Display on External Monitor Disappears

I am using a VGA connection to my Lenovo T420s Laptop running Windows 7.   A few days ago the desktop on my relatively new Acer monitor disappeared.  The wallpaper remained, but nothing else (even my mouse cursor, task bar, and Windows icons).  I could only work on the laptop's screen, which still works fine.   When I plugged in an older monitor everything worked fine.  But today the older monitor experienced the same issue.  I am now incapable of working with an external monitor (which I really need for my work).   The monitor manufacturers all believe it's a computer issue, which makes sense.  I updated my drivers with Lenovo, but that didn't help.  

My resolution settings are correct, with the Duplicate Displays setting activated.  I made no changes to my system since the monitors worked fine.  Any ideas?

 Thanks,

Phil
philsimmonsAsked:
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Sir LearnalotCommented:
Have you tried dragging a window (anything, e.g. a notepad window) from your laptop monitor over to your extended monitor?

Are your graphics drivers updated? (Run windows update with optional drivers/software selected)

You said you are now unable to work on your second monitor... but you also mentioned you had "Duplicate Displays setting activated". Duplicating your display would only have a second "copy" of what you are doing on your first monitor. Although I realize its not working like that nonetheless, is this the mode you desire? Usually working with your second monitor means you would need to set it as "Extended Desktop" not duplicate.
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AaronSystems Administrator & DSTCommented:
Because the issue is happening and then not happening with a new setup perhaps you could try starting without anything plugged into the vga and try plugging in the VGA after boot up. This may be a bandaid fix but it may show you something is happening or not happening on startup.

As Sir Learnalot said make sure it is on Extend Display not Duplicate though if that was the issue you would see a mouse cursor on both screens and you stated you did not have any activity on the second screen. You can look at the display settings to see what direction you have the monitors in (use identify on the monitors then look at the position in display settings). You can actually set the second display above below left or right of the main display. You could also try switching the secondary monitor to the main display and see if that works for you.

Do you have another port other than VGA available? I tend to have more luck with HDMI in general and usually the VGA ports tend to get loose.

Few things you could do extra that I don't think would be the problem but are worth a try:
Install the monitor specific drivers
System restore to when it was working
Change the VGA cable out
Rollback the graphics drivers

If you haven't made any changes that you "know of" then it was most likely an update of some kind that caused the issue.

I hope that this helps you troubleshoot the problem and be sure to let us know what solution works for you, best of luck!
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philsimmonsAuthor Commented:
Thanks for responding.  I don't work on both monitors.  My laptop is in a cabinet, and I  have a VGA cable running to my single external monitor.  So the extended monitor setting won't work.  This is the setup that's been working fine for years.  I ran both Windows updates and Lenovo updates to make sure my drivers are up to date.  If it helps any, the first (newer) monitor stopped working several days before the second (older) monitor stopped working (though they've both got the same problem).  And the laptop screen still works fine.  Thoughts?
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AaronSystems Administrator & DSTCommented:
Did you try to change the monitor to the primary display?
You can do it by going to the "Start" - Type in "display" - Press "enter" - click on "change display settings.
Or right click the desktop and select "screen resolution".

Sometimes closing the lid will allow it to change to the second display as the main display as well but opening it back up will swap the display back.

Did you try to start up the laptop and then connect the monitor after boot up?

The easiest solution might just be to do a system restore to when it was still working. I really feel like the fact that it isn't coming up as primary is the problem though.
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philsimmonsAuthor Commented:
Thank you!  The primary display option worked.
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