Home » Computer Tutorials » How do I setup dual monitors in Windows Vista?

How do I setup dual monitors in Windows Vista?

Here’s a little walkthrough on how to setup dual monitors in Windows Vista. I figured I’d throw this together as I finally got around to purchasing another display after I prematurely sold off my Samsung 740N that I had setup as a secondary display.

If you’ve not tried a dual monitor setup before, then I highly suggest that you do. It makes work (or anything else for that matter) so much easier and more efficient. Instead of “window juggling” as I like to call it, you can simply have multiple things open on each screen and move back and forth between them. You can bet that I’m never putting myself into a position to where I have only one display again.

Here goes:
Right Click The Desktop and then left click Personalize following which click on the Display Settings icon.

You should then see the display settings dialog, obviously, and it’ll look a little something like this:

Windows Vista Ultimate Display Settings Dialog

Windows Vista Ultimate Display Settings Dialog

My monitor layout is different from the one shown, so a little adjustment is necessary. If yours differs from what it shows as well (My main screen is actually on the right) then simply drag one of the screens to its appropriate location in relation to your primary display.

Once done, and while the new monitor is still highlighted, check the Extend the desktop onto this monitor box, set the resolution to what it should be (for most 17″ or 19″ flat panels it’ll be 1280×1024) and then click Apply.

The desktop should extend onto the monitor at this point, and a dialog that says Do you want to keep these display settings? Reverting back to previous display settings in 15 seconds will pop up. Click Yes, assuming that everything looks correct, and you’re done! Your desktop background should duplicate on the new screen and you’ll now be able to drag programs over to it.

One thing to keep in mind is that games will only occupy the display you have set as the primary. So, for instance, you’re playing Fallout 3 whenever it comes out then it’d only take up Screen #1.

Not much to it, eh? If you decide to go the multi-display route as well, I would suggest getting two monitors that are the same size. Currently I have a Samsung 940bw as well as the new Hyundai L90D+. My Samsung is a 16:10 aspect ratio widescreen with a resolution of 1440×900. The Hyundai is a 19″ normal aspect ratio with a resolution of 1280×1024. Because the resolutions differ as well as the height differences dragging items from one display to the other looks a bit odd. The color settings don’t exactly match either as the Hyundai is a bit “warmer” which adds to the disparity. This isn’t a big deal, really, but I’m fairly OCD and just having two things on my desk that so completely don’t match is irritating.

Oh well, it’s nothing more than a stop-gap until I can get me a pair of Samsung SyncMaster 216BW 21.6-inch LCD Monitors

About Kevin Souter

Kevin Souter is a full time computer technician and operates a computer repair site, as well as a free spyware removal site. http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com has articles and tutorials on all sorts of computer problems from internet issues to hardware defects, for the novice and the expert.
  • Sootah

    I’ve received a few questions asking what my background is set to. It’s the wallpaper that Gabe (Jeremy Holkins) made to go with his July 4th, 2007 comic.


    ’07 saw a lot of old 80’s properties get turned into movies, and this comic coincided with the release of Transformers.

    If you grew up in the 80’s then you almost certainly remember Teddy Ruxpin*, a bear that you could insert a tape into and it’d move its mouth along with the sound. The thought of him being made into an action hero is… awesome.
    Be sure to check out the follow-up comic as well:


    You can grab the wallpaper from the news section of the site for the 4’th.

    *Remember My Buddy or Kid Sister? Damn I’m getting old…

  • http://www.windowvistarepair.com Computer Repair man

    Many companies like ATI have their own programs that you can use to set up the options as well. If you do not want to go through the vista or xp setup you can use the manufactures program as an alternate. Personally the above steps work great and that is the way I would go but ATI’s catalyst program does offer far more options.

  • Michelle

    I can’t get this to work.

    I can get into the “display Settings” dialog box, but it doesn’t seem to recognize that I have two different monitors and calls them by the same name, and shows both as monitor #1 regardless of clicking on the “extend the desktop…” box.

    Is there something else I need to do?

  • Annabel

    Are you sure your video card allows 2 monitors?

    Are you sure that the cable is correct – are you using a splitter cable?

  • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Sootah

    Why type of video card do you have? If it’s an nVidia then you could try using nVidia’s control panel to do the configuration. You’ll likely want to update to their latest Forceware drivers anyway.


  • Ty

    I recently purchased a new monitor to set up multiple monitors… self explanatory, however, I came upon a problem that is out of my knowledge:

    I have a nvidia 8800 GT video card with two available ports. I plugged in both and did the normal setup. My secondary monitor never brings up the desktop it remains. It registers and I can take my mouse to that monitor and back but it is black the entire time.

    Any help?

  • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Sootah

    Try installing the updated drivers from nVidia at the link above. Make sure that “Extend the desktop onto this monitor” is checked for it, the resolution is set correctly, as well as the position is set correctly. Generally speaking, that’s all it should take.

    You also may have to do a little configuring in the nVidia control panel to get it working, but with an nVidia card (I also own an 8800, as well as a 7800 for my third monitor, which happens to be a 46″ Samsung LN46A750 LCD TV) the Windows Display Settings should be all that’s required. It’s all I had to do to get my setup working, anyway.

    Windows Vista three monitor setup

    Beautiful, eh? Usually I just use the TV to run Windows Media Center (as shown in the picture), Windows Media Player 11, or Hulu on it, but sometimes it’s nice to have a place that’s out of the way of my regular workspace to drag an application or document up to for reference. Comes in QUITE handy while programming.

    Here’s a shot of the Windows Display Settings config for my setup:

    Windows Vista three monitor display settings

  • Ty


    thanks for the quick response, i updated my driver and it gave me more options in the nvidia control panel to customize my two monitors. so it acknowledges the second monitor, yet it does not wake it up from its sleep mode and make it usuable.

    if i turn the second monitor off then back on it says: NO SIGNAL INPUT

    not sure if that helps to narrow down the problem.


  • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Sootah

    Try plugging your new monitor into the primary display port to make sure it works. Does your monitor have both a D-Sub and a DVI hookup? If so, perhaps your monitor is trying to access the other connection and is ignoring the one you have hooked up.

    For instance, I can switch my Samsung 216BW over to the D-Sub connection, and then it gives me the “No Signal” error because I have it hooked up via DVI.

    I assume that the Windows Display properties now allow you to extend the desktop onto the secondary display port?

  • LF

    Does this work if you use a splitter? I have managed to get 2 monitors but only displaying the same thing – can’t get one to be an extension of the other (and on the NVidia control panel, the 2nd monitor isn’t recognised).

  • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Sootah

    No, a splitter will not work for desktop extension. It will only display the same thing on both ports because it is only duplicating the display to both.

    In order to get real dual monitors working you’ll need to get another video card with more than one D-Sub or DVI port. Alternatively, you may be able to install a second video card with just one video out port on it and hook your other monitor up to that assuming that your motherboard will allow both the onboard video adapter and an aftermarket one to work at the same time.

  • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Sootah

    Update – I’ve moved since the previous post showing my Samsung LN46A750 television setup as my third display. That television is now used in another room, and I have a 19″ wide aspect-ratio Dell E198WFPf LCD monitor in its place.

    This display (top right in the screenshot below) is hooked up to my new IOGEAR GCS632U 2-Port USB KVM. This makes it incredibly easy to work on multiple machines using the same monitor, mouse, and keyboard as my primary desktop computer.

    If you’ve not tried a multi-machine setup this way – I highly recommend it. Not only does it free up desk space, but it also makes the actual hookup of extra computers far easier. All I have to do is plug the KVM’s secondary cable set into the computer I’m working on and then I simply hit scroll lock twice in rapid succession to switch back and forth between the two computers. I have a third monitor and workbench monitor all wrapped up into one tidy package!

    If any of you do decide to use a KVM, then IOGear is the ONLY way to go. I’ve had Belkin and Linksys KVMs previous to the GCS632U, and they simply don’t work that well. The IOGear, on the other hand, works flawlessly.

  • Dan Shavalier

    Thanks for the simple answer to something that I had never done on my new Vista but was working fine when I plugged another monitor in.

    The “problem” is – – – It just quit working ‘overnight’ (literally).

    Thanks again,

  • Kim

    I have a dell inspirion 530S and I am trying to set it up with a dual monitor. I went to display settings and it show Monitor 1 and Monitor 2. I set Monitor 1 just like you said. When I click on Monitor 2 and click the extended to desk and then I try to change the resolution, it will not allow me to change the resolution. I click apply and it asks me “Do I want to keep these changes” and I clicked yes. But when you move Monitor #2 to the left of Monitor #1 it asks me do I want to enable it; I clicked yes and then apply. But for some reason, after you click apply; it show Monitor #2 as disabled? Help, Please.

  • Mike

    hey. my nvidia 9400 has one slot for monitors, but i was wondering if i could just use integrated graphics to run my second monitor. thanks

  • James

    I recently upgraded from XP media Center to Vista Ultimate, my dual monitor setup worked fine on XP but for some reason Vista Ultimate will not rgister two monitors and every time i do updates it switches my monitors, lol conspiracy??? HELP!!!

  • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Sootah

    Here is a better lit picture of my previous triple head display – showing the dual Samsung 216BW displays, as well as the Samsung 46″ LN46A750 Television.

    I used this setup for quite some time, including after I upgraded to Windows 7 (which I am a big fan of, by the way). At the moment we are looking at having Vizio send us one of their XVT472SV 42″ TrueLED dynamic back-lit televisions to review. After figuring out which displays we get in have the best display quality then it will get used as my third head again. I miss having triple displays.. :)

    You’d be surprised at just how helpful it is to have that when you’re doing web application programming. You can have Visual Studio, Adobe Dreamweaver, Eclipse, or whatever open on one monitor; some coding references or a web browser open on your secondary monitor; and then the various FTP and other misc. tools up on the third. For some reason I utterly loath having to tab through open applications. I’d MUCH rather have them all visible and accessible that way.

  • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Sootah

    @Mike – You may be able to use you nVidia 9400 to drive one display and then your motherboard’s integrated graphics controller to drive the other.

    The biggest IF in the statement is whether or not your BIOS insists on the integrated graphics being disabled when a third-party graphics card is installed. I personally have set up many dual head systems this way (Many MANY times while as a network admin at an internet marketing coaching company).

    The easiest way to tell if you can do this is to simply go into your device manager and see if more than one graphics adapter enabled. Here is an example of this in my setup on Windows 7:

    If this is the case, then just plug another monitor into your integrated graphics DSUB or DVI port and then see if you can extend the desktop onto that display in the Windows display settings.

  • John

    I have Vista Business SP2 with latest patches installed. When I try to setup dual monitor with two Acer G195HHQL monitors , My system does not recognise both as Acer G195H, It recognises one as ACER and the other as Generic Non PnP monitor. ( I have nvidia GEForce 7300 LE card with quadcore, 2GB as hardware).

    what should I do to make the system recognise both as Acer monitors?

  • Richet

    i have two diff monitors setup on Vista, using a splitter and endup updating ATI graphics drivers as well, no luck. can seem to figure what is wrong or am i missing something. what do you recommend?

  • Brian

    Hi, I currently have my pc hooked up to my 35″ lcd tv. I have found that while it is great for gaming (the two games I do play that is,) it’s a little difficult for reading blogs and casual surfing. I am wondering if I can get a vga y splitter and hook up the regular 17″ monitor that came with the computer for the close up stuff and keep the tv for the game or anything else I may want to move to the bigger monitor. Will this work? Oh, yes my compter is using vista

    • http://www.tweaksforgeeks.com Kevin Souter

      It should work.. Kinda. If you use a Y splitter then the output will be identical on both screens, which means that both screens would also be at the same resolution. Because of this, you’d have to use a resolution that both your TV and your monitor support. There’d be no way to configure each individually.

      I’d just go purchase a cheap video card somewhere and install that if your computer doesn’t already have another DVI or DSub output available. You can pick on up for around $35, and a lot of nVidia cards have multiple outputs on them already. Be sure to check whether you’d need to get an old PCI or AGP card, or a PCI-E x1/PCI-E x16.

      Amazon has them for pretty cheap:

      PCI Video Cards
      AGP Video Cards
      PCI-E Video Cards

  • Karen

    I’ve never done this before, so maybe, this isn’t the correct forum. My grandson was trying to get dual monitoring going, and went into setup. He clicked synchronize, before noticing that he should have loaded something from the Samsung disk. Now, neither monitor will show anything. He has Vista, a gift system, and we don’t have the Vista discs. Some of the guys at work said to start the system and hit f2 or f11. The system is just not responding. I told him to disconnect the new monitor and try again. Still nothing. Any ideas? I didn’t witness what he did, I was rebuilding my system which had a hard drive die. I’m sick to death of computers!


  • Joey

    I have a laptop that the screen does not work, and I have to do a wipe and reload. I have plugged in my secondary monitor and am unable to start the process. Could someone please help me figure this out asap?

  • http://www.google.co.uk/url?q=http://electricstuffsack.blogspot.com Mikey

    Hi, This may be a dumb question, but with a dual screen configuration, is there a way to stop dialog boxes popping up in the centre of the virtual desktop, ie half on one screen & half on the other?

  • Kat

    Vista, HP G60-237NR laptop and a Dell Monitor 18″ as my 2nd. These instructions did not work…

  • Ken

    I connected an LCD using DVI port and had configured it perfectly in multiple display. But, the setting was change and when i tried it again i cannot see extended output in the settings. I used windows VISTA OS and my video card is INTEL(R).

  • http://keithmains.com/ Keith D Mains

    Kevin Souter thank you Sir thank you very much I now have two monitors working o Vista for the first time, with thanks to you, expect to find a link going in the “I found a website” section on tvworlds (which I am off to do now…

  • Karis

    I’m trying to add a second monitor to my dell desktop computer, and tried to install it but the display has no power. The video card I have is an ati radeon hd 3450, but must i have a second video card to get it work?