Setting up a computer should NOT be this hard - Third time is a charm!

Thomas Zucker-ScharffSenior Data Analyst
Veteran in computer systems, malware removal and ransomware topics.  I have been working in the field since 1985.
Monitor input from a computer is usually nothing special.  In this instance it prevented anyone from using the computer.  This was a preconfiguration that didn't work.
The Background:
Not too long ago I spec'd out 2 computers for one of my colleagues who wanted everything a certain way.  That was okay.  I ordered the computers from Dell so we would get a high end workstation with 32GB of RAM64 bit operating systemWindows 7 Professional, a solid state drive (SSD) of 128gb for booting and a data drive with 1tb worth of storage (not a lot these days, but I thought it would do).  There were other specifications, and some I couldn't put together on the Dell website without the help of our Dell representative.  After I had finished with the specifications We sent out the requests for the computers.  After a couple of weeks the computers came.  It took longer for our network people to activate the proper jacks and then to make them work (once they were activated the computers attached to them couldn't get internet connectivity until they matched the MAC addresses of each computer.

What Next or Why Doesn't this work?:
I didn't have the luxury of waiting, the end user wanted the computers set up right away.  I went to set up the first computer only to find that the monitor, which came with the computer, did not recognize that it was attached to the computer.  The computer and monitor came with a minidisplayport to displayport cable, where the mini part plugged into the monitor and the bigger end plugged into the computer.  The monitor did NOT have a VGA port or a DVI port, the computer did have a VGA port.  The monitor kept saying it was going to go into sleep mode in 5 minutes because no displayport cable had been detected.  Now I had to figure out what was going on.

Mini_DisplayPort_on_Apple_MacBook.jpgA minidisplayport on an Apple Macbook

I called a colleague of mine and asked if he had ever set up a computer like this, he was nice enough to come over and help me.  The two of us sat there and tried to figure out how to get this computer to work.  He suggested getting a monitor that could connect to the VGA port and see what happened from there.  Luckily I had one of those.  I attached it to the VGA port and it went right on.  Everything seemed to be okay.  When I went back to the other monitor, it still had the same problem.  after about 2 hours of fiddling around, I tried one of the membrane-type buttons on the bottom of the display.  What came up was a source menu asking if I wanted to connect with displayport (checked as default), minidisplaypport, DVI or VGA (not sure of the last two since it had neither connection, but there were 4 choices).  I chose minidisplayport, checked it as accepted and restarted the display.  I suddenly had video!!  We congratulated each other and I finished setting up the computer.

Fast-forward a month or so, I have finally gotten the IP address for the second machine and needed to set it up.  The first problem was that I knew I had to do something, but I forgot what.  I played with another monitor first thinking I had to enable something in the BIOS, then I remembered and suddenly I once again had video on the correct monitor.

Being the social media geek that I am, I went onto twitter and tweeted to @DellCaresPro from my personal account.  The exchange was frustrating.  Although the @DellCaresPro twitter account has given me helpful replies in the past, this was not one of those times.  Suffice it to say that you will get more out of reading this article.

A month later we hired a new person who was going to do a lot of high end image manipulation.  So we ordered her a good computer with one of the better large monitors (now 4k UHD).  When the monitor came, I realized it was the similar to the monitors I had installed previously, but now I knew better.  

We had to wait for the computer to come in ( I ordered it separately), but once it came in it was time to set up. The menu on the monitor was slightly different as were the keys.  One of the keys on the bottom of the monitor brought up the source menu which now consisted of Displayport or minidisplayport.  I chose minidisplayport, since it was preset to displayport, and nothing happened.  I restarted the display, but nothing happened, then I took the advice I give to everyone as a first step in troubleshooting - you guessed it - reboot the computer.  That did the trick.  It recognized the monitor and I had a picture!

What to Do:

If you are setting up a computer like the ones I have described:

  • Make sure all the connections are tight
  • Select the input source on the monitor by pressing one of the membrane type buttons for an input source menu
  • Choose "miniDisplayPort" using the up/down arrows
  • Press the menu key or select key to choose and activate the selection
  • Press the menu key again to get out of the menu selection area
  • Restart the display, then restart the computer
Good luck!
Thomas Zucker-ScharffSenior Data Analyst
Veteran in computer systems, malware removal and ransomware topics.  I have been working in the field since 1985.

Comments (1)

Josh SnowNetwork Engineer

I had a somewhat similar situation. I built my computer, ordered parts off Newegg. Included was a nice graphics card, my first one. I kept fiddling with the monitor wondering why it wasn't displaying. After awhile, I realized the monitor was hooked to the mother board, instead it needed to be hooked to the new graphics card. lesson learned.

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