Troubleshoot multiple monitor problems

Here are solutions to some common problems with connecting, setting up, and working with multiple monitors.

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The Start button and the Windows taskbar don't appear on the display where I expect to see them.

When you connect an additional monitor to your computer, the Start button Picture of Start button and taskbar are located by default on the primary display—typically, your computer display. If you want the Start button and taskbar to appear on a different display, you must designate that display as the primary display.

To designate the primary display

  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. On the Monitor tab, click Identify Monitors.

    The display that is identified by the number "1" is the primary display.

  3. Click the numbered icon that represents the display that you want to designate as the primary display, and then select the This is my main monitor check box.

  4. Click OK.

  5. When prompted to keep the settings, click Yes.

When I try to drag a window from one display to another, the window stops when it reaches the edge of the screen.

Your displays might not be correctly aligned. Check the display alignment to make sure that the numbered icons that represent the displays are correctly aligned.

To check the display alignment

  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. On the Monitor tab, make sure that the numbered icons that represent the displays are aligned the way that you want, either side by side or top to bottom.

    If the screen resolution is different for each display, the icons won't be the same size. For example, an icon that represents a display with a 1024 × 768 screen resolution appears larger than an icon that represents a display with a lower resolution, such as 800 × 600.

I use two monitors side by side to extend my desktop. When I drag a window from the display on the left to the display on the right, the window appears at the right edge of the display and moves from right to left.

In this case, the physical arrangement of your displays is the opposite of the virtual arrangement that is represented on the Monitors tab. For example, your primary display is on the left, but when you first set up the displays by using the New Display Detected dialog box, you chose to extend your desktop to the left instead of to the right. For more information, see Set up multiple monitors.

The quickest and simplest way to correct this problem is to switch the location of the numbered icons that represent your displays. Drag the numbered icons to the location you want as demonstrated by the following animation.

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.

Animated illustration showing how to change the orientation of your displays
Changing display orientation

I want to change how my desktop appears on the displays.

When you connect an additional monitor for the first time, use the New Display Detected dialog box to choose the way you want your desktop to appear (that is, mirrored, extended, or shown only on the external display). You can change this appearance and other display settings without reconnecting any monitors or returning to the New Display Detected dialog box.

To change a mirrored display to an extended display

  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. On the Monitor tab, select the numbered icon that represents the additional monitor that you connected.

    If you connected only one additional monitor to your computer, its icon is identified by the number "2."

  3. Select the Extend the desktop onto this monitor check box, and then click OK.

  4. If prompted to keep the current settings, click Yes.

To change an extended display to a mirrored display

The following procedure works only for mobile PCs. If you're using a desktop computer, you may be able to change an extended display to a mirrored display by using the software provided with your video card or display driver.

  1. 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.

  2. On the External Display tile, click Connect display.

  3. On the New Display Detected dialog box, click Mirrored, and then click OK.

    Most mobile PCs use FN+F5, FN+F7, or FN+F8 to cycle through the display modes. To determine which function keyboard shortcut you need to use, check the information that came with your mobile PC, or go to the manufacturer's website.

The size of the program windows and text is different on each display that I'm using.

Make sure the screen resolution is the same on each display. For more information, see Change screen resolution.

Note

  • Some screen resolutions might not be available on all monitors because of differences in display hardware, electronics, video cards, and drivers.

The colors are different on each display that I'm using.

Make sure that the color depth is the same for each display.

Note

  • Certain color depth settings might not be available on some monitors because of differences in display hardware, electronics, video cards, and drivers. For example, some monitors might be limited to a 16-bit color display.

To set the color depth for a display

  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. On the Monitor tab, under Colors, select the value that you want.

    The higher the color depth, the more realistic the image will appear on your display.

  3. Click OK.

I can't move a program window to a different display.

If the window is maximized, you can't move it until you reduce the window to its smaller (pre-maximized or "restored") size by clicking the Restore Down button.

To move a window to a different display

  1. On the window that you want to move, click the Restore DownRestore Down button button or double-click the title bar to reduce the window to its smaller size.
  2. Click the title bar on the window, and then drag the window to the display that you want it to appear on.

    Animated illustration showing how to move a window from one monitor display to another
    Moving a window from one monitor display to another