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How to connect an external monitor to a laptop

How to connect an external monitor to a laptop

Nowadays, laptops have definitely become must have items for the majority of computer  users. A laptop has many benefits such as portability and convenience. But on the contrary the user realizes that the current screen is too small to perform their work. Connect laptops to a larger monitor seems to be a great choice.

Essentially, having multiple displays means you do not need to flit between applications on one screen anymore. For example, you can fix your email client to your laptop’s native display and run Photoshop on a bigger external monitor.

In this article, we explain how to get your laptop hooked up to your external monitor, and then how to configure it to work in the way you want. There is also advice on finding the right adapter if your connections do not match.

Connecting your laptop to an external monitor is quite simple and requires just a few steps. Moreover, purchasing a second monitor is now a very affordable option with prices as low as ₹5,000 for a 20″+ monitor.

Before purchasing an extra monitor, it is best to know what your computer is able to connect to. It is advisable to take a look at the back and on the sides in case of a laptop and see the ports that you have. Most laptops have least one port that can be used to connect a monitor, be it HDMI, VGA, DVI, or DisplayPort. However, the newest laptops may have only a USB-C port (also called Thunderbolt 3). This is the same physical connector you will find on most new Android phones.

Here is what to look for on both your laptop and monitor:

Different type of connectors 

1. VGA adapters

VGA Cable

A VGA port is more likely to be found at old day laptops. It has the shape of a trapezoid and contains 15 tiny sticks out. On its sides there are screw holes to plug in. VGA utilizes analog signals, which means it is only capable of lower resolutions and lower quality display on screens.

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2. DVI adapters


DVI Cable

Some laptops use a DVI connection. It looks nearly exactly a VGA cable, but it contains more sticks with the shape as rectangular and it also has screw holes on each side to plug into. It offer a sharper and better display compared to VGA adapters. They carry both analog and digital signals. The DVI connector (shown below) may have one of three names depending on the signals it supports: DVI-A (analog only), DVI-D (digital only), or DVI-I (both digital and analog).

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If your display has a DVI connection, but your laptop only has a VGA connection, then you need to use a video converter that converts VGA to DVI.

DVI to VGA Cable

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If your display has a DVI connection, but your laptop only has a HDMI connection, then you need to use a video converter that converts HDMI to DVI.

HDMI to DVI Cable

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3. HDMI Cables

HDMI cable is capable of transmitting standard, enhanced, and high-definition video as well as multiple channel digital audio over a single cable between devices. The HDMI technology is used with devices such as an HDTV, Projector, computer monitor etc. HDMI cables are classified into three categories and they are Standard, Micro and Mini.

Standard HDMI Cables:

The Standard HDMI cable is designed to handle most applications and connections. It is capable of handle 720p and 1080i signals. They might be able to handle 1080p, but that’s not guaranteed.

Standard HDMI Cables

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Mini HDMI cables:

The Mini HDMI cables has a smaller connector and is easily used for smaller sized ports found on DSLR cameras, high-definition camcorders and standard sized tablets.

Mini HDMI cables

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Micro HDMI cables:

This format combines video and audio into an interface that is small enough to connect to tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. They are 50% smaller than the standard HDMI cables.

Micro HDMI cables

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If your display has a VGA connection, but your laptop only has a HDMI connection, then you need to use a video converter that converts HDMI to VGA.

HDMI to VGA Cable

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4. DisplayPort (DP) interface

DisplayPort cables are very similar to high-speed HDMI in terms of bandwidth but can have a much higher refresh rate at peak resolution (60 Hz). Newer laptops may also have a DisplayPort, which can be used to connect external display devices that utilize a DisplayPort cable. It has 20 pins and comes in two varieties: standard and Mini DisplayPort. Despite the difference in size, their functionality is identical.

Standard DisplayPort cables:

Standard DisplayPort is ideal for video streaming, gaming, or extending a workstation.

Standard DisplayPort

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Mini DisplayPort cables:

Mini DisplayPort cable transmits audio and video from computer or tablet to HD display.

Mini DisplayPort

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If your external display uses VGA, DVI or HDMI instead, you can also get a DisplayPort adapter cable, allowing you to connect your VGA, DVI or HDMI display to the laptop’s DisplayPort. Here are few options which you can try:

5. Thunderbolt (USB-C)

Thunderbolt is the brand name of a hardware interface standard developed by Intel and Apple but Intel owns the rights to it. Apple helped bring the technology to market by including it in the updated MacBook Pro models. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the same connector as Mini DisplayPort, whereas Thunderbolt 3, which uses the new USB Type-C connector standard, is the newest way for laptops and tablets to output video. It allows for long distance data transfer over cheaper cables capable of carrying DC power.


Thunderbolt Cable

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Making the connection to your laptop

In this part of the article, we will be providing with a full detailed guidance on how to add a monitor to your laptop.

Step 1: Plug in and turn on the monitor. Attach your monitor to a power source then press the monitor’s power  button.

Step 2: Once you have got your cable, plug one end of your cable into your laptop, then plug the other end of the cable into the monitor. On Windows 10, hit + P, and you will be presented with four options, which pop out in a menu on the right hand side.

Various options to project your screen   

Use the “Duplicate” or “Second screen only” choices if you want to display a presentation on a projector or play a movie. For work, however, the option you need is “Extend”. This option will allow you to spread your whole desktop over both screens and drag windows and other items from one to the other. Wait for your laptop’s screen to appear on the monitor. Once you see your laptop’s desktop appear on the monitor’s screen, you can proceed with setting up your laptop’s display settings.

Step 3: Windows positions the first screen on the left with the new one going to the right by default. This means that you will move the cursor from the right hand side of the screen in order to get to the new monitor. In case you find yourself running it the other way round, then you will need to make an adjustment. For the same you can follow the below process.

Right click on the Windows desktop and select “Display Settings”, a dialog box appears with the screen images. Click and drag the screen images until you get them to their correct positions. You can also click on the “Identify” button to show you which screen is 1 and which is 2.

Select and rearrange displays 

Windows does not simply restrict a computer user to just the right and left positions. You can have an arrangement such that the new display sits below or above the other one. You can also have the positions of the screens fine tuned so that items that might span both the screens can be matched up.

Another way to switch between these modes is to look for a function key on the top row of keys on your laptop which shows two monitors. Press the Fn key and that function key and it should toggle through the various configurations.

Step 4: Adjust the resolution for each screen to improve the quality of text and video shown onscreen. Use the drop down box to adjust the screen’s resolution. It’s advisable to use Windows recommended resolution for each display.

Display settings for laptop and monitor 

For screens with high resolutions, you will probably want to use the ‘Change the size of text, apps and other items’ slider to make sure everything is easily readable. Typical settings are 150%-250%.

In a nutshell, we have explained what type of adapter and connectors are available on both monitor and laptop. In the second part we have discussed the actual process to connect your monitor to laptop.  We hope this article helped you. If you have any questions while doing this process you can drop your comment, we will be glad to answer you.

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Sunil Pradhan

Developer, Explorer, Learner. My hunger and curiosity drive me forward in directions I want to go.

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Sunil Pradhan

Developer, Explorer, Learner. My hunger and curiosity drive me forward in directions I want to go.