If you’ve ever worked in the retail or service industry, and most of us have put in our dues in one of these two industries, you probably used to daydream about having a computer-based job. How nice it would be! To spend the whole workday in a comfy chair rather than on your feet; to listen to music of your choosing instead of the canned 80s hits on the overhead speakers while you worked; maybe even to have the flexibility of working from home or a coffee shop. It would be a cinch!
Unlike the greatest generation, most of those in the workforce today were born and raised on computers, or maybe came into them in early adulthood. Computers feel second-nature to most, and with the changing professional landscape, many want a gig where they sit down and stare at a display all day long.
Of course, anyone who’s ever had a computer-based job will tell you that it’s no walk in the park. When you’re sitting for 40 hours per week
, you start craving your daily walk like you’re a restless dog. And it can also be tough to get work done on a computer.
When you have to jump back and forth between a dozen windows - your messenger app, spreadsheets, docs, cloud drive, websites, email, etc. - you might suffer from poor workflow that could prevent you from being efficient and productive. “Why can’t my computer screen be just a few inches wider?” you sigh.
We feel you at HP®. Luckily there’s a very easy solution to several of these problems. You can simply set up multiple displays instead of using a single screen. You wouldn’t believe how much easier your work life will be when you have multiple displays at your fingertips. Multiple monitors can help you be more productive, which in turn will make you feel less confined in your workspace.
In this crash course, we’ll teach you how to master a triple monitor setup to power up your PC productivity.
Benefits of a multi-monitor setup
Screen real estate
The biggest benefit to having more than one monitor is that you’ll have more “screen real estate.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that you’ll have a larger interface on which to spread out and organize all your open windows.
If you’re in the business world, here’s a few possibilities for windows you might have open:
- The first window is a Word document
- The second window is a spreadsheet
- The third window is a web browser
- The fourth window is your email account
- The fifth window is a video chat (maybe you have a few video conferences scheduled for today)
If you need to have all these windows open and you are only working on a single monitor, it’s difficult to fit all five windows on-screen at once (and keep in mind that spreadsheets and video conferencing typically require more screen real estate - web browsers, too, if there are lots of tabs open).
At the very least, you could benefit from a dual-monitor setup
in this particular situation. If you have two monitors, you wouldn’t have to squeeze four windows onto a single screen or minimize some of the them. Instead, you could fit two windows on one screen, and two or three windows on the other screen. Each window gets more screen real estate, and that in turn enables you to view more information on each window.
To outsiders, this might sound a bit neurotic. But if you’re reading this, you’re probably a business person who has been stuck in the very scenario, in which case we don’t have to explain to you why it’s so important to have a workflow that’s fast as lightning.
That’s the cold reality of a computer-based job - every second counts, and if you don’t get your work done at the office, well, you take it home with you - that’s what a laptop is for, after all. Time is money, as they say, and it’s also happiness.
We’ll help you use multiple monitors to keep the work machine rolling, and to ensure you can shut it off when the workday ends with all the loose ends tied up til tomorrow.
The question you should ask yourself is this: Do I need 2 monitors or 3 monitors? Only you can answer that because you’re the one who knows how much screen real estate you’ll need to accommodate your multi-tasking. If you have a tight workspace, 2 monitors will likely have to be enough. But if you’re able to arrange your workspace so that you can fit 3 monitors, you’ll feel less cluttered and all the more productive. You’d be amazed by how much more you can do with just a little more screen real estate.
Having that third screen
Even if you only generally use 2 screens, a third screen can really come in handy at times. You can use the third screen to exclusively display:
- A very wide spreadsheet or document
- Your email account - if you’re on the lookout for an urgent email, it’s nice to have it sectioned off to the third screen so that you can get it out of your workspace (the windows you’re actively using)
- Web browsers with reference info displayed
- “Fun windows,” like Spotify, Audible, or even social media (but try not to get too distracted)
Again, the main purpose of having multiple monitors is to avoid minimizing windows. It’s always best to have all windows in plain sight. As they say: the more you can see, the more you can do.
How to set up multiple monitors
It’s very easy to set up multiple monitors. Here’s how to do it:
1. Get a compatible monitor
First, you’ve got to get your second monitor (later in this post we’ll recommend some great HP monitors that work well in multi-display setups). Plug the second monitor into your computer, and be sure to also plug it into a power outlet.
When you buy a second monitor, try to get a monitor that has a compatible connector. For example, some monitors use an HDMI cable. Other monitors use a VGA cable. If your computer only has an HDMI port, you should try to find a monitor that utilizes an HDMI connection. You might not want to get a monitor that uses VGA if your computer doesn’t have a VGA port.
That being said, you can often find cable adapters that can remedy a connector mismatch. If you buy a monitor that uses HDMI, but your computer only has VGA, you should be able to find a video adapter cable
that enables you to plug the VGA connector into your computer’s HDMI port. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll pay a little extra money for the adapter. But it’s not as expensive as buying a whole new computer with the proper ports, and a mismatched connector shouldn’t keep you from buying a monitor you love.
If you’re going to be connecting 2 extra monitors to your computer, you might find that you don’t have enough video ports. That’s another instance in which you’d want to buy a video adapter.
2. Arrange your monitors
Now you must decide how you want to arrange your monitors.
First consider orientation. Do you want all of your monitors to be positioned horizontally? Or do you want one or more of your monitors to be positioned vertically? There are some advantages to the vertical orientation.
If you have documents or spreadsheets that have a long, vertical listing of data, it might help you to position at least one monitor in a vertical orientation. You can use that monitor to display that particular document.
Often doctors will have one of their monitors in a vertical orientation to accommodate their ERM (electronic medical records) or financial planners to see necessary lists of transactions without scrolling.
Consider getting an adjustable height stand
, too. This stand has a rotating plate that enables you to easily rotate the display into different orientations.
Next, you must decide where you want to place the monitors on your desktop (literally, which one do you want to place on your left side, and which one do you want to place on your right?). Obviously, you’re going to have to take your workspace into account.
If you plan on doing video conferencing, be mindful of where you place the monitor that has the webcam. You don’t want to place that monitor at an uncomfortable angle that makes it difficult to video conference or where those talking to you are looking at your profile.
3. Adjust your display settings
When you hook up multiple monitors, one of them will always be designated as “Display 1,” and the others will be designated as “Display 2,” “Display 3,” and so on, so forth. Display 1 is the primary monitor that features the task bar.
Your computer makes an educated guess as to which monitor is placed where, but sometimes it makes a mistake. It might think the monitor placed on the left is placed on the right, and vice versa. If your display settings are correct, you should be able to smoothly glide your mouse from one screen to the next. If not, you’ll have to adjust your display settings.
To change display settings:
- Hit the Start button
- Click Settings
- Click System
- Click on the Display tab
There are monitor icons that you can drag to match the position of the displays on your desk. Click the Identify button and the labels will pop up on each monitor so you’ll know which icon is which. It may take some toying with, but you’ll get the hang of it fast.
On the Display tab, you’re also able to change the orientation of the displays (in case you flipped one in the vertical position), and you can choose whether you want the displays to mirror each other or simply be extensions of one long interface. We don’t recommend changing the resolution of any of the monitors. Your computer will analyze the monitors and choose the best possible resolution for each.
How to wall-mount multiple monitors
Tight workspace? If you’re unable to squeeze a second or third monitor on your desk, consider mounting one on the wall. You’ll only be able to do this if your desk is pressed up against a wall that’s capable of supporting a mounted monitor, but if so it can ease your desktop clutter.
If you have an HP monitor, you can mount it on the wall with an HP B300 PC mounting bracket
. You can easily install this bracket with just a few simple tools, and it’ll keep your monitor securely fastened to the wall. If your monitor can tilt or swivel, rest assured that this bracket won’t restrict those movements.
There are also brackets that can hold multiple monitors
which mount onto the back edge of your desk if the wall is not an option. Look for one that will fit your brand and size of monitor to make sure that your monitors are held securely in place.
Using a standing desk with 3 monitors
Standing desks are currently one of the most popular office accessories. It’s well known that sitting for long hours might not be good for your health. A standing desk enables you to quickly transition between sitting and standing while you’re working.
Standing desks have a smaller amount of space for your computer equipment, and you might not have room to place 3 individually mounted monitors on it. Use the HP Hot Desk 2nd Monitor Arm
. This adjustable mount can hold two displays, but it only has one stand so you won’t use up so much room on your standing desk. This mount also supports tilt and swivel motions.
Best monitors for multiple displays
If you’re going to have a multi-monitor setup, consider getting displays that have micro-edges. These are monitors that have extremely narrow borders around the screen. What makes these displays great for dual and triple setups is that you can place them side-by-side and the transition from screen to screen will be very fluid and visually uninterrupted due to the lack of solid edges. They almost look as though they’re the same monitor. Check out our selection of micro-edge displays
A curved display
would be a great option, too. Curved displays have curved screens that cater to your peripheral vision - they basically give you a wider view of the entire screen. If you want to be truly immersed in your work, place two or three curved displays side by side. They have to be side to side if you want a fluid mouse transition across each screen. Keep in mind that you may need a larger space to accommodate curved displays.
If you’ve never tried a dual or triple monitor setup, try it and be wowed by how much of a boost your productivity gets. It’s easier than you think to connect a second and third monitor. Remember that when you have a computer-based job, your screen real estate is your workspace. The larger your workspace, the more you’ll be able to get done when you’re on the clock.
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.