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How to set up a second monitor

Whether you’re working from home or looking for a dual-screen gaming experience, setting up a second computer screen can seem quite daunting to some – it needn’t be. Here’s our guide on how to set up a second monitor.

Setting up a second monitor can be boiled down to having the right cable and having the right ports. If you have both of these, then you’re pretty much ready to go. The next steps merely involved finding the correct ports to put said cables and checking everything is in working order. Let’s dive into just how you get all this done.

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How to set up dual monitors

Whether you’re wondering how to set up a second monitor on a Windows 10 PC, laptop or Mac, the process is far easier than you might think.

If you’ve already got one monitor set up, then the key thing is making sure you have another set of ports free. The same goes for if you’re setting up two monitors at once (there is another process called daisy-chaining for compatible devices and a method called Sidecar for iPads, but we’ll stick to this basic method for now).

Here’s how to set up dual monitors:

  • Check which ports are on your monitors (these range from DisplayPort/HDMI/Thunderbolt/VGA/DVI), and that they’re free to use
  • Do the same for your laptop, PC or Mac
  • Get yourself a cable(s) that have one of these connectors on both ends (you can mix and match if necessary)
  • Make sure to switch off the power before tinkering with monitor and computer ports
  • Plug each cable from your monitor(s) into your laptop, PC or Mac
  • Turn on your monitor(s) and computer
  • Change the input source to match that which port you used (some monitors will automatically do this for you)

You’re now pretty much done. Modern computers recognise connected devices, and will immediately start using the newly-connected monitor(s). Read on for more guidance on checking the process has worked and what you can do with dual monitors.

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How do I get my computer to recognise a second monitor?

Once you’ve followed the steps above for how to set up a second computer screen, your monitor should already be recognised. However, if you are having issues, you can check the display settings on your laptop or your first connected monitor.

For Windows 10:

  • Head to Settings > System > Display
  • You should see two boxes with “1” and “2” in them
  • If you don’t, click Detect to refresh this
  • If the problem is not fixed, try reconnecting the cables
  • An ongoing issue might indicate an issue with the cables or ports themselves

For macOS:

  • Open the Apple menu > System Preferences > Displays
  • Click Arrangement, and you should see the two displays represented here
  • If you don’t, click the Display tab > Detect Displays
  • Check Arrangement again
  • If the problem is not fixed, try reconnecting the cables
  • An ongoing issue might indicate an issue with the cables or ports themselves

If you haven’t encountered any issues, then you are all set to use your second monitor. The settings we just dived into also allow for some modifying of how you use two screens together – such as displaying two different things rather than simply mirroring your current display.

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How do I display two different things on two monitors?

While there is some use to mirroring your laptop, PC or Mac displays onto a second monitor, many people will want to utilise the additional screen real-estate for further multi-tasking. This is called extending your display and here’s how you do it.

For Windows 10:

  • Head to Settings > System > Display
  • Scroll down, and you should see a box that will likely say “Duplicate these displays” by default
  • Change this box to “Extend these displays”
  • Return to the top where you can see boxes with “1” and “2” (or “3” if you are using a laptop with two monitors) in them representing the displays
  • You can now drag these around to better reflect your screen setup in real life
  • When using your machine, you can open separate windows on all of your displays and drag these windows between each display

For macOS:

  • Open the Apple menu > System Preferences > Displays
  • Click Arrangement, and you should see your displays represented here
  • You should see a checked box saying “Mirror Displays”
  • Return to Arrangement where you can see boxes representing the displays
  • You can now drag these around to better reflect your screen setup in real life
  • When using your machine, you can open separate windows on all of your displays and drag these windows between each display

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Can I connect a second monitor to my first monitor?

Most people are likely to be using two sets of cables between their device and monitors to create a dual-screen experience. However, for some supported displays, there is a way to connect the monitors directly – this is called “daisy-chaining”.

Daisy-chaining is only available via the DisplayPort v1.2 and Thunderbolt standards, so your monitors and computer will need to have these ports for it to work. Your additional monitors will need both DisplayPort In and DisplayPort Out ports to do this method via DisplayPort or, at least, two Thunderbolt ports. The computer you are using must also have a graphics card that supports MST to use daisy-chaining –  verify this beforehand.

You can now carry out the fairly simple process. Connect your first monitor to your computer then attach the cables from one monitor to another. The computer will now display across each monitor – be sure to check each monitor is on the correct input, and the cables are secure if this isn’t working.

How do you get Sidecar to work?

If you’re lucky enough to be sporting both a Mac device and an iPad in your home setup then you are now able to use your tablet as a second screen – thanks to a fairly new trick from Apple called Sidecar. So forget picking up an external monitor and read on for just how to get this working.

  • Check whether your Apple devices are Sidecar-compatible
  • In the menu bar on your Mac, click the AirPlay icon (a square with a triangle at the bottom)
  • Select your iPad from the list of options (if it’s not there, check the devices are on the same Wi-Fi network)
  • Your iPad will now act as an extended display of your Mac
  • To mirror, click the AirPlay button again (while using Sidecar, it will not be a blue square)
  • Select the option to mirror your display

That’s it a really simple solution. When you are done, you can disconnect Sidecar using the AirPlay menu on your Mac or iPad.

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