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How to set up multiple monitors on Windows 11

Windows 11 multi monitor setup
(Image credit: Future)

A multi-monitor setup can significantly improve your productivity when multitasking with multiple apps because adding one or two external monitors will help you create a larger canvas to distribute the workload. However, these setups are only helpful if you know how to configure them correctly.

On Windows 11, you have many options and features to support two, three, four, or more displays without relying on third-party software or technical assistance to make it all work.

This guide will walk you through how to configure a multi-monitor setup on Windows 11.

How to prepare for multi-monitor setup on Windows 11

Before diving into these steps, connect the displays correctly, including the power and signal cables (HDMI or DisplayPort), and turn on all the monitors.

Also, you want to make sure that Windows 11 can detect the monitors, and here's how:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Confirm all the monitors are on the settings page.
  2. Click the Multiple displays settings.
  3. (Optional) Click the Detect button to force the system to detect any missing displays.

(Image credit: Future)

If one of the displays is still missing, recheck the connections, restart the computer, and use the above steps again.

Check for video and system updates

In addition, you also want to check for updates to ensure that the device has the latest system updates and drivers installed for the best experience.

To check updates on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Windows Update.
  3. Click the Check for updates button.
  4. Click the Advanced options setting.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Additional options" section, click the Optional updates setting.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Check the video driver update (if applicable).
  2. Click the Download and install button.

How to rearrange displays on Windows 11

Since it's easy to connect the monitors in the wrong order on the graphics card as you try to configure a dual-monitor or triple-monitor setup, Windows 11 includes an option to rearrange them correctly.

To rearrange multiple displays on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. (Optional) Click the Identify button to determine which monitor you are rearranging.
  2. Drag and drop to rearrange each display according to its physical layout on the desktop.
  • Quick tip: Confirm all monitors align at the top perfectly. Otherwise, you may have problems moving the mouse between displays from the corners.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Apply button.

Once you complete the steps, the new layout configuration will apply, allowing you to work across each display and run apps without issues.

How to choose primary display on Windows 11

On Windows 11, you can choose which monitor should be the default to tell the system where apps should open by default.

To change which monitor is the primary, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the non-primary display.
  2. Click the Multiple displays setting.
  3. Check the "Make this my main display" option.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, you may see a visual effect on the screen to apply the changes.

How to select viewing mode for multiple displays on Windows 11

It's also possible to change the viewing mode of the displays. For example, you can expand the main desktop across the new display or mirror both monitors to show the same content on both screens, which can come in handy during a presentation. Alternatively, you can disable the laptop display and use the external monitor as the only screen.

Choose view mode in Settings

To change the Windows 11 viewing mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the monitor you want to customize.
  2. Use the drop-down menu on the bottom-right and select the viewing mode:
  • Duplicate — Shows the same desktop across displays.
  • Extend — Expands the desktops of the first display across all displays.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, the new configuration will apply. The settings would be different depending on the monitors connected to the computer.

Choose view mode in Project flyout

Windows 11 also allows you to switch display modes on the fly using the Project feature, which you can access using the Windows key + P keyboard shortcut.

Once you invoke the shortcut, a Project flyout will open from the right side with four options:

  • PC screen only — Only the primary display is used.
  • Duplicate — Secondary displays will mirror the primary monitor.
  • Extend — Both screens are combined to offer an extended desktop.
  • Second screen only — Only the secondary displays are used.

(Image credit: Future)

Usually, you want to use the Extend option since it allows you to use the primary monitor normally and the secondary at their native resolution creating a single larger canvas.

The Duplicate option is also good, but when using a second monitor or projector to show a presentation. In contrast, the Second screen only option is great when you want to close a laptop's lid and work only with the external monitor.

How to change scale and layout settings on Windows 11

Although Windows 11 applies the optimal display settings, sometimes, you may still need to change each monitor's scaling, resolution, and orientation.

Choose predefined scale settings

The scale settings can come in handy when using monitors of different sizes and screen resolutions for text, icons, frames, and other items the same size across displays. If you have a high-resolution monitor, you can use the scale setting to make things bigger and more readable.

To change the scale settings for a better viewing experience, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the monitor you want to customize.
  2. Under the "Scale & layout" section, use the Scale setting and choose the appropriate scale option.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions for the other monitors. Although you don't need to sign out and back in to apply the changes, you may still need to restart some applications to see the scale setting changes.

Choose custom scale settings

To use custom scale settings on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the monitor you want to customize.
  2. Under the "Scale & layout" section, click the Scale setting.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Use the Custom scaling setting to use a different scaling size between 100% and 500%.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Apply (check) button.

After you complete the steps, you will need to sign out of the account and sign back in to see the new changes. If the scaling doesn't look right, return to the settings and tweak the scaling setting until you land into an acceptable configuration.

If you want to use the predefined scale settings again, turn off custom scaling and sign out. Otherwise, the option will be grayed out.

Choose display resolution

Although Windows 11 can configure the most optimal screen resolution, you may still need to change the resolution manually.

To change the screen resolution on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the monitor you want to customize.
  2. Under the "Scale & layout" section, use the Display resolution settings to choose the correct screen resolution.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to change the resolution to the remaining monitors.

If you want to make text and other items bigger, you should use the scale settings instead.

Choose display orientation

Depending on your requirements, you may need to use one or all the monitors vertically instead of the traditional horizontal orientation. You can use the "Display orientation" settings if this is the case.

To change the display orientation on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the monitor you want to customize.
  2. Under the "Scale & layout" section, use the Display orientation settings to flip the screen in:
  • Landscape.
  • Portrait.
  • Landscape (flipped).
  • Portrait (flipped).

Windows 11 display rotation

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, the screen will flip to the orientation you selected.

How to manage advanced display settings on Windows 11

It's usually not recommended to change the advanced display settings. However, since every display looks different, you may need to tweak some settings to deal with screen flickering or improve color accuracy.

Configure the custom color profile

If one of the displays is not displaying colors accurately, it's possible to use a custom color profile.

When changing the color profile settings, you should only use those created by a trusted source or device manufacturer. If unsure, you can refer to this guide to download the correct color profile for your monitors.

To configure a custom color profile on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Related settings" section, click the Advanced display setting.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the monitor you want to configure using the "Select a display to view or change its settings" option.
  2. Under the "Display information" section, click the "Display adapter properties" option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Color Management tab.
  2. Click the Color Management button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Devices tab.
  2. Select a display from the list.
  3. Check the "Use my settings for this device" option.
  4. Click the Add button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Browse button and locate the new color profile.
  2. Double-click the .icm file to install the new profile.
  3. Click the Close button.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, repeat the instructions to set a different color profile for the other monitors.

Change refresh rate

The default refresh rate (frames per second) of 59Hz or 60Hz is typically suitable for most users. However, if you have monitors that support a higher refresh rate or notice screen flickering, increasing the settings can provide a better and smoother viewing experience.

To set a different refresh rate on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Related settings" section, click the Advanced display setting.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the monitor that you want to configure using the "Select a display to view or change its settings" option.
  2. Change the refresh rate with the "Choose a refresh rate" setting.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the steps to adjust the refresh rate on the remaining display.

Enable variable refresh rate

Variable refresh rate (VRR) is a technology available on supported monitors that dynamically increases and decreases the refresh rate according to the content to save battery life.

To enable VRR on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Related settings" section, click the Advanced display setting.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the monitor you want to configure using the "Select a display to view or change its settings" option.
  2. Choose the Dynamic option in the "Choose a refresh rate" setting.
  • Quick note: If the option is not available, the device doesn't support the feature.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, Windows 11 will dynamically adjust the refresh rate to balance the screen performance and battery life.

Enable multiple displays features

Windows 11 includes a few new features to improve the multiple-monitor experience. For example, when you disconnect the external display, all the apps on the secondary display will minimize automatically. Then when you reconnect the display, the apps will restore automatically to their original location.

To enable these features, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Multiple displays setting.
  2. Check the "Remember window locations based on monitor connection" option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Check the "Minimize windows when a monitor is disconnected" option.

When disconnecting the external monitor, all the apps will minimize in the Taskbar when using these settings. Then when you reconnect the display, all the apps will restore automatically to their original locations.

How to show Taskbar across multiple monitors on Windows 11

To show the Taskbar across displays, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  2. Check the "Show my taskbar on all displays" option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. (Optional) Use the "When using multiple displays, show my taskbar apps" setting and choose how apps will appear in the Taskbar:
  • All taskbars.
  • Main taskbar and taskbar when window is open.
  • Taskbar where window is open.

After you complete the steps, the Taskbar will appear across all monitors.

How to change background on multiple displays on Windows 11

Windows 11 also allows you to set a different background image on each display to make the experience more personalized by using the slideshow option or manually selecting another wallpaper on each monitor.

Show different wallpapers with a slideshow

To change the wallpaper of each monitor with the slideshow option, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the Slideshow option from the "Personalize your background" setting.
  2. Click the Browse button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select a folder with a collection of images to rotate on all the monitors.
  2. Click the Choose this folder button.
  3. Select the rotation frequency using the "Change picture every" drop-down menu.
  4. Turn on the Shuffle toggle switch.
  5. (Optional) If you use different image sizes, use the "Choose a fit drop-down menu and select the Fill" option.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 11 will randomly assign a wallpaper, depending on the rotation frequency you selected.

Show different wallpapers manually

To set a different background for each display manually, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the Picture option from the "Personalize your background" setting.
  2. Click the Browse button.
  3. Select the wallpaper and click the Choose picture option.
  4. Right-click the image, select the "Set for desktop" submenu, and choose the monitor to display the wallpaper.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, repeat the instructions to assign a different background for the remaining monitors.

More resources

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