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Tech tip: How to add a second monitor to your PC, Mac or laptop

Working from home has introduced to a whole new set of difficulties: miscommunication, technical issues, disruptive sounds and never-ending meetings among them.

That’s why it’s important to be proactive and search for new ways to improve your focus. Tap or click here for tools tech companies are offering for free. There are also proactive steps you can take to make work easier. One of our favorite ways to boost at-home productivity using two screens.

Basically, all the minutiae of multi-tasking is made much simpler through a dual-screen setup. Best of all, it’s easy to do. Here’s how to get started.

What you’ll need

First, let’s go over some of the things you’ll need. 

  • A second monitor: Keep in mind the amount of desk space you have available and make sure you get two screens that can comfortably fit on your desk or mounted to the wall, if you go that route.
  • VGA or DVI cord: Both of these cables carry analog signals. DVI connectors are newer and offer better displays than VGA cords.
  • An open VGA or DVI port: VGA ports are small and blue, while DVI ports have three long rows of small, black squares.

How to connect a second monitor

Take a look at the back of your computer and you’ll see a long strip of ports. On a laptop, these ports are on the side. There are ethernet, USB, HDMI and display ports, and if you have a dedicated graphics card, you’ll see vertical ports, too. 

Now, check the ports on your monitors. If one monitor has HDMI and one has a VGA or DVI, you’re good to go. If you don’t see a VGA or DVI port on either monitor, you’ll need to add an adapter like the one below to your shopping list.

Once you’ve made sure you have everything you need, connect your second monitor to a power outlet. Then, take your VGA or DVI cord and put one end in your second monitor. The other end connect to a port on your computer.

Now that everything is in the right place, how do you make sure your computer settings reflect your new workspace?

On a PC

  • Click Start. From there to go Settings, System, and Display. If everything’s connected, your PC will automatically detect your monitors and show your desktop. If it doesn’t, hit Detect and the two screens should show up.
  • In the Multiple displays section, choose Extend these displays to make sure your computer knows you want to work from both screens.
  • Click on Keep changes.

Depending on your workstation, you may need to change your primary monitor. To do so:

  • Right click and open Display settings.
  • Press and hold a monitor to select it, then drag to rearrange.

RELATED: How to calibrate your PC monitor to get the best picture possible

On a Mac

Before you get started, check how many displays your Mac supports. Choose Apple menu > About This Mac. Click Support, then click Specifications. On the webpage that appears, the number of displays your Mac supports appears under Video Support.

Extended desktop mode lets you use full-screen apps and windows, and your dock will appear on the monitor you’re currently using. To turn it on:

  • Make sure that your second monitor is on and connected to your Mac.
  • Open the Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Displays.
  • Click the Arrangement tab.
  • Make sure that the Mirror Displays checkbox isn’t selected.

You can also change your primary display using these steps:

  • Open the Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Displays.
  • Click the Arrangement tab.
  • To change the position of a display, drag it to the desired position.
  • To set a different display as the primary display, drag the menu bar to the other display.

Now, you should be good to start working. But what if you’ve got a laptop? Good news: There’s a way to attach one or two monitors to your laptop.

How to connect a monitor to a laptop

If you’re sick of working on a tiny screen, a new monitor is the way to go.

First, check your laptop and monitor’s video options. Do you have an HDMI port, a VGA/DVI port or a DisplayPort? If you’re working on a Mac laptop, you have different options: There’s the HDMI port, but you may also find a Mini DisplayPort or a USB-C, which is oval-shaped.

Next, look for the matching inputs on your monitor. Once you find a match, choose the appropriate cable and attach one end to your laptop’s video output. Take the other end and plug it into your monitor.

Next, connect to a power outlet and turn on the monitor. If you’ve got multiple input options, choose HDMI, VGA or whichever option matches your setup.

Now you just have to make sure your computer settings reflect this change.

  • If you’re using a Mac, go to System Preferences, click Display and choose the arrangement you want for your workplace.
  • In Windows 10, right click on your desktop, hit Display settings and configure your monitors to your liking.

RELATED: Working from home: The tech you need to get the job done

5 tips to get the most out of your new setup

1. Set wide wallpapers or different wallpapers on each monitor.

  • If you’re working on a PC, right click on your desktop, choose Personalize, browse the folder with the image you want and choose Span to fill the space on your displays.
  • If you’re on a Mac, click the Apple logo at the top of your display, and choose System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Secondary Desktop. This way, you’ll be able to choose images for different windows.

2. Make the displays match up if they are not the same size. On a PC, go to Start > Settings > Display and scroll down to Scale and Layout. There you can adjust the scaling and resolution of each monitor to make sure they match.

3. Consider rotating one of your monitors to portrait mode. Windows accommodates this, and you may find it works better depending on how you use your screens.

4. Find your ideal set-up. Maybe one screen has your email open all day and the other one is where you get work done. If you’re a writer, maybe one screen is for research and the other is for writing. If you’re comparing PDFs or Word documents, you can put each one on a different screen. This is especially helpful for editing or word processing jobs, as it allows you to compare edited documents to the originals.

5. Remember to keep track of your mouse. When you’ve got multiple displays, it’s easy to forget where your mouse went if you’re not paying attention. Adjusting the way your screens line up (step 2 above) helps if your mouse isn’t moving smoothly between displays.

You’re all set, and we bet you’ll find that once you start using dual monitors, it’s hard to go back to just one.

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