Your laptop screen is probably enough if you spend a lot of your time working on the go. However, if you’re spending hours at your desk, your laptop’s display might start feeling a bit small and cramped.
If squinting on your small single display is causing eye strain, it might be time to connect two monitors and one laptop. Many people are happy with adding another extra monitor to their laptop display, but sometimes, you just want more screen space to work!
There are a handful of ways to connect two monitors to a laptop — and we provide three step-by-step guides to do so.
Advantages of Using Dual Monitors with a Laptop
Laptops are fantastic when you’re on the go, but there’s no doubt that smaller displays and a lack of screen real estate can get tiresome with constant use. That said, there are plenty of advantages to using a dual monitor setup with your laptop:
- Having two monitors adds a lot more screen real estate to your workspace, enabling more productivity.
- With the correct monitor positioning, you can improve your work setup’s ergonomics, effectively reducing the aches and pains associated with hours of desk work.
- In a pinch, you can have a three-monitor setup if you include your laptop’s monitor, too.
- If you’re constantly reading or researching — and want to lessen the amount of scrolling you need to do — keep one of your monitors in portrait mode.
- Designating which tasks you want on each monitor can help you organize your thoughts.
- Just for fun, you can have a different background on each monitor!
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What to Consider Before Connecting Two Monitors to Your Laptop
Even if you have the best laptop for working from home, there are a few elements to consider before using dual monitors with your laptop. Here’s what you need to look at:
Your Intended Use
Are you focusing on work only, or do you plan to use your setup for gaming too? If so, you might want to ensure that your laptop can handle running your chosen monitor setup for gaming and other resource-heavy activities. That means you may want to avoid dual 4K monitor setups for gaming if your laptop doesn’t have a video card capable of running video games at 4K comfortably.
Your Laptop’s Ports
Check your laptop’s ports — do you have HDMI? DisplayPort? Thunderbolt/USB-C?
Your Monitors’ Inputs
Make sure you note which inputs your monitors have, whether it’s HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, or DVI.
Once you know which ports your laptop has and which inputs your monitors have, the next thing you need to do is ensure you have the correct cables. Don’t forget to get two in any combination you may need, whether that’s two HDMI or DisplayPort cables, one of each, or any other configuration.
In case your monitors only have VGA or DVI inputs, you may need to purchase the appropriate VGA/DVI to HDMI or DisplayPort adapters.
How to Connect Two Monitors to a Laptop: Three Methods
Now it’s time to choose an appropriate method.
Ready to learn how to set up dual monitors with a laptop? Here are three methods you can use.
1. How to Use Two Monitors with a Laptop Using Multiple Ports
If you’re learning how to connect two screens to a laptop, one of the easiest methods is by using multiple ports on the machine. Some laptops have multiple Thunderbolt/USB-C ports capable of DisplayPort. Sometimes, machines may even have an HDMI port on top of Thunderbolt ports. Simply follow the steps below:
- Determine which ports your laptop has.
- Gather the cables you need. If you have an HDMI port and a Thunderbolt port, for example, get one cable for each! Ensure you have the adapters you need, if you need them.
- Make sure your monitors are plugged into a power source and turn them on.
- With your laptop off, plug the appropriate cable into each slot, then plug the appropriate inputs into your monitors.
- Boot up your laptop and configure the displays in your settings!
2. Thunderbolt/USB-C or DisplayPort Daisy Chain
Using a daisy chain makes it possible to connect two monitors to a one-port laptop. However, to make this work, you must meet the conditions below:
- For DisplayPort Daisy Chain
- Your monitors must use DisplayPort v1.2+
- Your monitors must both have a DisplayPort input and output
- Your laptop must have a Thunderbolt output or DisplayPort output
- For Thunderbolt Daisy Chain
- Both monitors must have Thunderbolt/USB-C ports capable of DisplayPort
- One monitor must have two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports
- Plug your monitors into power.
- Plug a DisplayPort cable into one monitor’s input (monitor A) and one monitor’s output (monitor B).
- Connect your laptop to monitor B’s input port.
- Turn your monitors on.
- Boot your laptop up and configure your displays in your settings!
- Plug your monitors into power.
- Connect your monitors with a Thunderbolt/USB-C cable.
- Using another Thunderbolt/USB-C cable, connect your laptop to the monitor that has an open Thunderbolt port.
- Turn your monitors on, then boot your laptop up and configure your displays in your settings!
3. How to Use Dual Monitors with Your Laptop and a Docking Station
Docking stations (like the Dell D3100, pictured below) are another easy yet pricey way to add dual monitors to your setup.
The Dell D3100 Docking Station provides all the ports for your setup.
If you prefer this method:
- Find the correct docking station and ensure that it’s compatible with your laptop model (and your monitors). For example, if all the ports on your laptop are USB-C, you should get a docking station that uses a USB-C connector.
- Plug your docking station and monitors into power.
- Connect your monitors to your docking station.
- Connect your docking station to your laptop and turn it on. Power your monitors on.
- Optional: Plug your laptop in. You might also be able to plug your monitor into your docking station.
- Boot your laptop up and configure your displays in your settings.
Should You Use an HDMI or DisplayPort Splitter?
You might think that a signal splitter is a great way to connect two monitors to a single output port on your laptop. However, signal splitters work by taking a single signal and splitting them into two mirrored outputs which then display on two monitors.
If you want your monitors to extend and act as two separate displays, we recommend using a docking station instead.
Troubleshooting Potential Issues
You may run into issues when you’re connecting two monitors to your laptop. If your setup isn’t working:
- Check if your monitors are plugged into power properly, then confirm that they’re turned on.
- Make sure there are no loose connections and ensure that cables are firmly attached.
- Double-check if you have the correct connectors. Some cables are unidirectional. For example, many DisplayPort-to-HDMI cables only work in one direction (ie. DisplayPort output to HDMI input).
- Check if the cables are functioning or if they need replacing.
- Update your graphics card drivers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Run Two Monitors off One HDMI Port?
If you want to connect multiple monitors to your laptop — and it only has one HDMI port — it’s still possible! Here’s what you can do:
- Use an HDMI port and a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port with the appropriate cables (Note: You might need Thunderbolt/USB-C to HDMI/DisplayPort).
- Use a docking station.
What Cables Do I Need for Dual Monitors?
There are typically three types of cables used for connecting displays to laptops: HDMI, DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt/USB-C. Check your laptop and monitors to see which kind of ports you have and choose the appropriate cables. You may need a Thunderbolt/USB-C-to-HDMI or DisplayPort cable (if your laptop only has Thunderbolt ports). If your laptop doesn’t have enough ports to accommodate two monitors, you may need a docking station.
Do I Need a Docking Station for Two Monitors?
If none of the other methods listed above work for you, you might need a docking station to use dual monitors with a laptop. A docking station is ideal if you also have plenty of peripherals to plug into a laptop with few ports — or if you don’t want to bother with daisy-chaining cables and using various adapters.
When you learn how to connect two monitors to a laptop using one of our step-by-step guides, you can improve your setup and your quality of life. The best part? You don’t even need the best monitors for your home office to start reaping the benefits of your dual monitor setup!
Which method works best for you? Let us know in the comments below!
Not fully convinced about adding extra monitors to your work setup? If all you need is your laptop screen, check out our guide on how to use split screen on Windows.
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Chriselle has been a passionate writer for over 10 years, working with many publications worldwide. She currently writes for Productivity Spot, The Grad Cafe, and Hackr.io, among others.