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Two Monitors connected to one pc? on windows 7, or windows 8

Posted on 2014-07-23
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Last Modified: 2014-07-24
Do I need to buy a special video card to have two monitors connected to my laptop/desktop?  Or, can I buy a "Y" connector and will Windows 7 or 8 be able to accommodate my new hardware.

I know that there are special dual port VGA cards available.  I'm curious if I actually can comfortably get away using a single video slot from my motherboard.
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Question by:brothertruffle880
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by:John Hurst
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So far as I know you need a card with two outputs: (1) to get sufficient drive to run two monitors and (2) to show different things on two monitors (which is the point of two monitors). A Y cable will not do either.
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by:Don Thomson
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You can use a dual head VGA card - This allows you to extend the screen  or a Y cable to clone the screen
You can also get a USB to Video adapter that allows you to do either
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
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Many laptops support two monitors, typically one VGA and one DisplayPort or DVI or HDMI. Here's an EE article discussing this for a particular laptop, but it is applicable to many others:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Laptops_Notebooks/A_6770-Dual-External-Monitors-on-the-HP-EliteBook-2540p.html

Many desktops have video cards that support dual monitors, but the answer to your question is yes, you need to have a video card that supports two monitors (or two video cards, each supporting one monitor).

You may get a "Y" connector, but it isn't going to do what I'm guessing you want — the ability to have different windows on the two displays (what Windows called Extended Desktop configuration). If you go with a "Y" connector, the same video signal will go onto both branches of the "Y", so the two screens will be clones of each other — probably not what you want. Regards, Joe
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by:John Hurst
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I am not sure why anyone would want to clone a screen but I leave that to the asker.

About laptops: I can run my screen and a monitor or projector but I get the same thing on both screens.
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by:tailoreddigital
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FYI,  @John

I have 1 system setup as a media system.    I have a powered VGA splitter (but any Y splitter will do) that sends a copy of the video output to 4 TVs (i use TVs for monitors).    Then when i put any of the 4 TVs on the proper input i get media /computer in my livingroom, bedroom, kitchen and garage.    I also have mouse & keyboard in each location.
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
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> I am not sure why anyone would want to clone a screen but I leave that to the asker.

One reason is when giving a presentation to an audience on a big-screen, while looking at your laptop on the speaker's podium. Another reason is an "entertainment" laptop for the TV. I have a laptop connected to my 52" LCD TV and use it in clone (duplicate) mode — makes sense for that usage. But for the most part, folks want an Extended Desktop config when using multiple displays.

> About laptops: I can run my screen and a monitor or projector but I get the same thing on both screens.

I suppose that could be a limitation of your particular laptop, but every laptop I have (and I have many!) is able to utilize the laptop screen and an external monitor in an Extended Desktop config. In Control Panel>Display>Change Display Settings, you should see this in the Multiple Displays drop-down:

multiple displays - extended desktop
I'll be surprised if your laptop doesn't have the "Extend desktop to this display" selection. Regards, Joe
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by:garycase
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"... About laptops: I can run my screen and a monitor or projector but I get the same thing on both screens.  "  ==>  It's almost certain that you can change this in Display Settings.   Just choose the "Extend these displays"  option.    You'll then be able to choose independent resolutions for the displays, and the desktop will be extended to the external display (i.e. NOT a clone).

Most systems these days will support two different displays -- check your computer to see if it has two outputs ... any two of the following :  VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort

If you only have a single VGA output, then you can't have two different displays, but you CAN split the output to support multiple monitors.    There are simple "Y" cables that will let you do this, but they don't always work well, as the signaling between the displays and the adapter isn't uniform.    It's best to use an active splitter if that's what you want to do.   Something like this:  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=845829&gclid=CNvftZvo3L8CFZJr7AodJkIATg&Q=&is=REG&A=details
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by:tailoreddigital
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"Most systems these days will support two different displays -- check your computer to see if it has two outputs ... any two of the following :  VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort"

I've seen plenty motherboards that have all these ports but will only support one of the digital outputs along with the VGA.   So it's possible, for example, that you won't be able to use DVI along with HDMI.    Of course if there's a slotted video card, this post doesn't necessarily apply.

Definitely check the motherboard specs for exactly what's doable on your board.
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by:Lee W, MVP
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With RARE exception (NEWER DisplayPort systems) you cannot simply use a splitter to get multiple displays - you would need multiple connectors on the devices.  

Even then, some graphics cards and motherboards may have compatibility issues with running multiple displays. For example, in some cases, if you install a graphics card in a PC that has onboard graphics, the onboard graphics MIGHT not work.  Some display adapters, even if they have three possible connections, such as HDMI, DVI, and VGA, might only allow two at a time to work.
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by:garycase
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"... Some display adapters, even if they have three possible connections, such as HDMI, DVI, and VGA, might only allow two at a time to work. "   ==>  Actually, MOST display adapters will only support 2 displays at once, regardless of how many outputs theyhave.    The exception is the newest adapters and on-chip video (e.g. Haswell graphics), which will generally support 3 simultaneous devices.
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by:brothertruffle880
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HI All:  Clarification:    I want two screens each showing a different application.  I thought I could configure my resolution to make it really wide so that I could show Outlook on the right side (Monitor 1) and MS Word on the left side (Monitor 2)  In other words "trick" my resolution config to be wide enough to do this.
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by:John Hurst
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I want two screens each showing a different application  <-- I think you will be happiest with a proper dual monitor set up and video output to support it.
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Joe Winograd, EE MVE earned 500 total points
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> I want two screens each showing a different application.

Then my first post <http:#a40215715> is the relevant one.

> I thought I could configure my resolution to make it really wide so that I could show Outlook on the right side (Monitor 1) and MS Word on the left side (Monitor 2) In other words "trick" my resolution config to be wide enough to do this.

Can't do that with any device that I'm aware of. For your desktop, either add a second video card or get one card that supports two monitors. For your laptop, it may already have what you need, as my article discusses. If your laptop can't do it, there are USB adapters that provide a video port. Here's one:

http://www.amazon.com/StarTech-External-Video-Monitor-Adapter/dp/B005G306I2/

I've never had this particular device, but I have many StarTech products and have been extremely happy with them. I would not hesitate to give this product a try. Note that it comes in numerous flavors – USB2, USB3, USB3 with pass-through on one end; and DVI, HDMI, VGA on the other end. Make sure to get the right version depending on the USB port on your laptop and the video port on the monitor. Regards, Joe
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by:brothertruffle880
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Thanks much!
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by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
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You're welcome! Happy to help.
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