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How to set up multiple monitors on Windows 10

Dual-monitor setup
Dual-monitor setup (Image credit: Windows Central)

Whether you're content creator, programmer, data analyst, gamer, or someone who's recently been forced to work from home, a system with multiple monitors not only looks great, but it can significantly improve productivity when multitasking with several apps. However, a multi-monitor setup is only practical as long as you configure it correctly.

Windows 10 has several features and settings to support one, two, three, four, and even more monitors without the need for third-party software for the best experience.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through a bunch of tips to configure and use a multi-monitor setup, whether you're connecting an external display to your laptop, or you're connecting two, three, or more monitors to your workstation.

Before configuring a multi-monitor setup

Before configuring multiple monitors on your device, make sure that all the necessary cables are connected to the monitors and the computer. This includes connecting power and video signal using VGA, DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort (recommended) cables.

If you're not sure, confirm the make and model of the monitor (usually from a sticker in the back), and search online for the manufacturer manual to get a better idea on how to connect the display.

How to rearrange multiple displays on Windows 10

While you can connect a monitor to any available video ports on the graphics card, when setting up a dual-monitor or triple-monitor setup, it's easy to plug them in the wrong order. Although they will still work, you may run into issues using the mouse and running applications until you rearrange them correctly.

To rearrange monitors on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Select and rearrange displays" section, drag and drop each display to rearrange them according to their physical layout on your desktop.Quick tip: When rearranging monitors in the "Display" settings page, make sure that all monitors align at the top perfectly. Otherwise, you'll have problems moving the mouse cursor between monitors from the corners.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Apply button.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 will save the physical layout, and you'll be able to work across each display and run apps without issues.

If you're not sure which monitor you're selecting, click the Identify button to figure out. If one of the monitors isn't showing up, make sure it's receiving power and connected correctly, and click the Detect button. In the case that you're still having problems, reset their connections (or restart the computer), and try the Detect button again.

How to adjust displays scale and layout on Windows 10

When connecting one or multiple displays to a computer, Windows 10 does a pretty good job detecting and configuring the most optimal settings. However, depending on your requirements, you may need to adjust scaling, resolution, and orientation for each monitor.

Selecting correct scale

Windows 10 includes settings to adjust the scaling, which are useful when setting up various monitors of different sizes and screen resolutions to make text, apps, and other items look the same size across the displays. Or, if you have a 4K display, for example, adjusting the scale settings can help to make items bigger and more readable.

To select the correct scale setting that suits your requirements, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Select and rearrange displays" section, select the monitor that you want to adjust.
  5. Use the Change the size of text, apps, and other items drop-down menu to select the appropriate scale option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat steps No. 4 and 5 to change the scaling settings on the other monitors, and then click the Sign-out option to apply the changes.

While you can adjust the scaling settings on a per-monitor basis, when possible, it's always best to use the same make and model of the monitors with the same configuration. Otherwise, you may run into issues, and Windows 10 may have problems scaling elements.

If you're in the market for a second monitor to expand your laptop or desktop canvas, we recommend the Dell UltraSharp U2719D because of its accurate color reproduction, size, slim vessel design, VESA mount compatibility, and value.

Custom scaling

To specify a custom scaling value, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Select and rearrange displays" section, select the monitor that you want to adjust.
  5. Under the "Scale and layout" section, click the Advanced scaling settings option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Under the "Custom scaling" section, specify the scaling size between 100 and 500 percent.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Apply button.

After you complete the steps, sign out of your account and sign back in to test the new settings. If the new scaling configuration doesn't look right, use the same steps again and try a different value until you find a comfortable setting.

If you want to switch to the predefined scale settings, you must first turn off custom scaling and sign out. Otherwise, the option will be grayed out.

Selecting correct resolution

Usually, after connecting a monitor, Windows 10 will set the recommended pixel resolution automatically, but you can also change the resolution manually with these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Select and rearrange displays" section, select the monitor that you want to adjust.
  5. Under the "Scale and layout" section, use the Resolution drop-down menu to select the correct pixel resolution.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, repeat steps No. 4 and 5 to change the resolution on the remaining monitors.

If you're looking to make text and other items bigger on the screen, you should be changing the scaling settings, not the display resolution.

Selecting correct orientation

Windows 10 also allows you to rotate the screen horizontally or vertically, which is particularly useful when you have monitors with stands that rotate, and you want to use them with a different orientation for reading or coding.

To change the orientation per-monitor, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Select and rearrange displays" section, select the monitor that you want to adjust.
  5. Under the "Scale and layout" section, use the Orientation drop-down menu to select the mode:
    • Landscape.
    • Portrait.
    • Landscape (flipped).
    • Portrait (flipped).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, the display will shift to the orientation you selected.

How to select multiple displays viewing mode on Windows 10

Using the available settings, you can also choose the viewing mode for your displays. For example, if you're using a second monitor, you can expand the main screen to the new display, or you can mirror both monitors, which is an ideal option when showing a presentation. If you're using a laptop with an external monitor, you can even disable the main display, and only use the second monitor as your primary.

To change the viewing mode on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Select and rearrange displays" section, select the monitor that you want to adjust.
  5. Under the "Multiple displays" section, use the drop-down menu to set the appropriate viewing mode:
    • Duplicate desktop — Shows the same desktop on both displays.
    • Extend — Expands the primary desktop to the secondary display.
    • Disconnect this display — Turn off the selected monitor.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat steps No. 4 and 5 to set the display mode on the remaining monitors. Also, note that using these settings, you can make any of the monitors as your primary display.

Switching display modes with shortcut

In addition to using the Settings app, Windows 10 also allows you to switch display modes on the fly using the Project feature, which you can access using the Windows key + P keyboard shortcut.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you invoke the shortcut, a flyout will open from the right side with four options, including:

  • PC screen only — Only the primary display is used.
  • Duplicate — Secondary displays will mirror the primary monitor.
  • Extend — Both screens are combined to offer an extended desktop.
  • Second screen only — Only the secondary displays is used.

Typically, when using a multi-monitor setup on a desktop or laptop, you want to use the "Extend" option. This allows you to use the primary monitor normally and the secondary monitors at their native resolution creating a single large canvas.

Duplicate is a good option when using a second monitor or projector to show a presentation. In contrast, the Second screen only option is great when you want to close the lid on a laptop and work only with the external monitor.

How to manage advanced display settings on Windows 10

Although it's not always recommended to modify your advanced display settings, because not all monitors are created equal, sometimes, you may need to make a few adjustments to improve color accuracy and remove screen flickering.

Important: We only recommend adjusting the advanced settings if you have a rough idea of what to do. Typically, you should be fine with the default display settings.

Setting a custom color profile

If your monitors aren't rendering the colors accurately, you can use a custom color profile to improve color accuracy using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Click the Advanced display settings option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Display adapter properties option for the display that you want to set a custom color profile.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Color Management tab.
  2. Click the Color Management button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Devices tab.
  2. Select a display from the list.
  3. Check the Use my settings for this display option.
  4. Click the Add button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. On the "Associate Color Profile" page, click the Browse button and locate the new color profile.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Double-click the .icm file to install the new profile.
  2. Click the Close button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, you may need to repeat steps No. 9 through 13 to set a custom profile for the other monitors.

When configuring a custom color profile, you should use those created by your display manufacturer or from a trusted source. If you're not sure, you can use these steps to download the correct color profile for your monitors.

Changing the refresh rate

Usually, a refresh rate (frames per second) of 59Hz or 60Hz is more than enough to operate a computer, though you'll definitely want to look at the best monitors for Xbox Series X and Series S if you plan to game at higher framerates. However, if you're noticing screen flickering, or if you have monitors that support a higher refresh rate, bumping the settings can provide a better and smoother viewing experience — especially for gamers.

To adjust the refresh rate of a monitor, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Click the Advanced display settings option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Display adapter properties option for the display you want to change the refresh rate.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Monitor tab.
  2. Under the "Monitor Settings" section, use the drop-down menu to set the correct refresh rate.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat steps No. 5, 6, and 7 to change the refresh rate on the remaining monitors.

How to show taskbar across multiple displays on Windows 10

On a multi-monitor setup, the taskbar by default will appear only in the main display, but you can change the settings to show it across all the displays using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization
  3. Click on Taskbar.
  4. Under the "Multiple display" section, turn on the Show taskbar on all displays toggle switch.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If you want to control in which taskbar the buttons for running apps should appear, then use the Show taskbar button on the drop-down menu and select one of the available options:

  • All taskbars.
  • Main taskbar and taskbar where window is open.
  • Taskbar where window is open.

Also, you can use this guide to optimize the space on the taskbar to pin even more apps or to keep it as minimal as possible.

How to change background on multiple displays on Windows 10

Windows 10 offers a lot of settings to adjust the look and feel of the desktop, but when using multiple monitors, setting up different background images on each display is one the most significant customization that you can make to personalize your experience.

To show different wallpapers on a multi-monitor setup using a slideshow, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Background.
  4. Use the "Background" drop-down menu and select the Slideshow option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Browse button.
  2. Select a folder with a collection of images that you'd like to display on the monitors.
  3. Click the Choose this folder button.
  4. Use the "Change picture every" drop-down menu to select the rotation frequency.
  5. Turn on the Shuffle toggle switch.
  6. (Optional) If you're using different sized images, use the Choose a fit drop-down menu and select the Fill option.

Once you complete the steps, the images will rotate on the desktop background using the rotation frequency that you selected.

Customizing each monitor with a different background

If you want to set a different background image for each monitor, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Background.
  4. Use the "Background" drop-down menu and select the Picture option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Browse button.
  2. Select the wallpaper and click the Choose picture option.
  3. Right-click the image and select the monitor you want the wallpaper to show.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Repeat steps No. 5, 6, and 7 to set a custom background for another monitor.

After you complete the steps, each monitor will display a custom wallpaper.

In addition to the instructions outlined above, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind when setting up a computer with multiple monitors. For example, unless it's a laptop, you shouldn't try to adjust the brightness or color using Windows 10 or another application. Instead, you should use the controls built into the monitor.

In the case that the second monitor isn't getting detected, check its connections, and use the Detect button in the Settings app. If you're still having issues, you can use this guide to troubleshoot and fix common problems.

Finally, when using one or multiple monitors, you may come across a black screen, which it's typically a video driver related problem. If you're not sure how to fix this issue, you can follow these steps to resolve the problem.

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

40 Comments
  • I currently use 4. I have a displaylink I bought from Amazon which has been great (pluggable) and the Surface Book dock. Adding multi monitors is easy in Windows 10
  • dragging open windows between monitors is really ****** in win 10 especially if you have a 4k as secondary. the scaling destroys dragging and messes with your windows in a serious way
  • Shouldn't we be able to adjust that through scaling?
  • use win+up/dn/lft/rgt maybe?
  • I use 2 1080P monitors and the Book 2's 4K screen every day at work. The only issue I have is with Skype for Business not scaling on the 4K screen unless I reopen Skype. It sounds like you're encountering a settings or program specific issue.
  • Used to cause me all sorts of problems with a second monitor on a Surface Pro 4, in the end I just bought a 4K monitor so the resolution was close to the Surface, now the issues are barely noticeable. Not all applications suffer from this but if you use the ones that do, then it's a real pain.
  • I have three monitors (one of them is actually a TV) using with DisplayLink. Windows 10 made it bit easy to use multiple screens! I also use DispayFusion software that allows easily move the windows one to another monitor. Also it has ton of other settings especially different wallpapers on each monitor.
  • Two Viewsonics are running on a KVM switch with a 64-bit production Win 10 box and a 32-bit Insider fast ring box.  Every now and then all the apps switch monitors but the stretched wallpaper remains correct.  The Xubuntu box on the third KVM channel stays stable.  Otherwise setting the monitors up was a breeze.
  • I've got three 24" monitors hooked up to a StarTech mini DisplayPort Splitter hooked up to the Surface dock for a SP3. It used to reboot sporadically overnight until probably about two months ago. It's a lot more stable now.
  • A really well designed app I use on my multi-monitor setup is DisplayFusion. I like being able to fill both monitors with one single image. Really helps tie the monitors together quite well with tons of features. The dev is great at support and bringing fast fixes and new features.
  • It great isn't it, just don't leave it running in the background or at start up, it chews a fair bit of resources. I usually just set my wallpapers and make sure its closed properly. It doesn't need to run always.
  • I have two Dell 2416D monitors connected to the Surface Dock, driven by a SP4, via mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort wires from Amazon Basics.  Both monitors run at 2560x1440 native resolution and the SP4 runs at its native resolution of 2736x1824.  The scaling is 125% on the Dells and 200% on the SP4.  Everything looks great.  The only problem I have started cropping up a few weeks ago.  Whenever the system goes to sleep, the Dells don't wake up from mouse or keyboard action, only the SP4.  I have to pull the plug out of the SP4 and plug it back in.  When I do so, the Dells fire back up and re-scale themselves.  Of course, all my open programs are now consolidated onto my main monitor, which is the Dell on my left, so I have to rearrange everything how I like it.  Any chance the Anniversary Update affected this?
  • Does anyone know if it is possible in Windows 10 to have an app launch in whatever Monitor that you click on its icon on?  I have 2 monitors each with a taskbar and when I click on the icon in a different taskbar, I want it to open in that monitor.  I looked for the feature. Thank you    
  • From what I understand apps and programs always launch to the last screen they were on. I'm using two screens at the moment and everything will always open in the last place it was. That being said it does get annoying if you move stuff around quite often and it opens in different positions.
  • I was used to use Win+P very often when I had just 2 screens - mainly when I want to play a game, I use only 1 screen. Last year, I bought the 3rd screen and I was very disasppointed, that Win+P is not usable with 3 screens :-(
  • I want to connect my projector, desktop display and another display. One of my friend suggests me to use HDMI splitter and suggested PTron hdmi spiltter[http://www.latestone.com/hdmi-splitter]. I don't know which one to USE and what it exactly. Shall I go for it or is any other possible ways for it. And I can't bear huge amounts too. please help in this regards.
  • Connecting multiple monitors to the Surface Dock when used w/ an SP4 or the newer SP is a nightmare.  The list of supported monitors are either no longer in production or are gawd awful ugly: https://www.windowscentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fclick.linksynergy.co...
  • I used a SP3 at work with 3 screens connected. I used the 2 ports on the Surface Dock and connected the third to the minidisplay port. The same should work for the newer devices.
  • I've used (been stuck with) the Surface Dock for a couple years now. It's gotten better but it's never been great. There was a time when one monitor would just stop working. More recently, plugging in the Surface Connect connector to my Surface gives me a, say, 10 percent chance that the monitors' signals are flipped. Really dumb, basic stuff. Also, it will often drop the USB signal. I have to wait for another few seconds - upwards of 30 seconds - for all the USB peripherals to light up again so I can start working again. A real pain.
  • Where is the advanced settings under display? 
  • I cannot help but cringe at the "gap" between the monitors. That would drive me absolutely insane! Ha!
  • That got me as well! However, I was also triggered by none of the wires being tied back and hidden behind the post... Cable Management gets me every time!
  • This new Samsung monitor should help with the bezel and cable issues. The cables are routed through the mount.
    https://www.windowscentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fshop-links.co%2Flink...
  • What an awesome design. Good job, Samsung!
  • I have two samsung 4k connected to 1080ti. There is a long running problem with displayport. When the screens go to sleep, and computer is not, waking up the screens resets the desktop area and moves all windows to a corner of the main screen. Super annoying. Have to use hdmi for both screens, but that means 30hz for each only. Has this been fixed in the last release?
  • "For example, if you have a 2560 x 1440 main display with a secondary 1080p screen, your new desktop run at 4480 x 1440, but only a 1080 high on the display with the lower resolution."
    Conversely, if you have a 2560 x 1440 main display with a secondary 4k screen, your 2560 x 1440 main display defaults to 1080p and screw up your icon layout if you choose Extend versus Mirror mode!
  • Great comprehensive article! I've been using a multi-monitor setup for quite a few years now and can say it's super hard to go back to a single screen after so long. One thing I would suggest to anyone using a multi-monitor setup (who hasn't already done it) is to configure keyboard shortcuts for certain tasks, including locking your mouse to a specific screen. https://www.downloadsource.net/how-to-lock-your-mouse-to-a-specific-scre...
  • I'm trying to get a third screen to work with a Surface Book 2. I'm using the Surface dock for 2 of the screens, but it looks like the USB-C port won't output video as long as the dock is connected. Does anyone have a recommendation for getting a third screen to work? Thanks
  • I used 2 USB displaylink adapters with my Surface Pro 4 for a while - more reliable than a display port to HDMI converter, didn't seem to impact performance and worked reliably. I was lucky to get them for around $25 so a bit of a bargain and a lot cheaper than the dock. I switched to the dock eventually. If you've got USB3 ports available, might be worth trying.
  • The article didn't mention my personal favorite multi-monitor feature in Win 10: Win + Shift + left/right to move windows between monitors. That combined with Win + up/down/left/right to set window size makes for super easy window size and placement management. I always cringe when I walk by a co-worker's desk who is running a Mac with multiple monitors and their windows are all different sizes, not taking up the full screen, etc.
  • The Dock is the Apple logo of the front of a Mac. If you don't see the logo, then what's the point of using an Apple product? (The notch, of course, is the logo of the front of an iPhone ... )
  • I have a 3+1 Monitor Setup ( https://i.imgur.com/5gLoItm.jpg ) with the "1" being a Wacom Cintiq 24HD Touch one and the "3" being HP Z32 4K Monitors. My biggest recommendation, for ANY multi-monitor setup, would be an application specific programmable mouse, like the Logitech MX Master 2S, and bind some rarely used buttons to Win+Shift+Left / Win+Shift+Right to quickly move Windows from one screen to another - I'm using the Mouses gesture functionality to do this as in hit the Gesture button and drag the Mouse to the Left / Right and it'll do the that. Will change someone's life.
  • If you are also not satisfied how snap work on portrait monitors please upvote this feedback. Thanks!
    https://aka.ms/AA51yqn
  • I hate how undocking, then re-docking doesn't remember the size and location of your windows from before you undocked. You have to reset it every time.
  • Amen. Same with most/all windows after closing and reopening. It's totally stupid and MS needs to fix it.
  • Ok, for all of the folks who'd like to use multiple monitors but...
    1) who don't have a lot of cash to throw at screens or...
    2) who already have other Windows devices scattered around like corpses or...
    3) who like the Open Source mentality and really don't care how the multi-monitor thing gets done but just want to get on with their work... I use Input Director. Since for some reason "reputation" here is required to post URL's, just go to inputdirector dot com. Geesh. Right this minute I'm typing this on my laptop keyboard (it's quiet so mah hunny can take her nap), watching the letters organize into cognizant thought on my desktop monitor (it's big and purty), while two other laptops are in the loop to my left, each one displaying different reference articles for my work in progress...which is on my keyboard laptop's display. Through Input Director my laptop mouse can travel across all four displays as I wish, and I have access to the files on all four machines through copy/paste. Since I use my clickity-clackity desktop keyboard when quiet time isn't necessary, I simply rearrange the master/slave orientations to fit the situation through a click-and-drag graphic within the program. Yeah, the devices had to be bought previously, but the key idea here is flexibility. None of them are dedicated to this setup...I can yank one and take it to work while the bride takes one with her, then as soon as they're back in wifi range here at home they're setup again. No futzing around, and the point is that the laptops are useful beyond simply being a display. No Windows device is excluded...as long as it can run the program, it can be used in the network. No cables. I don't know the maximum number of monitors one can use with Input Director, but like I said I'm running four total with no problem. The tightwad in me likes the price, too. Helps me get a little bit closer a little bit faster to paying off the house. :)
  • Sporting a 4 Monitor Setup on my Work PC ( https://i.imgur.com/Z27Qwmr.jpg ) the biggest advice I can give is getting familiar with Windows Management Shortcuts like WIN+Left/Right and WIN+SHIFT+Left/Right and possibly binding those to your mouse horizontal Scroll/Click Buttons. One will snap a window in the same screen to the left/right while the other will move the window to the next/previous screen. Using a Logitech MX Master 3 I've bound the horizontal Scroll Wheel to moving a window to another screen while the Gesture button, among others, will snap them to the left/right. Very handy...
  • Need Help: I have 4 Monitor's: I use programs that have pop up's when a message is being sent to me. However, the pop up box continues to pop up randomly in different monitor's. How can I stop this from happening and keep it popping up in one monitor?
  • Why would you want to do that? Chromium runs websites much better than ie and edge... nobody even supports m$ edge browser extensions anymore because m$ Lost the browser war
  • Just a tip for those of you who are working from a Laptop with only ONE HDMI port that want 2 or 3 monitors that doesn't include the laptop screen. You'll want to invest in a plugable usb 3.0 universal laptop docking station. This will extend the laptop HDMI/DisplayPort ports giving you the ability to have 2 or 3 independent monitors displays as well as additional USB ports. Do not confuse this device with a splitter. A splitter will just split the SAME SIGNAL across the multiple monitors, where the plugable usb 3.0 universal laptop docking station will give you 2 or 3 independent monitor displays. You don't need to go with the plugable usb 3.0 universal laptop docking station brand that I mentioned, but you need to make sure what you use it gives you INDEPENDENT monitor displays.