How to Set Up Multiple Displays


Authored by Geoff Vaughan in Computer Hardware 
Published on 02-02-2009

Have you ever been using your computer and wanted more real estate on your desktop? Sometimes our computing tasks require multiple windows open and the same time, and it’s a pain to have to switch back and forth between windows if you need to refer to each one multiple times. Luckily, it’s easy to set your computer up with two or more monitors so you can expand your desktop.

The first step in the process is to purchase an additional video graphics card, and there are two routes you can take. If you just want to expand your desktop onto one more monitor, you can just buy a regular PCI graphics card to supplement your existing card, provided you have a spare PCI expansion slot available. If you would like to have more than two monitors, there are graphics cards that support multiple monitors on the same card that you can buy.

Whichever route you take, follow the installation directions that come with the card to install it into your computer. You will have to take the case apart to do this, so you may need to have a screwdriver handy, although many newer computers come with a case that you can take apart without any tools by just sliding a couple of levers to the side and sliding the side off of the computer.

Once your video card is successfully installed, the correct drivers loaded from the CD it came with, and your monitor or monitors are connected to the new card, you are ready to enable the new display in Windows.

In Windows XP:

Right-click on an empty space on the desktop and choose “Properties” from the menu that pops up. In the window that comes up, choose the “Settings” tab by clicking on it.

In Windows Vista:

Right-click on an empty space on the desktop and choose “Personalize” from the menu that pops up. In the window that comes up, choose the link for “Display Settings”, which should be at the bottom of the list.

The instructions from now on deal with both operating systems. In the window that appears, you should see a number of graphical representations of monitors corresponding to the number of new displays you are enabling and the main display you’re working with. If you only see one, you did something wrong installing your new graphics card.

Each of these representations will be numbered, and the one you’re currently working with will be #1. The other ones should be grayed out, but you can select each one by clicking on it. Select a display, and click the “Extend the desktop onto this monitor” checkbox. At this point, you can change the resolution and color depth of the new display, which ideally should match the main display. Click the “Apply” button, and you should see a continuation of your Windows desktop appear on your new monitor. Repeat this last step for any additional monitors you have set up.


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