve your workflow and make multi-tasking easier. If you’re a business professional, you'll like having dual monitors
because they’ll give you a wider computer interface to view and organize all your different windows.
You might need to have an email window open, and a spreadsheet, and a web browser, and a word processing document. It would be difficult to fit all those windows on a single computer monitor
You’d have to keep some windows open and others minimized, and you’d constantly have to resize and switch back and forth between them. Consequently, your workflow would slow down because you’re spending so much time jumping between windows.
Cutting and pasting
Dual monitors allow you to open more windows simultaneously. You’ll be able to quickly reference information on another window without having to minimize the one you’re currently using. Also, you can cut and paste without opening and closing windows.
If you’re a creative professional, you probably already realize that a dual-monitor setup is a necessity. Creative applications often have very expansive interfaces, so it helps to have a dual monitor setup that can accommodate the width.
Dual monitors are also helpful if you’re giving presentations. Instead of having two monitors each displaying half of an interface, you could have one monitor duplicate the other. When you’re giving a presentation, you’ll probably have a different vantage point than that of your audience.
When you have duplicate displays, you’re able to place one monitor so that you can view it easily from your perspective, and you can position the other so that your audience can see it better from their perspective. It’s a more comfortable way of presenting information, for both you and your audience.
For online meetings such as Zoom and Skype, screen sharing is essential. If you have a dual monitor, you can see the presenter’s screen, and at the same time access your documents for informational or background purposes.
How to set up dual monitors on Windows 10
1. Make sure all cables are properly connected
First, make sure that all cables are properly connected. Here’s what to look for:
- The first monitor is connected to both your computer and a power outlet.
- The second monitor is connected to both your computer and a power outlet.
You’ll have to work with whatever ports your computer has available. For example, your computer might have 1 HDMI port and 1 VGA port. If your current monitor occupies the HDMI port
, you’ll have to make sure that your second monitor has a VGA connection
Laptops are a bit easier. A laptop already comes with a built-in display, so you won’t have to worry about having 2 available ports (unless you plan to have a 3-monitor setup).
If you have a monitor that doesn’t have a matching port, you can always buy a port adapter. A port adapter
usually plugs in to your computer’s USB port.
For example, if your monitor has an HDMI connection, you could buy a port adapter with an HDMI connector (for your second monitor) on one end and a USB connector (for your computer) on the other.
You do not need to link the 2 monitors to each other via a cable.
2. Choose your display settings
Your computer might not immediately recognize the second display. If not, then navigate to the display settings:
- Press the “Windows” key.
- Click the “Settings” button (the gear icon).
- Click the “Display” tab.
Now you can view your computer’s display settings. You can manage nearly all of the display characteristics on this page.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that your displays are arranged in the correct way. Both displays are represented by icons that are labeled either “1” or “2.”
Pro tip: If your computer didn’t automatically detect your second monitor, double check to make sure that everything’s plugged in correctly, and click the “Detect” button.
Each monitor is assigned a number, and you’ll want to make sure that the arrangement of the icons matches the way your monitors are arranged on your desktop
If Display 1 is on the left and Display 2 is on the right, you’ll want to make sure that the Display 1 icon is also on the left and the Display 2 icon is on the right. If the icons don’t match your arrangement, you can click and drag them to their correct position.
Windows 10 is a pretty smart operating system. If your monitors are different sizes, Windows 10 will make the display icons proportionally sized. Otherwise, you can click the “Identify” button and Windows 10 will denote the display number on each monitor.
3. Setting duplicate displays
If you want one display to duplicate the other, scroll down to the “Multiple Displays” selection. Change the setting from “Extend these displays” to “Duplicate these displays.”
4. Adjust brightness
Each of your monitors might have a different level of brightness. If you want each monitor to have the same brightness, you can make adjustments at the “Brightness and color” section.
- Click on the display icon of the monitor you want to change.
- Drag the “Change brightness” slider left or right to change the brightness.
Pro tip: Some monitors might not enable you to change their brightness settings here. You might have to change the brightness setting using the buttons on the monitor itself.
5. Adjust scale, resolution, and orientation
Scroll down further and you’ll reach the “Scale and layout” section. Here you’re able to change each monitor’s scaling (size of text, apps, etc.), resolution, and orientation.
Windows 10 will analyze the displays and recommend the best setting for each. If you have a very large monitor, there’s a possibility that the text and icons were scaled too small.
- Select the display icon of the monitor you want to change.
- Then click the down arrow and pick a new scaling setting.
- You can also click “Advanced scaling settings” and enter a custom scaling percentage.
You’re also able to change each monitor’s resolution. You can’t select a resolution higher than what the display is capable of presenting, but you can pick lower resolutions.
Nearly all monitors will be in a landscape orientation, but if you have a display that can rotate into a portrait orientation, you can adjust those settings here as well.
6. How to change your taskbar
Do you want your taskbar to be visible on all monitors? Or only one of the monitors?
- To change your taskbar settings, go back to the Windows Settings page and click “Personalization.“
- Then hit the “Taskbar” tab.
- Scroll down to the “Multiple displays” section.
- You can change the settings here.
Press the Windows key and the “P” key to open up a sidebar on your monitor. You’re able to change your basic display settings on the sidebar.
How to use Snap Assist
If you’re using dual monitors, you’ll probably have lots of windows open. You can use the Snap Assist tool to help organize all your windows. With Snap Assist, you can snap your windows side by side and they’ll occupy equal sections of the screen.
Good monitors for a dual setup
What kind of monitors and monitor sizes
should you get for a dual setup? First, your monitors should be able to fit well on your desk. Two monitors take up a lot of space
, so you might have to do some maneuvering to squeeze both of them on your desk. It helps to have monitors that are adjustable.
Second, your monitors should have similar specifications so that your computer interface extends seamlessly from one to another. Here are some of the best HP monitors for dual setups.
HP EliteDisplay E243i 24-inch monitor
The HP EliteDisplay E243i
is perfect for a dual setup. You can tilt, swivel, or pivot the monitor in any direction, so fitting it on your desk should be easy. It’s also able to swing from landscape orientation to portrait orientation, which gives you more flexibility with your interface.
A big plus is that the monitor has micro-edges. It seems as if the screen stretches nearly all the way to the edge of the monitor. The border is hardly noticeable. When you place two of these monitors side-by-side, it makes the screen extension look even more natural.
HP EliteDisplay E230t 23-inch touch screen monitor
The HP EliteDisplay E230t monitor is touch screen enabled. Touch screen monitors are good for dual setups. A possible drawback to a dual screen setup is that it can take a long time to move your cursor from one display to the next because there’s so much more screen space for your cursor to travel.
A touch screen monitor alleviates this problem. If you have your cursor on Display 1, and you need to click on something on Display 2, you can just tap Display 2 with your finger rather than moving your cursor all the way across the screen.
Dual screens can open up your workflow
If you frequently use multiple windows while you’re on the computer, get a second monitor and enjoy the ease of having two displays. Set up is easy! Just remember to plug in everything correctly and get ready to expand your workflow.
About the Author
Zach Cabading is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Zach is a content creation specialist based in Southern California, and creates a variety of content for the tech industry.