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Need to Use Two Displays? Here’s How to Set Up Dual Monitors

Typical computers only have a single display. This is just fine for a lot of tasks, providing plenty of screen real estate for web browsing and light work. But why just settle for one when you could have two, three, or even four monitors at your fingertips?

Dual monitor setups are becoming increasingly popular in the modern world, and it’s easy to see why. Not only do they make life much easier, they also make you feel super-cool as you work from your cyber-Ikea battle station. Of course, though, it’s totally about productivity.

Let’s take a look at setting up dual monitors for yourself.

Common Questions About Dual Screen Monitor Setups

Before we dive into the juicy stuff of how to set one up, it’s important to answer some questions about dual monitor setups.

Which Monitors Should You Choose?

mac with two monitors

Choosing the right monitors for your dual monitor setup can seem simple at first glance. As long as it has the right input type, any monitor should be able to connect up to your computer. A few considerations need to be made to build the very best dual monitor setup, though.

  • Size: The size of your monitors is very important. Most people aim to keep their monitors the same size, though you could also have a small monitor for background tasks.
  • Aspect Ratio: Most monitors have a 16:9 aspect ratio, but other types like ultrawide monitors give you more options when you are optimizing your battle station.
  • Resolution: Having monitors of different resolutions is commonplace, but this doesn’t mean that it is a good idea. For example, a 1080p screen next to a 4K one can end up looking very low-resolution, even if it looks great alone.
  • Color: Most monitors will have different color profiles that make them look distinct side by side. This difference is most noticeable between old and new monitors, and this is worth considering if you care about the colors on your screen.
  • Input Types: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and a host of other display input connectors can be found on monitors. Adaptors can be used to make devices work together, but it is usually best to pair inputs with their correct counterparts.

While it is worth keeping all of this in mind, you can still be creative with your multi-monitor setup. Having two monitors of the same brand and model can look really nice. Likewise, though, you can get a little funky with it, and this is what we have done with the two-monitor setup we’ll be putting together later in the article.

Related: LCD vs. OLED: What Are the Differences?

How to Mount a Two-Monitor Setup

dual monitor mount

So, most monitors come with their own stands. These stands are perfectly functional, but they can often lack the wow factor that comes with a monitor arm or wall mount. This option is by no means essential, but it can be incredibly cool, and it’s never been easier to achieve this with your own setup.

You can find affordable monitor and television mounting hardware across the web. It’s important to make sure that you choose a mount that has the right type of mounting bracket, along with a monitor that has a space for it. The most common type of monitor mount is a VESA mount, though it can still be worth checking the size as there are a few variations.

Is My Device Compatible With Dual Screens?

macbook with monitor

Not every device on the market is compatible with dual screens, whether it’s because they lack the ability or the ports to do so. Obviously, you wouldn’t get very far with your two-monitor setup if your device can’t support them, so you need to figure this out before you get started.

  • Desktop PCs: Both macOS and Windows are compatible with dual screens in their software. Alongside this, you also need a dedicated graphics card or monitors that can work with inputs like USB.
  • Laptops: Most laptops come with display outputs for one additional display, though many modern machines can also have displays attached to their USB Type-C connectors with a dongle, such as the DUEX Pro Portable Dual Monitor.

Smartphones & Tablets: Both Android and iOS devices can run with additional monitors attached to them. You are likely to need an adaptor to achieve this with cables, but you can also cast your display wirelessly with devices like this.

How to Set Up Dual Monitors

setting up dual monitors

Now we’re onto the good stuff. Setting up dual monitors is a relatively easy process. It’s worth getting all of your cables handy before you get started, and you can adjust this guide to make sure that it works best for your setup.

1. Setting up Dual Monitor Positioning

dual monitor positioning

The first stage in this process is to get your monitors set up on your desk. You have to use your imagination a little, working to ensure that your cables will be able to reach the right locations. As you can see from the photo above, we have a regular 16:9 monitor paired with a 21:9 ultrawide.

2. Plugging in Your Monitors

vga and power cable

Once in place, you can feed your power cables to your monitors and plug them in. This can be followed by the display cables you are using, with special care being taken to ensure that you plug them in correctly and in the right locations. This can be done with your machine turned on and signed in.

3. Setting up Your Monitors in Windows

main display settings

Windows 10 makes it incredibly easy to get started with dual monitors. All of the functionality most users will need can be found built-in, from the full-width taskbar to the easy setup process. This doesn’t mean that we won’t be looking at the options you have on offer, though.

With your monitors plugged in, you can right-click on the Desktop, followed by left-clicking on Display Settings.

This will give you access to a window with controls for your monitors. You should see a Multiple displays area, with options that will enable you to control your monitors. We have broken down some of these settings below to get you started.

multiple displays menu
  • Identify Monitors: This posts a 1 and a 2 on your screens, showing you which is which in the computer’s mind.
  • Multiple Displays: This option allows you to show the same thing on both screens, extend your displays and make them act as one, or only display content on one of your displays.
  • Positioning: The box at the top of the window you’re looking at allows you to change the position of your screens so that the mouse can move between them. We have laid ours out to match the position of our displays, with the left monitor sitting slightly lower than the right. This setting is changed by simply dragging the boxes into the desired positions.
  • Primary Monitor: Setting a monitor as the primary monitor will mean that it is the default that applications will open on. Alongside this, it will also be home to your clock and other taskbar tray icons.

monitor repositioning

Alongside these dual monitor-specific options, you will also have access to your regular monitor settings. This means that monitors can be set to have different resolutions and refresh rates, while also giving you the chance to choose how text scales.

Setting up With Third-Party Software

Dual monitors can also be set up using third-party software. The most common examples of this are software options that come from graphics card companies, like Nvidia’s Control Panel. You can use programs like these to achieve similar results, though they also often give you additional settings that can be useful in fringe situations.

Setting up With Other Operating Systems

Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux are just a few examples of other operating systems that can also support dual monitor setups. The settings available in each operating system are very similar to Windows, though you may need to take additional steps in some cases.

Devices like smartphones have the benefit of being able to connect to wireless displays. When doing this, it is unlikely that you will get many options when it comes to settings. This means that you have to hope that your devices work together.

Related: How to Keep the Mac Dock on One Screen in a Dual Monitor Setup

Using a Dual Monitor Setup

Two monitors are always better than one. Not only do you get more space for work and play, but you also get to feel like you’re using a system from the future. Cool as it may sound, there are genuine benefits to using dual monitors, and this is something that more and more people can fit into their computer budget as time goes on.

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