Windows 10 second monitor detect settingsSource: Windows Central

On Windows 10, setting up a second monitor is a convenient way to expand the desktop canvas to work with multiple apps and play games on your laptop or desktop computer.

Although connecting an external display is typically a straightforward process, sometimes, Windows 10 may not detect older displays or second monitors due to drivers or hardware-related problems. However, if your device has this problem, there are several troubleshooting steps (including checking the connection and installing the correct drivers) to fix the issue quickly.

In this Windows 10 guide, we will walk you through three practical ways to troubleshoot and fix issues that may be blocking the system from detecting the second monitor automatically.

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How to fix external monitor connection issues via hardware troubleshooting

When the desktop or laptop does not detect the second external monitor, it could be a problem with the software, but it might also be an issue with the physical connection.

If the monitor does not show up in the settings, try these steps before changing the configuration settings on Windows 10:

  • Confirm the monitor is connected to a power source.
  • Confirm the monitor is turned on.
  • Turn off then turn on the computer to refresh the connection.
  • Use the monitor's built-in controls and select the correct input port.
  • Check the signal cable connection between the monitor and the PC's graphics card.
  • Disconnect the signal cable from both ends, wait about a minute, and reconnect it again firmly.
  • Try a different signal cable to confirm you are not dealing with a bad cable.
  • DisplayPort and HDMI come in different versions, which means you must also check the manufacturer for requirement details to ensure you have the correct cable.
  • Change ports if the monitor and graphics card include multiple ports.
  • Connect the monitor to another computer to see whether the problem is with the monitor.
  • Connect another known working monitor to determine that the issue is not the graphics card.
  • Disconnect all peripherals (such as printers, cameras, and USB devices) to confirm none of the other devices are conflicting with the monitor.
  • If you have a Surface Pro 7 connected to a dock station, disconnect it and try to connect the monitor directly into the tablet to confirm the problem is not the dock.
  • Update the external monitor firmware to help fix bugs and compatibility issues (uncommon).

If the basic troubleshooting steps outlined above do not fix the second monitor, you can troubleshoot the software.

In the event that the problem is the monitor, or you are in the market for a new one, the HP Z27 is our top pick right now. You can find more choices in our best 4K monitor roundup.

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Second monitor

HP Z27

The best monitor for most users

The HP Z27 is a 27-inch monitor excellent for creators and general-purpose tasks because of its slim design, amazing 4K picture quality, and USB-C connectivity alongside the usual DisplayPort and HDMI. The display even includes a built-in hub with USB-A 3.0 ports.

How to fix external monitor connection issues via Settings

After concluding that there isn't a physical problem with the connection, monitor, or device, you can use the Settings app to force the system to detect the second monitor.

Force second display detection

To detect a second monitor manually on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Multiple displays" section, click the Detect button to connect to the external monitor.

    Detect external monitorSource: Windows Central

  5. (Optional) Under the "Rearrange your displays" section, click the Detect button in the bottom-right corner (if applicable).

    Quick note: If you have only one monitor, the option will not be present since it's only available when connecting multiple displays.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 should now detect the external monitor.

Connect wireless external display

To connect a wireless display on Windows 10 as a secondary screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Devices.
  3. Click on Bluetooth & other devices.
  4. Turn on the Bluetooth toggle switch (if applicable).
  5. Click the Add Bluetooth or other device button.

    Add Bluetooth and other device optionSource: Windows Central

  6. Select the Wireless display or dock option.

    Windows 10 connect wireless secondary displaySource: Windows Central

  7. Confirm the wireless display is turned on and discoverable (refer to device documentation).
  8. Select the display (wireless monitor, TV, or PC with Miracast support) from the list.
  9. Continue with the on-screen directions.

After you complete the steps, the wireless display will be detected as a new external display on the computer.

How to fix external monitor connection issues via latest graphics drivers

If the computer happens to have a buggy, outdated, or corrupted graphics driver, this can cause problems that may prevent Windows 10 from detecting and configuring a second monitor. The easiest method to get around this problem is to update, reinstall, or downgrade the driver to resolve the connection problem between the laptop or desktop and the external monitor.

Update graphics driver

To update the graphics card driver via Windows Update, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Windows Update.
  4. Click the View optional updates option.

    Windows 10 Optional Updates OptionSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: If the option is not available, it means that Windows Update does not have a newer driver available for download.

  5. Click on Driver updates to expand the category.
  6. Select the newer graphics driver to install on Windows 10.

    Windows Update install graphics driver fix monitor detectionSource: Windows Central

  7. Click the Download and install button.

Once you complete the steps, Windows Update will download and install the graphics driver fixing the detection problem with the monitor.

If Windows Update does not have a newer driver version, check the manufacturer support website download and install a more recent version (if available).

Reinstall graphics driver

To reinstall a damaged video driver on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Double-click to expand the Display adapters branch.
  4. Right-click the adapter and select the Uninstall device option.

    Device Manager uninstall driverSource: Windows Central

  5. Clear the Delete the driver software from this device option (if applicable).
  6. Click the Uninstall button.

    Device Manager delete driver optionSource: Windows Central

  7. Restart the computer.
  8. Open Device Manager again.

    Quick note: Windows 10 should detect the monitor again automatically. If it's not the case, use Device Manager to scan for hardware changes to force the system to reinstall the display.

  9. Right-click the computer name and select the Scan for hardware changes option.

    Device Manager scan for new devices optionSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, Windows 10 should detect and reinstall the driver automatically. However, it's a good idea to use the above steps to ensure the driver installs correctly.

Rollback graphics driver

If the computer was recently updated or you upgraded the graphics driver manually, and Windows 10 cannot detect the second monitor, rolling back to the previous driver may resolve the issue.

To remove and reinstall an older version of a graphics driver on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Double-click to expand the Display adapters branch.
  4. Right-click the graphics adapter, and select the Properties option.

    Device Manager device properties optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Driver tab.
  6. Click the Roll Back Driver button.

    Device Manager driver rollback optionSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: If the option is not available, you cannot use this rollback process. However, you might still be able to use an older version from the device manufacturer's support website (if available).

  7. Select an option to answer the question.
  8. Click the Yes button.

    Driver rollback settingsSource: Windows Central

  9. Restart the device.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 should detect and start drawing up content on the external monitor.

Update graphics driver with manufacturer control panel

Windows 10 can detect and set up drivers for most graphics adapters, but the versions available through Windows Update are not usually the more recent ones. If you have to install the latest driver, companies like NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel offer tools to quickly install the latest updates that may help to fix external display problems.

These are the download links:

If you use the manufacturer's control panel, the installation is simple. You only need to download and double-click the installer using the above links that correspond to the adapter you have, continue with the on-screen directions to complete the setup, and then check for updates.

Alternatively, you can download the drivers directly from the manufacturer's support website using their instructions. You can use the links below to find the drivers:

To check the graphics card vendor and driver version on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for System Information and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Double-click to expand the Components branch on the left pane.
  4. Select the Display category.
  5. Confirm the Adapter Type and Driver Version information to determine the driver's card model and current version.

    System Information graphics informationSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, use the above links to find, download, and install the correct driver.

One of the best graphics cards you can get is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 because of its excellent performance and ports to connect multiple monitors.

Multi-monitor support

NVIDIA RTX 3080 Founders Edition

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080

The RTX 3080 offers multi-monitor support

If you must replace your graphics card, the RTX 3080 is a great option. Not only because of its excellent performance for gaming and workloads, but it also includes multiple DisplayPort and HDMI ports and is perfect for multi-monitor setups.

Finally, consider that manufacturers (for example, Dell, HP, Razer, Acer, and Microsoft) usually change the original drivers to optimize them for their desktops and laptops. This means if you have a branded computer (also known as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) computer), you should always think first about using the graphics driver available through the device manufacturer before trying those available through the graphics card manufacturer to minimize the chances of running into other problems.

More Windows resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources:

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