How to connect an external display to a laptop

By | February 23, 2014

Laptops are great for the mobility they give you, but if you are using one at home you might want to consider adding a second display to your setup. Additional display will give you more screen real estate, therefore increasing your productivity. If you’re doing any type of work such as graphic design, video editing, or even writing, it will be beneficial. So, how do you actually connect an external display to a laptop?

First of all, you have to make sure you have the needed cables and required ports. Every laptop nowadays features at least one way of connecting to an external display (whether it’s a monitor or a TV).  Most displays come with VGA, HDMI, DVI, or more recently DisplayPort, but some feature a combination of two or more of these ports. Of course, you will need the proper cables as well. Check what ports your display and laptop support, and if needed, buy an additional adapter.

From this step forward, it is pretty simple whether you’re using Mac or Windows operating system.

How to connect an external display to a Windows computer

There are many more Windows users in the world, so let’s start with this operating system. Once you connect an additional display to your laptop, it should automatically detect it and set the resolution; however, not everything always goes as planned. If nothing happens, press the “Display Function” key in combination with the function key. Most laptops use one of the following combinations: Fn + F3, Fn + F4, Fn + F5, or in some cases Fn + F9 or Fn + F10. You will recognize the “Display Function” key by two displays that are drawn on it. After you press these buttons, the second screen should turn on.

Depending on the screen’s physical location, you might want to make a few adjustments. Go to Control Panel, and then click on the “Display Settings” icon. Once it opens, you will notice the option to change external display’s position. Move it so that it matches the position in the real world. If needed, you can also change the resolution.

One Windows display setting

How to connect an external display to a Mac computer

If you’re a Mac user, the process will not be that much different. Start by connecting the second display. Keep in mind that most new MacBooks come with Thunderbolt port, so depending on the ports that your second display supports you might need to purchase an adapter. Once you connect the screen, Mac OS X will automatically detect it and set its native resolution. If you want to change the resolution or position of your screen just open “System Preferences” from your Dock, and select “Displays.” Here you will be able to change the setting according to your liking.

Two Mac display system preferences

No matter what operating system you’re using, you will have the option of using two displays as either mirrored displays or the extended display. Mirrored displays are usually used during presentations, because this option enables you to have the same picture on both displays, thus enabling you to control the content easily. However, in most cases, you are better off using the extended display. It gives you more screen real estate, which is ideal while you’re working; you can have more applications opened at once and be much more organized at the same time.

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