Use your laptop as a second monitor

If you have your laptop hooked up to a desktop monitor, why not use the laptop as a second monitor?

Tom Merritt Former CNET executive editor
2 min read

If you ever get envious of those cool graphic design guys with multiple monitors, ask yourself, "Do I have a laptop?" If you do, you can run a multimonitor setup of your own.

I must credit my co-worker Rafe Needleman for this idea. He saw me pecking away with my laptop monitor up one day and said, "Why don't you use that as a second monitor?" After I told him to frack off, I realized it wasn't a bad idea. And it's uber easy. I'll show you both the Mac way and the PC way.

We'll assume you have a setup something like this: a laptop, maybe one in a dock, hooked up to a monitor.

OK. Let's start with Windows.

You boot up, and you're probably in your desktop monitor.

  • Right-click on the desktop and choose Properties.
  • Choose Settings.
  • You'll see a second screen. Drag it to a position similar to where your laptop screen is.
  • It should prompt you if you want to enable this monitor. Say Yes.
  • Make sure Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor is checked.
  • Press apply.

Now here's a little hitch. I can't tell which monitor is which. Press identify, and numbers will come up on each screen. The other issue is my laptop screen became my primary monitor. That's not right.

If this happens to you:

  • Select the monitor you want to be primary.
  • And check Use this device as the primary monitor.
  • Then press Apply.
  • Depending on your setup, you may have to move the taskbar up to that monitor. You just hold down the left mouse button while dragging the taskbar to move it.

Voila! Now you have two monitors. You can configure it however you want. I like up and down.

You can also look in your video driver to see if you can save profiles, so you don't have to reset it every time you turn on the computer.

Now in a Mac, it's super easy.

  • Go to system preferences
  • Choose Displays
  • If OS X hasn't already detected your new display, press the Detect Displays button.
  • Select Arrangement, and you can reposition the displays to reflect reality.
  • You can even reposition the dock wherever you want.

And that's it. With either a Mac or a Windows laptop, you can now enjoy the extra screen real estate you already own.