Multiple Monitors

When a single monitor just isn't enough for your workflow, you need to add a second one to increase your display real estate.

Here we take a look at how you can set up and configure multiple displays in Windows 10. Thankfully, Microsoft did a solid job implementing multiple display support right into Windows so you don't have to install third-party software to fiddle around with settings.

Before you get started, you need to make sure all the necessary cables are connected to your displays. This includes power, audio and any VGA, DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort cables. Be sure to hit up your display manual if you're confused with which port is which and where cables are connected to. Once both screens are plugged in and ready to go, fire up Windows 10 because you'll need to change a few settings and make sure everything works as intended.

Microsoft improved how Windows 10 handles the desktop experience, which now has the taskbar on both screens with full Windows menu integration. Should you be a fan of task view, this feature also works on both screens for a quick glance as to what windows are present on each display. Multi-tasking has never been so easy.

Switch between display modes

Switch Display Modes

There are four display modes available in Windows 10, which can be quickly accessed by hitting Windows + P. This will bring up a sidebar with four options. Depending on whether you're on a laptop or desktop PC, either Extend or Duplicate will be selected by default. Here's a quick run down on the differences between each option:

  • PC screen only — Only the primary monitor is used.
  • Duplicate — Secondary monitor shows duplicate desktop.
  • Extend — Both monitors combine to offer an extended desktop.
  • Second screen only — Only the secondary monitor is used.

Most folks who have more than a single monitor installed on a desk will want to select the "Extend" configuration. This allows Windows to use the primary monitor as normal, but offer other displays at maximum resolution that can be accessed by moving the mouse over to them. Essentially, Windows is joining together the displays to create one expansive canvas. 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.

Multiple Displays

Ideally, you want to have two displays that share the same resolution to keep everything simple, which will help prevent clipping when moving between displays. As you can see in the graphic above, using a 1080p display with a 1440p one will have part of the display on the 1440p that isn't connected to the secondary screen. It's no deal breaker but will take some time to get accustomed to.

Configuring display settings

Display Settings

Customizing displays and how they are managed by Windows is easy. But in order to do it, you need to gain access to the display section of the control panel.

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop.
  2. Click Display settings.
  3. Click Identify to show numbers on corresponding displays. (1 is the primary.)

    Windows 10

  4. Rearrange displays by clicking and dragging the numbered boxes.
  5. Use the scaling slider to make text and other content larger. (This is ideal for higher resolutions or for people with impaired vision.)
  6. Choose between landscape or portrait to change the selected display orientation.

    Windows 10

  7. The Multiple displays option allows you to switch display modes (as described in the section above).

The Windows Night light feature can also be configured from this window, which adjusts the screen temperature depending on the time of day.

Advanced settings

Windows 10

This section of Display settings will enable you to not only play around with display ordering, multiple display profiles and more but also change various options that aren't available in the main view. This step isn't required and should only be carried out if you notice issues with the display in question. Here's how you can use these advanced settings to alter more technical options.

  1. Optional: Select Color management to open up the corresponding window for editing International Color Consortium (ICC) profiles.

    • We only recommend tweaking ICC profiles if you've researched a little and have a rough idea of what to do. Generally, you should be fine with Windows calibration and simply alter monitor settings.

    Color Profiles

  2. Choose Color calibration to fire up the Windows calibration wizard.
  3. Follow the wizard to calibrate brightness, gamma, colors, and contrast.
  4. Follow the links under Related settings for further configuration:
    • ClearType text — Change settings for the font smoothing technology used in Windows.
    • Advanced sizing — Alter the size of title bars and more.
    • Display adapter properties — Check the properties of your connected graphics card.

Hide the taskbar on displays

Multiple Monitors

If you don't like having all apps listed with their names on the connected displays or duplicate taskbars, Windows 10 makes it painless to make some changes.

  1. Right-click the taskbar.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Scroll down to Multiple Displays.
  4. Toggle show taskbar on all displays.

Two further options can help you define just what is displayed on the taskbars. The former lets you configure where taskbar app icons are shown, depending on which monitor they're presently using. Choosing "all taskbars" will show all pinned and open apps on both taskbars. The combining labels option lets you choose whether or not Windows will show window titles next to open apps on additional monitor taskbars.

Change wallpapers

Windows 10

With a second monitor connected, it's possible to have a little more fun with wallpapers and really personalize your desktop experience. Here's a quick look at how you can configure everything so a folder full of images is randomly shuffled as desktop wallpapers, with a different image on each screen.

  1. Right-click the desktop.
  2. Choose Personalize.

    Windows 10 Wallpapers

  3. Select Slideshow from the background drop-down menu.
  4. Hit Browse under "Choose albums for your slideshow."
  5. Change "30 minutes" to however often you wish a new image to be selected.
  6. Enable shuffle.

    Windows 10 Wallpapers

  7. Ensure "Choose a fit" is selected as "Fill".

Windows 10 will now randomly select a new image every 30 minutes from the folder you selected, displaying a different image on all connected monitors. If you'd prefer to stick with one image for your wallpaper and have one with sufficient resolution to cover connected monitors, switching "Fill" to "Span" in step No. 7 will have the same image span across all desktops.

Updated July 31, 2017: We added a little more detail about using displays with different resolutions.