Introduction: How to Setup Dual Monitors With Microsoft Vista

In this instructable I'll be showing you how to setup two (or more) monitors with Microsoft Windows Vista. This is a handy trick to know if you're needing more space to work with and can really increase your productive use of your computer. What we'll be doing is hooking up the second monitor, extending the desktop across the second screen, and calibrating the display. It's all pretty basic and simple to do. If you're experienced with computers then this will seem like a needless instructable to you but if you're unaware of how to do this then it'll be a little bit of an eye opener.

Step 1: What You Need

In order to be able to do this you will need a computer with at least two video cards, Microsoft Windows Vista (you don't need this, but this instructable was written for Vista), two monitors, and the cable to hook up the second monitor. I'm using a laptop that has a preinstalled auxiliary video output that doubles as a second video card (the laptops LCD and associated hardware counts as one) so I just used that one. If you're using a laptop then all you'll need to do is connect your second monitor to your external display port. If you're using a desktop then you'll need to purchase and install a second video card.

Step 2: Turning on the Second Monitor

Once you're connected your second monitor the first thing that you'll notice is that it isn't doing anything. This is normal. You just need to tell the computer how it's supposed to be using this second monitor. If you're using an updated version of Vista then it will have already detected the second monitor, so there's no need to do any hardware configuration. The next thing you'll want to do is minimize all of your open windows, right click on the desktop background, and click on "Personalize". This will pull up the "Personalize appearance and sounds" window. From here you will click on "Display Settings". This will open the Display Settings program.

Step 3: What to Do in Display Settings

Once you have done this you will see something like the image below. If you have a second video card installed on your computer then you will see two graphical representations of computer monitors. If you have more than two video cards then you will see a graphic corresponding with each video card you have installed. The monitor you are currently using is "1". We are wanting to turn on monitor "2". Click on the box with the 2 in it and you'll now be dealing exclusively with the second monitor. Once you've done this you'll see something similar to the window shown in the second image.

Step 4: Extend the Desktop

By now you've probably clicked the "Extend the desktop onto this monitor" checkbox and seen your second monitor display an image of your desktop background. If you haven't then now would be a good time to do so. Once you've done this you can use your second monitor as is, but it's helpful to align it, and set the proper resolution. To align the second monitor in relation to the first one you just click and drag the "2" box until it's in approximately the correct position as related to where the monitors are actually sitting on your desk. This is important because when you actually want to use the second monitor you will need to physically drag the windows you want on it "off the edge" of one screen and "onto" the other. It's easier to see, and do, then explain. Once you've done this click the "Apply" box and you'll be presented with one last dialog box asking if you want to keep the settings. If your screen goes blank and you see nothing then just wait for a minute and it'll come back. At this point you may also want to adjust the resolution of the second monitor to get it to look right.

Step 5: How Do I Use This?

The trickiest part of the entire dual monitor setup is learning how to use it. What we've done is enlarge the desktop and stretch it across two monitors. With mine setup as shown in the pictures, when I move my mouse to the far left side of the laptop monitor it will vanish from my laptop screen and immediately appear on the right side of the screen on the second monitor. Basically, just pretend that you have one monitor and you've cut in half (and it magically still works). When I maximize any window on my computer, though, it will fill the screen that it's on but not both. To help clear things up, take a look at the images. The first one is a screen capture with all of my windows minimized. The division that is seen is the border between the two monitors. When I want to move between them I just move the mouse, or window, in the corresponding direction. In the second image I've brought up the instructables website on the right, another browser playing a video on the left, and a third window in between them. To see how this looks on the monitors just take a look at the last image.

Step 6: In Conclusion,

In conclusion, I hope this instructable has been helpful. I mainly want people that are using laptops, or wishing they had larger screens, to realize what a normal person can easily do to help make their lives easier. I mainly use this to watch video on the second monitor while I do other things on the laptop LCD. This lets me do other things without having to resize windows to ridicules dimensions. I've only have this setup for a day and my computer handles it just fine although the second monitor does tend to flicker every once in a while due to age.

Hope you've enjoyed and found this helpful and insightful!
Thanks for reading!