How to fix second monitor not detected on Windows 10

Windows 10 second monitor detect settings
Windows 10 second monitor detect settings (Image credit: Future)

On Windows 10, connecting a second display allows you to expand the available desktop to work with multiple apps and play games on your laptop or desktop computer.

Although setting up an external monitor is usually a straightforward process, sometimes, Windows 10 may not be able to detect older displays or second monitors due to drivers or hardware-related issues. However, if your device has a problem, you can use several troubleshooting steps (including checking the connection and installing the correct drivers) to fix the issue in no time.

This how-to guide will walk you through several ways to troubleshoot and fix issues that may be blocking the system from detecting the second monitor automatically.

How to fix external monitor connection issues from hardware troubleshooting

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

If the monitor does not show up in the settings, use these steps before messing around with the configuration settings on Windows 10:

  • Confirm the display is connected to a power source.
  • Check whether the monitor is powered on.
  • Turn the computer off and on to refresh the connection.
  • Open the monitor's built-in controls and choose the correct input port.
  • Check the signal cable connection between the display and the graphics card.
  • Disconnect the signal cable from both ends, wait one minute, and firmly reconnect it.
  • Change the signal cable to confirm the problem isn't the cable.
  • Check the manufacturer for requirement details to ensure you have the correct cable since DisplayPort and HDMI come in different versions.
  • Change ports if the monitor and graphics card feature multiple ports.
  • Connect the monitor to another computer to confirm whether the problem is with the external display.
  • Connect another known working monitor to determine 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 display.
  • If you have a Surface device connected to a dock station, disconnect it and try to connect the monitor directly to the computer 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 problem with the second monitor, it could be a software-related issue, which you may be able to fix with the steps below.

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How to fix external monitor connection issues from Settings

After determining that there isn't a physical problem with the connection, monitor, or computer, 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.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. (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 won't be present since it's only available when connecting multiple displays.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 should detect the external monitor connected to the computer.

Connect wireless external display

To connect a wireless display on Windows 10 as a secondary screen on your computer, 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.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the "Wireless display or dock" option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Confirm the wireless display is on and discoverable (refer to device documentation).
  2. Select the display (wireless monitor, TV, or PC with Miracast support) from the list.
  3. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

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

How to fix external monitor connection issues from latest graphics drivers

A buggy, outdated, or corrupted graphics driver can cause problems that may prevent Windows 10 from detecting a second monitor automatically. The easiest method to fix this issue is updating, reinstalling, or downgrading the driver.

Update graphics driver

To update the graphics card driver through 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. 
  • Quick tip: If the option is not available, Windows Update does not have a newer driver available.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the Driver updates setting.
  2. Check the graphics driver to update on Windows 10.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the "Download and install" button.

Once you complete the steps, Windows Update will install the graphics driver, fixing the external monitor's detection problem.

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

Reinstall graphics driver

To reinstall a corrupted 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.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Clear the "Delete the driver software from this device" option (if applicable).
  2. Click the Uninstall button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Restart the computer.
  2. Open Device Manager again.
  • Quick note: The system should detect the monitor again automatically. If it's not the case, you can scan for changes manually to reinstall the display.
  1. Right-click the computer name and select the "Scan for hardware changes" option.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, Windows 10 will reinstall the driver automatically. However, it's good to use the above steps to ensure the driver installs correctly.

Rollback graphics driver

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

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Driver tab.
  2. Click the Roll Back Driver button. 
  1. Quick tip: You cannot use this rollback process if the option is unavailable. However, you might still be able to use an older version from the device manufacturer's support website (if available).

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select an option to answer the question.
  2. Click the Yes button.
  3. Restart the device.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 should start rendering content on the external monitor.

Update graphics driver with manufacturer control panel

Windows 10 can automatically set up drivers for most graphics adapters, but the drivers available through Windows Update are not typically the most recent. 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.

Check out these links to download the drivers, depending on your manufacturer:

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

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

Check manufacturer and driver version

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.

(Image credit: Future)

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

Finally, manufacturers (Dell, HP, Razer, Acer, and Microsoft) usually change the original drivers to optimize their computers. As a result, if you have a branded computer (also known as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) computer), you should always consider using the graphics driver available through the device manufacturer before trying those available through the graphics card manufacturer to avoid problems.

More resources

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

Mauro Huculak

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.