Multiple monitors: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about multiple monitors.

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How does Windows manage multiple displays?

Windows detects and identifies each monitor and projector that you connect, and applies the video settings that are best suited to each display. When you connect an additional monitor for the first time, you can choose how you want your desktop to appear on the display. In addition, Windows collects information about the additional display's video capabilities, including screen size, screen resolution, and color depth.

The next time that you connect that monitor, the display settings that you selected the first time you connected it are automatically applied. When you disconnect the monitor, the original display settings are restored.

Windows can save and restore display settings for any number of monitors and projectors.

Why is my desktop automatically duplicated on all displays?

A mirrored desktop is the default display setting for multiple displays. If you don't choose how you want your desktop to appear in the New Display Detected dialog box, your desktop is automatically duplicated in each display.

What options do I have for how my desktop appears on each display?

In the New Display Detected dialog box, you can choose the appearance of your desktop on each display.

  • Mirrored. Duplicates, or mirrors, your desktop on each display that you connect. Mirrored is the default display option. This option is useful if you plan to use your mobile PC to give a presentation on a projector or a fixed display in a conference room, such as a wall-mounted plasma display or TV-type monitor.

  • Extended. Extends your desktop across all displays. You can move program windows between the displays, which increases your desktop area.

  • External display only. Shows your desktop on each display that you connect, but not on your mobile PC display. This option is useful when you play a DVD on a mobile PC that supports full-screen video playback on a single display. It can also save battery power by turning off the mobile PC display and using only the external display.

When you select an option, you can preview the display in the New Display Detected dialog box. Click Apply to preview the display on the monitor or projector. Click OK to confirm your settings. If you click Cancel, Windows applies the default setting (mirrored).

Note

  • The New Display Detected dialog box appears only when you're using two displays. If you connect three or more displays, you must manually designate your primary display, arrange your desktop, and apply display settings in Display Settings in Control Panel.

Can I change the display settings of the additional monitors that I connect?

Yes. Here's how to do it:

  1. Open Display Settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, clicking Personalization, and then clicking Display Settings.

  2. Choose the monitor that you want to change settings for, adjust the display settings, and then click OK.

To select different display settings for one or more displays

  • At the bottom of the New Display Detected dialog box, click Display.

    The Display Settings dialog box opens, where you can change screen resolution, refresh rate, and color depth.

How does Windows automatically detect an additional display?

Windows periodically checks for additional displays.

Most newer monitors and projectors support Extended Display Identification Data (EDID), a standard video data format that contains basic information about a display's capabilities, including maximum screen size, screen resolution, refresh rate, color depth, and orientation.

If a display is EDID-enabled, Windows automatically identifies the display and applies the appropriate display settings.

What can I do if Windows can't identify the additional display?

If Windows can't identify the additional display, you can manually open the New Display Detected dialog box by using one of the following methods:

  • Press the keyboard shortcut on your mobile PC that turns on an additional display. The function (FN) keyboard shortcut FN+F5 is used for this purpose on many mobile PCs. To determine which keyboard shortcut turns on an additional display, check the information that came with your mobile PC, or go to the manufacturer's website.

  • Open Windows Mobility Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Mobile PC, and then clicking Windows Mobility Center.

    Then, on the External Display tile, click Connect display.

What is the keyboard shortcut on my mobile PC that turns on an additional display?

The keyboard shortcut that turns on an additional display varies depending on your mobile PC manufacturer. It typically involves a keyboard shortcut, such as FN+F4 or FN+F5. To determine which keyboard shortcut turns on an additional display, check the information that came with your mobile PC, or go to the manufacturer's website.