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Need help setting up dual monitors for my laptop

First a disclosure. I'm not tech-savvy and this question will sound dumb to some of you, but I really need your help. I love my Dell laptop, as I use it for work and personal use. However, as my aging eyes are not getting any better, the laptop's small screen is getting harder and harder to read. I would like to set up a dual monitor in my home office. Is there a plug-and-play device that can magically make this all happen without much effort? If at all possible, I would like to also use an external keyboard and mouse too for comfort. What are your recommendations? Thank you in advance.

--Submitted by Frank G.

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RE: Dual monitors for Dell laptop

Having a Dell laptop you are probably in luck. I used a second monitor with my Dell for years

On the back of your laptop should be a monitor plug. Simply power down your laptop, plug in the monitor and restart the laptop. WIndows should find the monitor and automatically install the software.

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Don't forget to consider resolution

The advice in these replies are great but missing is monitor resolution. The higher the resolution the smaller everything appears. I have helped many with struggling eyesight and this is key. If you are looking at the 27-32 inch size look for HD or 1080 resolution. If you go 4k things will be very small. Hope this helps.

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Rest assured that this is an easy thing to do

As far as connecting a wired/wireless keyboard and mouse, this is an easy thing to do. Simply plug either the USB cables (wired) or USB transmitters (wireless) into ports on your computer and enjoy.

The monitor is (or monitors are) not much more difficult, though first you will have to discover whether you have HDMI, Display Port, DVI and/or VGA output ports on your laptop. Most all laptops have at least one of these options, and most all laptops made in this decade have at least one of the first three options, which let you to connect high-definition monitors to your laptop.

I would recommend using a large (27" or larger) single HDMI-compatible monitor to connect to your laptop. Figure on a price between $150-200. Don't fret if you don't have an HDMI port on your laptop; there are adapter cables which can plug into your high-definition monitor and connect to DVI or Display Port output ports on your laptop.

If you can get to a electronics retailer like Best Buy or Fry's, take your laptop in with you and they'll be happy to set you up with what you need. For what it's worth, I'm tapping this response to you on my external Dell keyboard and wireless mouse, and reading what I'm typing on a 27" external monitor. You'll truly love the difference compared to typing on your laptop and squinting to see what's on the small laptop screen. You're doing the right thing.

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Turn Off the Laptop Screen?

After you connect an external monitor to an available port (socket) on the side or rear edge of the laptop you may wish to turn off the laptop's smaller display screen and just use the larger monitor. Try right-clicking on an empty area of the desktop, and select Display Options (or similar). A display settings window will open. Here you can choose to run both screens or just one.
Regarding mouse and keyboard: If you choose a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse most of the better models have a "unifying" small USB receiver that will handle both the mouse and the keyboard, so you're only using up one USB port.

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I would have thought you'd find an option to use one or the other or both monitors in Bios.

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Doing this in Windows is easier

It's generally easier and more flexible to set this up within Windows. You don't have to reboot to change your mind. And, when you unplug the monitor, Windows will automagically adjust. Going through BIOS is just added complication for no real advantage that I can think of for 99% of users.

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Luckily, mostly just Plug&Play

You don't even have to turn the machine off. Just power the monitor up and plug it in, and the machine will recognize it within 10 secs or so.

jrhmobile gave good info. I agree with him, nearly any store will help you find the monitor with the right connectors or adapters.

I will disagree a little with the size suggestion. Personally, I like large monitors, because I put them at the back of a fairly deep desk. My eyes are literally 4-5 feet from the monitor, depending on whether or not I'm leaning back. But, my mom's desk is a more normal size, so her monitor is probably only about 2 1/2-3 feet away. A 24" monitor looks huge from that distance. That would save you a few bucks. Up to you to decide which is more comfortable for you.

One techie thing to be aware of. You have the option to Duplicate the displays, or Extend the displays. Duplicate means just what it says. It will show the same information on both monitors. Extend the Displays will treat it as a separate space to display extra windows.

Again, it's a personal preference thing. Most people opt to Extend the Displays. It's amazing how convenient it is to have windows open on different displays that don't overlap each other and get in each other's way. And, even though you're having trouble reading the laptop screen, you may want to do this, anyway. Even if you always move your windows over to the large display, by Extending the Displays, you get the full advantage of the extra pixels available on the larger screen. Otherwise, it'll be limited to the number of pixels on the laptop screen.

You can find this option in the Display Settings. Start | Settings | System | Display, down near the bottom, below the Multiple Displays heading.

The other thing to do on this settings screen is, at the top, you'll tell the computer how you have the screens physically arranged on your desk. The computer can't see where you put the monitor. So, you use the rectangles numbered 1 and 2 at the top to arrange them to fit how you have them on your desk. If the big screen is to the left of your laptop, drag the bigger rectangle to the left of the smaller one, etc. And, if the big one has a tall stand and the laptop is flat on the desk, then you can drag the big one up, so that the bottom of the big rectangle is arranged similar to what you see on your desk. That way, when you drag your mouse from one to the other, it'll line up. Otherwise, when you drag the mouse from one to the other it'll jump up or down a few inches, depending on which way you're going. That can be disorienting. You can drag a little and test over and over again, until you get it where you like it. Due to difference in pixel sizes, you probably can't get it perfect, so don't let that frustrate you. Just move the mouse near the bottom. Then halfway up. Then near the top. If you can get the mouse pretty close when it's half to three quarters of the way up the lower screen, you'll probably find that the most comfortable.

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Not sure about previous versions ...

But Windows 10 has the option to display only on the second screen so you aren’t limited by the laptop resolution.

I find duplicate is only useful if you want to show someone else what your doing without crowding you. Otherwise it’s either extended or only on 2nd display.

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You're right

I've never used that option, so I overlooked it.

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One or Two Monitors

Where I used to work the office people were given a choice, duel monitors or large single monitor. Within a year or so those who opted for the dual screen were requesting the single large monitor.
The dual were 18" the singles were 42". The 42 allowed for multiple tabs to be opened without over lapping.

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About mouses

I recommend a Logitech Trackman or Trackball. With those you don't have to move your arm and you can place them almost anywhere. Logitech also sells very good keyboards, not only gaming keyboards.

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Something to consider...

Frank, if you want to use 2 separate monitors and not use your laptop's screen you may want to consider a dual monitor port replicator/docking station that allows you to connect 2 monitor connections to your laptop as well as a full-size keyboard, mouse and more. Most laptops only have one HDMI/video output which limits you to connecting one external monitor and using your existing laptop screen -- probably good enough in your case.

However, if you want 2 separate monitors besides using your laptop's screen, take a look at this here laptop docking station:

There are many others like it, but this is the one I use at home for both my work's Dell laptop and personal laptop which has worked out great and it is painless to set up. Good thing about it is that all your hardware wires plugs into the docking station, you connect one USB cord to your laptop and everything is ready to go. When you need to take your laptop with you, just unplug the connection cable and your power cord and you are off. The only drawback is it is a bit pricey. Anyways another option for you, if you decide on using 2 separate monitors. Good luck!


Post was last edited on October 11, 2019 3:40 PM PDT

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Device for2 to 4 monitors, I use for Day Trading, from a Dell XPS 9360. I run 3 27 inch monitors without a hitch, available on Amazon. It will also charge your computer while it's on, I leave the dock on all the time for 2 years now. Just 1 cable to plug into the thunderboldt or usb C port.

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Mostly Plug and Play

Most folks seem to be assuming that your goal is laptop plus one. I automatically assumed two monitors instead of the laptop screen.

My office machine is a tower with four video ports on the back. I have two 24" monitors and really enjoy all of the screen real estate. For Christmas a couple of years ago, my wife gave me two 24" monitors to set up with my laptop at home, hoping that I would work more OT at home and spend fewer late nights at the office. I bought a Startech port replicator ( to connect the two monitors, mouse and keyboard, and my speakers, through a USB port on my laptop. I now have three screens when I work at home (one smaller than the others).

Something has gotten a little bit funky with the last Windows 10 update and I sometimes have to beg and cajole a bit to get the rig to engage when I boot up (perhaps I should post my own question?) but everything was totally painless for the first two years.

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Identify ports, and watch Youtube videos

Start by determining what sort of video output port your laptop has, for example a full-size HDMI port, or another size HDMI port, or some other kind of video output port. Once you determine this, you can buy a cable with one end matching the port on your laptop and the other end matching the port on your large monitor - which will almost certainly be full size HDMI. If you are not sure, ask a friend or take the laptop into Frys/Staples/Best Buy etc.

If your laptop has only one or two USB ports, you may want to purchase a USB port hub (under $10). It will plug into a single USB port on your laptop, and will provide 4 our more USB ports for the keyboard, mouse, etc.

Now do a search on Youtube such as "set up second monitor keyboard mouse". Watch some of these videos till you find one or two that match your situation. Many of the suggestions on this forum are good, and they will make more sense after you've viewed some videos! The hookup itself will be quick and easy.

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Two(or three) monitors

For ten years I have used Dell laptop, Dell docking station, Matrox Triple Head to Go and three screens. Can be done with Matrol Dual Head to go and two screens. Freedom!

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Just buy an HDMI splitter

Monoprice #15379. Runs 2 monitors at once. Cheap.

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Does a splitter just give you two clone screens?

Does a splitter let you display two separate screens or do you just see two of the exact same screen?

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Does a splitter just give you two clone screens?

Yes. Both are the same.

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Definitely Recommend a Port Replicator/Docking Station

I've been using a Port Replicator/Docking Station with my Dell Laptop for a couple years very successfully with two 24" monitors in extended mode. The trickiest part was going into the display settings and 'shifting' the monitors in the graphic so that the one on the left displayed on the left, etc. and that only took a couple of minutes. One thing to bear in mind before you buy a Port Replicator/Docking Station is that they come in upright versions like the one in Lee's link, and low profile versions that lay flat on the desk. May seem like a minor detail but buying the wrong one could be an ongoing pain. Good luck!

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So Many Choices

Some great suggestions have already been posted here, so not much to add.
First suggestion is to determine whether you do or don't mind paying for a bit of hardware (Port Replicator or USB "C" Hub) instead of constantly plugging and unplugging to your External Monitor(s), Mouse, and Keyboard. If you frequently transition between work and home use, you may find this option very worthwhile rather than fumbling with connecting and disconnecting multiple cables.
The second suggestion is to determine what type of display/audio out port(s) your laptop has available. If the laptop has a HDMI or USB "C" output port then this will allow you to output both HD audio and HD video directly from your laptop to your TV/Monitor (for HDMI), USB "C" to HDMI Adapter or cable, USB "C" Hub, or Port Replicator. Using a DVI, VGA, or Display Port (older version) will limit you to video output only and will require a connection to a seperate output port if you also wanted to transmit audio.
As per the advice from other posts here, use the "Screen Resolution" (Windows 7) or Display (Windows 10) option - which you can access via right click on Desktop - to setup how the screen(s) is displayed.

Note 1: From the above, you see that you could also select to opt for a TV rather than a Monitor; the price difference should be minimal. For a normal size desk, a 24" Monitor/TV should be more than sufficient for viewing purposes.

Note 2: If you Dell laptop has a USB "C" output port then you can use the USB "C" Hub as a more limited but much cheaper option to using a Port Replicator.

Note 3: Regarding the use of adapter, you can go from a higher standard to a lower standard. For example you can go from HDMI to VGA but not from VGA to HDMI.

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