How to Hook Up a Laptop to an External Monitor

By Jeff Grundy

Whether you simply want to view media from your laptop on a larger screen or use dual displays to make multitasking easier, adding an external monitor can help. Most laptops include a video-out port made just for connecting an external monitor to your portable computer. After connecting an external monitor to your laptop, Windows lets you view your desktop on either the laptop or external display -- or both at the same time.

Things You'll Need

  • Laptop
  • External monitor (CRT or LCD)
  • Monitor cable
  • Port adapter (if needed)

Connect External Monitor

Step 1

Shut down your laptop and remove the AC power adapter. Locate the blue VGA or white DVI video-out port on the rear of the laptop. Some media-centic laptops have a USB-like HDMI port.

Step 2

Connect the monitor cable to the input port on the rear of the monitor. If the port on the laptop does not match the one on the monitor, connect an adapter to the end of the cable that attaches to the laptop. You can purchase adapters that convert VGA to DVI, DVI to VGA, HDMI to DVI and DVI to HDMI. However, you cannot use an adapter to convert a VGA to HDMI connection or vice versa. Connect the adapter to the end of the cable, if needed, and then connect the cable to the video-out port on the laptop.

Step 3

Connect the power cord to the external monitor. Plug the other end of the power cord into an electrical outlet. Turn on the monitor.

Step 4

Power on the laptop and wait for it to boot into Windows.

Display Mirror Image on External Monitor

Step 1

Click the “Start” button, then “Control Panel.” Click the “Adjust Screen Resolution” link underneath the “Appearance and Personalization” header in Control Panel.

Step 2

Click the “Detect” button, then the monitor picture labeled “2.” Click the “Resolution” drop-down list and select the desired resolution size for the external monitor. Alternatively, leave the default Windows-recommended resolution setting in place.

Step 3

Click the “Multiple Displays” list arrow, then click “Duplicate the displays.” Click the “Apply” button, then “OK.” Windows clones the image from the laptop display and shows it on the external monitor.

Extend Desktop on Both Displays

Step 1

Click “Start,” then “Control Panel.” Click “Adjust Screen Resolution” in the “Appearance and Personalization” section.

Step 2

Click “Detect” in the Screen Resolution window, then click the monitor with the “2” label. Click the “Resolution” drop-down list and select the desired resolution for the new monitor.

Step 3

Click the drop-down list next to “Multiple Displays.” Select “Extend these displays,” and then click “Apply.” Click the “OK” button to close the "Screen Resolution" window. Windows extends the desktop across the laptop and external monitor displays. You can now drag and drop windows between the two screens and use them to view two different applications or windows at the same time.