Using a second monitor is an easy and convenient way to create a larger canvas to work with multiple apps, edit videos, and even play games on your desktop or tablet running Windows 10.

While connecting an external display is usually a plug-and-play process, occasionally, Windows 10 may not be able to detect the second monitor as a result of hardware or driver related issues. However, if you're having problems, there are a number of troubleshooting steps that you can use (such as checking the connection and installing the correct drivers) to fix the issue in no time.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to troubleshoot and resolve issues causing a second monitor not getting detected automatically on your device.

How to fix external monitor connection issues using hardware troubleshooting

When a device isn't detecting a second monitor, the chances are that you're experiencing a software related issue, but it could also be a problem with the physical connection.

If Windows 10 can't detect the second monitor, before modifying any settings (and assuming it's connected to a power source), you should try these troubleshooting steps:

  • Restart your computer to re-establish the connection.
  • Using the built-in controls on your monitor make sure the correct input is selected.
  • Check the cable connection between the monitor and the graphics card.
  • Disconnect the cable from both ends, wait a few seconds, and reconnect it again.
  • Use a different cable, as the issue could be the pins in the connector or a bad cable.
  • If the monitor and graphics card include multiple ports, try switching ports.
  • Connect the monitor to another computer to determine if it's not a problem with the monitor.
  • Connect another working monitor to determine if it's not an issue with the graphics card.
  • If you're using a Surface Pro 6 with a dock station, disconnect it, and try to connect the monitor straight to the device to determine if the Surface Dock is causing issues.
  • Depending on the type of display you're trying to set up as a second monitor, you may need to update its firmware to fix bugs or compatibility issues. (Check your display manufacturer's support website to find out how to apply the latest firmware update.)

After trying the basic troubleshooting steps outlined above, if nothing seems to be fixing the second monitor, then you can start troubleshooting for software related problems.

If it turns out the problem to be a bad monitor, or you're in the market for a new one, the Dell UltraSharp U2719D is our top pick right now.

Second monitor

Dell UltraSharp U2719D

A second monitor that works

Dell makes some excellent monitors, and the U2719D is a good example. It has everything you need, including HDMI and DisplayPort, IPS panel, and a resolution of 2560x1440, perfect to use as a second monitor.

How to fix external monitor connection issues using Settings

If you have determined that there's not a physical connection problem, you can use the Settings app to force Windows 10 to detect the second monitor.

Forcing second display detection

To detect a second monitor manually with the Settings app, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Display.
  4. Under the "Rearrange your displays" section, click the Detect button in the bottom-right corner (if applicable).

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 should be able to detect the second monitor, which you can then set up as needed using the Display settings.

Connecting wireless display

When trying to connect a wireless display, you can use these steps to connect as a second monitor on your device:

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

  5. Select the Wireless display or dock option.

  6. Confirm the wireless display is turned on and discoverable (refer to device manual).
  7. Select the display from the list.
  8. Continue with the on-screen directions.

After you complete the steps, the wireless monitor should now be detected as a new external display.

How to fix external monitor connection issues using latest graphics driver

On Windows 10, a corrupted, buggy, or outdated version of the graphics driver can prevent a second monitor from getting recognized. To resolve this problem, you can update, reinstall, or downgrade to an older version of the graphics driver to fix the connection between the external monitor and computer.

Updating graphics driver using Device Manager

To update the graphics card driver using Device Manager to fix the second monitor detection problem, use these steps:

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

  5. Click the Search automatically for updated driver software option.

  6. Restart your computer.

If Windows Update can find a newer driver, then it'll download and install the update automatically hopefully fixing any issues with the external monitor.

Reinstalling graphics driver

To reinstall a video card driver that may be corrupted or not working correctly, use these steps:

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

  5. Clear the Delete the driver software from this device option.
  6. Click the Uninstall button.

  7. Restart computer.
  8. Open Device Manager.
  9. Right-click the computer name and select the Scan for hardware changes option.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 will try to reinstall the graphics driver automatically during startup, but it's a good idea to use the steps to ensure the driver installs correctly.

Rolling back graphics driver

In the case that Windows 10 can't detect a second monitor as a result of a problem with a driver update, you can roll back the previous graphics driver to resolve the issue.

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

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

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

    Quick tip: If the button isn't available, you can't rollback the driver. However, you might be still able to use an older version of the driver if it's available from your device manufacturer's support website.

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

  9. Restart your computer.

After you complete the steps, Windows 10 should be able to detect and start displaying content on the external monitor.

Updating graphics driver with manufacturer control panel

Although you can use Windows Update to download and install graphics drivers, it doesn't always have the most up-to-date versions. However, you can use the control panel from manufacturers like NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel to get the latest updates available for your video card, which can help to fix issues with an external display.

If you choose to use your manufacturer control panel, the installation is straightforward, download and double-click the installer using the above links, and continue with the on-screen directions to complete the installation and check for updates.

Alternatively, you can download and install the latest graphics drivers directly from your manufacturer's support website using their instructions.

If you don't know which graphics card and version of the driver you have, use these steps:

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

Using this information, you can use the above links to find, download, and install the correct driver for your device.

Our top graphics card pick is the ZOTAC Gaming RTX 2060 because of its excellent performance and ports to connect multiple monitors.

Multi-monitor support

ZOTAC Gaming RTX 2060

The RTX 2060 offers multi-monitor support

If you need to replace your GPU, the RTX 2060 is a great option. Not only the card offers great performance for gaming and workloads, but it also includes multiple DisplayPort and HDMI ports perfect for multi-monitor setups.

Typically, device manufacturers (such as Dell, HP, Razer, Acer, and Microsoft) can modify the original drivers to optimize them on their devices. This means that when dealing with a branded computer, you should always consider using the graphics driver available through your computer manufacturer, before trying those available through the video card company to minimize issues.

More Windows 10 resources

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

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Hi, I'm Mauro Huculak, Windows Central's help and how-to guru. I wrote the post you're reading now, and I know the Windows OS inside and out. But I'm also a bit of a hardware geek. These are some of the affordable gadgets on my desk today.

Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse ($72 at Amazon)

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Ktrio Extended Gaming Mouse Pad ($12 at Amazon)

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Supernight LED light strip ($20 at Amazon)

You could just use a regular light bulb in your office, but if you want to add some ambient lighting with different colors, an RGB LED strip is the way to go. This one is Mauro-approved.

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