Typically, connecting a second monitor to your computer allows you to create a larger canvas to work with apps, for a better multitasking experience, to boost productivity, or improve your gaming experience.

Although adding another display is usually a straightforward process, it doesn't always work flawlessly. Sometimes, Windows 10 may not be able to detect the second monitor, and you may end up seeing error messages despite a good connection between your PC and the external display.

If you're having trouble getting an external monitor to work, there are several things you can do, including hardware troubleshooting, manually detecting the monitor, and updating graphics card drivers.

In this Windows 10 guide, we walk you through some steps to troubleshoot and fix your second monitor when your computer is not automatically detecting it.

How to fix external monitor connection issues via hardware troubleshooting

While it's likely that Windows 10 can't detect your second monitor because of a software related issue, it could be possible that there is a connection problem.

Before changing your device settings and updating drivers, make sure you first cover the basic troubleshooting steps:

  • Check the physical cable connection from the display to the video port on your desktop, laptop, or tablet.
  • Try a different cable, as the problem could be a bad cable or pin in the connector.
  • If you're using a monitor with multiple inputs, make sure to select the correct input.
  • Sometimes, if you're trying to use an HDTV or a particular high-definition display as a second monitor, you may need to update its firmware to fix bugs or compatibility issues. If this is the issue, make sure to check your display manufacturer support website to find out how to apply the latest firmware update.
  • The problem could be an issue with the input port in the monitor or output port on your device. If necessary, make sure to switch ports to see if that fixes the problem connecting to the second monitor.
  • Restart your computer to see if that fixes the problem.
  • Connecting the monitor to another device can help determine if the problem is with the display itself.

If none of the above troubleshooting steps help get the external monitor working on Windows 10, you can try using more advanced ways to fix the issue.

How to fix external monitor connection issues using Settings

In the case, there aren't any physical connection issues, but you still can't get Windows 10 to detect the external monitor, you can try manually detecting the monitor using the Settings app.

Forcing second display detection

To detect the second display manually, do the following:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under "Select and rearrange displays," click the Detect button in the bottom-right corner (if available).

Connecting to a wireless display

If you're dealing with a wireless display, assuming it's turned on, you can use these steps to fix the second monitor that's not detected by Windows 10:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Devices.
  3. Click on Bluetooth & other devices.
  4. Click the Add Bluetooth & other devices button.

  5. Click the Wireless display or dock option.

  6. Confirm that your wireless display is discoverable.
  7. Select the display from the list.
  8. Continue with the on-screen directions.

How to fix external monitor issues by updating graphics drivers

An outdated, corrupted, or a particular version of a graphics driver can prevent Windows 10 from detecting the second monitor. If this is the case, you can update, reinstall, or roll back to a previous version of the driver to reestablish a video connection with the other display.

Updating graphics drivers using Device Manager

To update your device's GPU driver using Device Manager, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager, click the top result to open the experience.
  3. Expand the Display adapters category.
  4. Right-click the device, and select Update Driver.

  5. Click Search automatically for updated driver software.

Once you complete these steps, restart your computer if prompted to finish the installation, and confirm that second monitor is working.

Reinstalling graphics drivers

To reinstall a driver that may not be working correctly, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager, and click the top result to open the experience.
  3. Expand the Display adapters category.
  4. Right-click the device, and select Uninstall device.

  5. Click the Uninstall button again. (Do not check the Delete the driver software from this device option.)

  6. Restart your computer.
  7. Open Device Manager again.
  8. Right-click the computer name and select Scan for hardware changes.

After restarting your computer, Windows 10 should automatically reinstall the driver, but you want to go through the extra steps to make sure the video card was detected properly.

Rolling back graphics drivers

If the problem is with a newer driver that you recently installed, or there is a yellow exclamation mark in the adapter, you can try going back to the previous version of the driver to fix the detection issue.

To roll back the previous version of the graphics driver, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager, and click the top result to open the experience.
  3. Expand the Display adapters category.
  4. Right-click the device, and select Properties.

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

    • Quick Tip: If the Roll Back Driver button is grayed out, you can't use this option. However, you might be still able to roll back if your device manufacturer support websites allow you to download older versions of the driver.
  7. Answer the question why you're rolling back.
  8. Click the Yes button.

If the problem was the newer driver, you can also use this guide to prevent Windows 10 from temporarily trying to install the same driver again.

In the rare case that this method doesn't work, follow the steps mentioned above to update the video card to the latest version using Device Manager.

Updating graphics driver manufacturer via control panel

Alternatively, you can update your video card driver using the control panel software from companies like AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel depending on the brand you use to fix problems connecting to an external display.

These applications are easy to install and use; just download, double-click the installer, follow the on-screen directions, and then check for driver updates.

It's also possible to download the latest drivers directly from your manufacturer support website and follow their instructions.

When it comes to updating graphics cards, computer manufacturers can customize drivers (such as those offered by Intel). This means that if you have a branded device, you should try getting the latest update from your manufacturer before trying the driver from Intel to avoid additional problems.

Wrapping things up

The instructions outlined in this guide should help to resolve the problem to get the second monitor working, but if you're still having issues, remember you can always use the Windows Central forums to seek additional help.

More Windows 10 resources

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