Research Hub > How to Use Dual Monitors

September 20, 2021

Use Case
9 min

How to Use Dual Monitors: Dual Monitor Setup Guide

This dual monitor setup guide will teach you how to use dual monitors and how you can maximize your productivity with your extra screen space.

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What's Inside

Whether in the home or in the office, one of the best ways to increase productivity is to set up a second monitor. Having twice the display space is ideal for any task, from gaming to office work. Most modern computers have all the necessary ports and are quick and easy to set up with dual monitors. This dual monitor setup guide will teach you how to use dual monitors and maximize productivity with your extra screen space.

CDW has everything you need to set up the ultimate multi-monitor workstation.  Shop Monitors and Monitor Mounts.

Why Use Dual Monitors?

Whether you use your PC for work, gaming, or learning, a dual monitor setup offers many advantages:

  • Office Work: Dual monitors will increase how efficiently you can use your PC. The extra screen space is perfect for video calls and meetings as well, allowing you to keep your workflow on one screen and your video call on another. With a full second screen, each member of the call can have ample room to be seen.
  • Students: For students, dual monitors make online study a breeze. You can effortlessly read from a textbook as you take notes on the other monitor.
  • Gaming: Gamers benefit similarly from the added screen space. Having a dedicated map or voice chat screen saves valuable time and hassle from minimizing game windows. You can also set up multiple monitors to stretch a game’s display across multiple screens. This creates a unique way to play games like racers and flight simulators.  

Setting up a second screen is as easy as plugging in that additional monitor. Once you use dual monitors, it’s hard to go back. 

Connection Types

Setting up a second monitor is a straightforward task. The most important factor you must consider is the connection type. Most modern PCs will have multiple ports that can output to a display. All you need is the proper cables to connect the ports on both your PC and monitor.

Do not worry if you need a different port or cable to set up dual monitors. All display connections can be used with most cables thanks to adapters. Knowing the different types of video connections can also help you maximize use of your monitors. Here are some of the most common ports you will encounter and where you might find them:

  • VGA: Considered legacy hardware by today's standards, VGA ports can still be found on most PCs and monitors. This port cannot carry audio and initially supported a max resolution of 640 x 480. Modern VGA can support up to 1080p resolutions, but still has no audio functionality. VGA ports are always blue in color and shaped like a trapezoid. 

             Shop VGA Cables & Adapters

  • HDMI: Most modern monitors today come with an HDMI port. A standard HDMI port can carry audio and display resolutions of up to 1920 x 1080. HDMI ports are typically flush on the back of a device and resemble a trapezoid with a step in the middle. 

            Shop HDMI Cables & Adapters

  • DVI: The video capabilities of a DVI port can match, or sometimes even surpass, that of HDMI. The most significant difference is that HDMI cables can transfer audio, while DVI cannot. As HDMI ports became more popular, DVI ports were used less frequently. DVI ports are white and have a 24-pin connector, as well as an additional flat pin connecter. 

           Shop DVI Cables & Adapters

  • DisplayPort: Capable of incredible resolutions and frame rates, DisplayPort is the new kid on the block taking the PC world by storm. Similar in size to an HDMI port, DisplayPorts resemble rounded rectangles that have one corner cut off. DisplayPort supports resolutions and frame rates of 8k at 60 frames per second (FPS), 4k at 144 FPS, and 1080p at 240FPS. 

         Shop DisplayPort Cables & Adapters 

How to Set Up Dual Monitors

Once you have both of your monitors connected properly, images should display on both screens. There are multiple display configurations your computer can operate while using dual monitors. Each layout has specific uses, and you can switch between all configurations easily. Below you will find a list of all the possible dual screen configurations and some common uses for each of them:

  • PC Screen Only: This means that windows will only display on your primary monitor and that any secondary display will not function. A primary monitor would be your first monitor on a desktop or the attached screen on a laptop. This is useful if a particular game or program is not working correctly on your dual displays.
  • Mirror / Duplicate Display: Known by both names, this configuration will display identical images on both monitors connected to your PC. Mirroring displays is excellent for sharing one screen with others while still working on your computer as usual.
  • Extend Display: By far the most common way to use a dual monitor setup is by extending your display. When you extend your display, it adds the second monitor as extra screen space for anything your PC could output. Extended displays are incredibly useful in work and home office computer setups.
  • Second Screen Only: Similar to PC screen only, this configuration will only display on one monitor. This particular configuration will blackout the main display and only allow the PC to function on the secondary monitor. Rare occasions like presentations or meetings can benefit from having a single larger display on which a group can focus. 

Productivity Benefits of Dual Monitors

Having dual monitors is a benefit to any computer user. Developers who need to look at documentation while coding no longer need to minimize windows endlessly. Content creators and streamers can watch chat boxes and connect with their community on their second displays easily. Vertical monitors allow writers and artists to see entire documents as they work on them with reference materials readily available on the other monitor.

Using dual monitors simply allows users to do more on their computers at the same time. Most modern computers can easily connect to a second display at little to no added cost beyond the purchase of a second monitor. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time at a computer could benefit from a second display! 

Dual Monitor Setup: Tips & Tricks

While learning how to use dual monitors is quick and easy, there are some tips and tricks that can help you make the most of your dual monitor setup:

  • Adjust Resolution: Not all displays are the same size or output the same resolution. When connecting a second monitor, make sure to go into your display settings and adjust both monitors’ resolutions accordingly. If one of your dual displays is using the wrong resolution, for instance, it could warp images or make the monitor appear fuzzy and hard to read.
  • Display Arrangement: When you connect a second monitor, the computer might not detect on which side of your current display the new screen appears. By going into your display settings, you can manually adjust the arrangement of your monitors. This allows you to line up each screen's borders and make your monitors function as smoothly as possible.
  • Third-Party Tools: While there are tons of built-in features in modern operating systems to support dual monitors, there are more advanced features out there. Some users could benefit from added features that are only available from outside software. Third-party software may provide functionality for tasks like creating shortcuts for swapping displays, arranging windows, and helping users make the most of their dual monitor setup.
  • Experiment: One of the biggest benefits of using dual monitors is finding all of the different ways to use that second screen. Do not be afraid to experiment with a vertical display or even stacked horizontal monitors. Each new way a second screen can be used has benefits to be discovered, and you will not harm your PC by testing them all out. 
  • Learn Shortcuts: Now that you have your dual monitors set up and running, the next step is to learn all the keyboard shortcuts that can help you configure and use your display. You can find these shortcuts in your operating system's display settings and even change them to whatever key binds work best for you.
  • Taskbar Control: Once you have multiple monitors, you will also have multiple taskbars. Settings similar to screen configuration allow you to either mirror your taskbar or have it appear on only one screen.
  • There is No Limit: Using two monitors is fantastic, but some computers can support three or even five screens. While using five displays may only have specific uses, utilizing three or even four displays can maximize your PC’s potential. 


From remote meetings to virtual learning and even concerts, home computers are being used more than ever before. Users need to achieve the absolute best performance out of their machines. The benefits of adding a second monitor can be significant in terms of a productivity and performance increase. Setting up a second monitor is as easy as having the proper port and plugging in a cable. Different configurations and third-party software can help users maximize their productivity as well. Dual monitors benefit every kind of PC user and offer new and exciting ways to utilize your PC.