This article shows you how to connect an external monitor to a laptop running Windows or a Mac. Since many modern laptops are able to automatically choose the best video settings once connected to an external monitor, the most difficult step of the procedure becomes that of choosing the correct cable to physically connect the laptop to the monitor.
Part 1 of 5: Connect the Monitor to the Laptop
Step 1. Determine what your laptop's video output options are
Most laptops have only one video out port located along the sides or back. The options for connecting a laptop to an external monitor are typically as follows:
- HDMI - is a port characterized by a thinned rectangular shape with two rounded corners. It is normally available on most modern laptops;
- DisplayPort - similar in shape to an HDMI port, but with only one beveled corner;
- VGA or DVI - VGA ports are colored blue and have 15 holes, while DVI ports are normally black and have 24 holes all aligned on the left side of the port. These are two outdated connection standards that can still only be found on older laptops.
- Thunderbolt 3 (also known as USB-C) - is a door characterized by a thinned rectangular shape with the two short rounded sides. Equipped on most modern Macs and MacBooks;
- HDMI - is a port characterized by a thinned rectangular shape with two rounded corners. It is normally available on MacBook Pros;
- Mini DisplayPort - is similar in shape to an HDMI port, but with a smaller size and is available on Macs manufactured between 2008 and 2016.
Step 2. Check the available video input ports on the monitor
Low-end computer monitors typically have only one connection port, while modern televisions have multiple input ports to choose from. Normally the standards adopted are HDMI or DisplayPort and the ports are located on the back of the monitor. If your monitor is relatively old, it may have a VGA or DVI port.
Step 3. Connect the cable to the video output of the laptop
Find the end of the cable that matches the shape of the video out socket on your computer and insert it.
Step 4. Connect the other end of the cable to the monitor
Again, insert the connector into the matching monitor port based on the shape.
If your monitor requires a different type of connector than the one you find on your computer, you will need an adapter to make that connection. Some adapters have the sole purpose of bridging two connectors of different types. For example, a VGA-HDMI adapter allows you to connect a VGA cable on one end and an HDMI cable on the other. Here are some examples of adapters:
- HDMI to DisplayPort
- DisplayPort (or Mini DisplayPort) to HDMI
- Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort
- USB-C to HDMI (or DisplayPort)
- VGA to HDMI
- DVI to HDMI
Step 5. Plug the monitor into the mains and turn it on
Connect the power cord to the monitor, then insert the power plug into a power outlet. At this point, press the button Power ignition characterized by the following symbol
If you have had to purchase a signal converter (and not a simple cable that acts as an adapter), you will need to connect the device to the mains
Step 6. Select the video source on the monitor
If you are using a monitor or TV that has multiple inputs, you will need to select the port you used to connect to the computer. To select the video source, press the "Input", "Source", "Video Select" button or something similar on the monitor or remote control.
Step 7. Wait for the contents visible on the laptop screen to appear on the external monitor as well
Once the computer desktop image appears on the external monitor screen, you can proceed to configure the video settings.
If your computer desktop does not appear on the monitor, go to Method 2 for the procedure for detecting a display using Windows or Method 3 for the procedure for a Mac computer
Part 2 of 5: Detecting a Display on Windows
Step 1. Access the "Start" menu by clicking on the icon
It features the Windows logo and is located in the lower left corner of the desktop. The "Start" menu will appear.
Step 2. Open the Settings by clicking on the icon
It features a gear and is located at the bottom left of the "Start" menu.
Step 3. Click on the System item
It features a computer icon and is visible within the "Settings" screen.
Step 4. Click on the Display tab
It is listed on the left side of the "Settings" window for the "System" section.
Step 5. Scroll down and click Detect
This is the gray button under "More Screens" at the bottom of the screen. This allows Windows to detect your monitors.
Part 3 of 5: Detect a Display on Mac
Step 1. Click on the Apple icon
This is the Apple logo icon in the upper left corner of the menu bar. A drop-down menu will appear.
Step 2. Click on System Preferences…
This is the second option on Apple's drop-down menu. Opens the "System Preferences" window.
Step 3. Click on Monitor
This button has a computer monitor icon. Opens the "Monitor" window.
Step 4. Press and hold the "Options" button
When you press the "Options" button, the "Detect Monitor" button appears in the "Monitor" window.
Step 5. Click on Detect Monitor
It is located in the lower right corner of the "Monitor" window and appears when you press the "Options" button.
Part 4 of 5: Change Video Settings on Windows
Step 1. Open the "Start" menu
Click on the Windows logo in the lower left corner of the screen. The menu will open Start.
Step 2. Open the "Settings"
Click on the gear icon at the bottom left of the menu.
Step 3. Click on "System"
This is the computer icon in the "Settings" window.
Step 4. Click on the "Display" tab
This option is located in the left part of the "Display" window.
Step 5. Scroll down to the "Multiple Displays" section
It's almost at the bottom of the page.
Step 6. Select the "Multiple Displays" drop-down menu
Step 7. Choose from the viewing options
Choose one of the following menu items:
- Duplicate these screens - the same images will be displayed both on the laptop screen and on the monitor;
- Extend these screens - the external monitor will be used as an extension of the desktop space. This means that by moving it to the right side of the laptop screen, the mouse pointer will automatically be transferred to the external monitor;
- Show desktop only for 1 - images will only be displayed on the laptop screen. In this case the external monitor screen will be turned off;
- Show desktop only for 2 - images will only be displayed on the external monitor. In this case the laptop screen will be turned off.
Part 5 of 5: Change Video Settings on Mac
Step 1. Open the Apple menu
Click on the Apple logo in the upper left corner of the screen. A drop-down menu will appear.
Step 2. Click on System Preferences…
It is one of the options present in the drop-down menu that appeared. The "System Preferences" dialog box will appear.
Step 3. Click Monitor
It is an icon that looks like a small computer monitor and is located in the center of the "System Preferences" window.
Step 4. Go to the Monitor tab
It is located in the upper left of the dialog box.
Step 5. Change the graphics resolution of the laptop
Select the "Resized" radio button, then choose the resolution you want from those available.
Remember that it is not possible to select a resolution higher than that of the panel with which the monitor is equipped (such as 4K in the case of a Full HD monitor)
Step 6. Change the screen size
Drag the "Underscan" slider, located at the bottom right of the window, to the left to view a larger portion of the Mac screen, or to the right to view a smaller portion.
This feature allows you to adjust the image size to fit the external monitor screen perfectly
Step 7. Extend the Mac desktop to the external monitor if needed
If you want to use the latter as an extension of the desktop space, go to the tab Arrangement located at the top of the window, then deselect the "Duplicate monitor" check button located in the lower left part of the tab.
Using the "Layout" tab, you can also change the position of the menu bar by dragging the white rectangle at the top of the blue box visible in the center of the tab to the right or left
- The DisplayPort, HDMI and USB-C video ports can carry both video and audio signals simultaneously. This means that if your monitor is equipped with loudspeakers (and one of the indicated connection standards) it will be able to reproduce sounds as well.
- To improve the process of detecting laptop-connected monitors and image quality, you can update system drivers.