Even a generous 24-inch monitor can feel cramped when you’ve got multiple windows open on your desktop (and who doesn’t?). It’s much worse if you’re confined to a laptop screen. Fortunately, it’s simple enough to add a second monitor to your PC setup and spread out.
Any modern desktop or laptop PC has the graphics capability to run dual displays. All that’s required is a second monitor. Prices for displays have gone up the past few years, but good deals can still be found. See, for example, PCWorld’s review of the Acer K24HYL 24-inch ISP display—it focuses on the features you should care about to hit $150.
If you’re determined to get the price even lower, HP’s V20 HD+ Monitor comes in at slightly less, with a 19.5-inch diagonal screen using TN technology, which offers faster response times but less clarity off-axis. Another good option is Dell’s SE2222H, which steps you up to a 22-inch screen that features slim bezels, nice for minimizing the disruption between your two screens. If you want an even bigger screen (although the same 1920×1080 resolution), Dell’s S2721HN 27-inch IPS panel is a fine option at $190.
Today’s monitors typically come with some combination of VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort ports. In other words, you’ll have a couple options for how to connect the monitor to your PC. While its common for VGA and DVI cables to come included with the display, you may have to purchase your HDMI or DisplayPort cable separately if you go that route. Those can be easily purchased on Amazon.
You can also tap your television to act as a second display in a pinch, although doing so has some potential drawbacks. Our guide to using your TV as a computer monitor explains everything you need to know. Regardless, the method for managing your displays in Windows is the same, as described below.
How to set up dual monitors
Step 1: Connect the monitor cables
Simply plug your second monitor into a power outlet and connect its video cable to an available port on your PC.
Step 2: Intruct Windows how to manage your dual displays
Right-click the Windows desktop and select either Screen resolution (Windows 7 and Windows 8) or Display settings (Windows 10 / 11).
In the resulting dialog box you can specify the displays’ arrangement. The Multiple Displays pull-down menu allows you to control how the two screens work together. Choosing Extend these displays will prompt Windows to treat your displays as one contiguous screen.
Step 3: Choose monitor order
You can tell Windows which monitor is on the left or right by dragging the screen icons at the top of the dialog box. Get this wrong, and scrolling the mouse will be very confusing.
Step 4: Choose primary display
The Make this my main display option controls which monitor gets the taskbar and Start button. If you don’t see that option, the currently selected monitor is already the main one.
You can also control many of these settings by right-clicking the desktop and selecting your graphics control panel.