Make Multiple Monitors Work for You

Not only do multiple monitors make you look awesome, rich, and tech-savvy, but they can also help you become more productive--if you know how to use them. Here's how to make multiple monitors really work for you.

Set Up Multiple Monitors

The procedure for setting up multiple monitors can be as simple as plugging in an extra monitor, or it can be slightly more complicated if you don't have the appropriate graphics card.

In Video: Set Up Multiple Monitors

1. Make sure that your graphics card supports multiple monitors. You can tell whether it does by checking the input ports on the back: If it has multiple input ports (DVI, VGA, HDMI, or DisplayPort), it should support multiple monitors. If your graphics card does not support multiple monitors, you'll want to purchase one that does (consult our top-rated graphics cards chart for more information).

2. Installing a new graphics card is pretty simple. First, uninstall the drivers for your old graphics card: Go to Control Panel, Programs, Programs and Features, find your graphics card, select it, and click Uninstall. Next, turn off your PC and unplug the components. Open the chassis. remove your old graphics card (in some machines, this card is held in place with a screw), and replace it with your new graphics card. Warning: Before you touch anything inside your computer, ground yourself by touching a piece of grounded metal (such as the computer's case), or by wearing an antistatic wristband.

3. Plug your two (or more) monitors into your new graphics card. If the monitors aren't compatible with the graphics card (perhaps because you have HDMI monitors but your graphics card supports only DVI input), you'll have to purchase input converters. Ideally, your monitors will be identical in size, resolution, and type, but if you must compromise, make similar size and similar resolution your priorities, and don't worry too much about similar type.

4. Turn on your computer. If you've installed a new graphics card, your PC should recognize this fact and search for the appropriate drivers (alternatively, you can install the drivers via the card's included CD or DVD). Otherwise, you'll see both monitors working.

5. Initially, both monitors will display the same thing. To correct this situation, right-click on your screen and go to Personalize, Appearance and Personalization, Display Settings. You'll see a diagram showing your monitors, each of which will be identified by a number (if you can't figure out which one is which, click Identify Monitors, and a number will briefly appear, superimposed, on each monitor). Drag the monitors in the diagram into positions that match the physical layout of your setup, and choose which monitor will serve as your main monitor. Once you've chosen your main monitor, click Extend the desktop onto this monitor on your other monitor(s).

Wallpaper Your Monitors

Now that you have multiple monitors, you'll probably want to make them look pretty. Unfortunately, Windows offers limited support for "prettifying" your desktop--for example, Windows won't let you stretch your taskbar or your wallpaper across two or three monitors.

Luckily, some third-party applications will let you do this. I use DisplayFusion, but UltraMon ($40) is popular as well.

DisplayFusion has a paid version and a free version. The paid version ($25) will get you taskbar expansion and wallpaper image rotation. For the less ambitious purpose of wallpapering your multiple monitors, however, DisplayFusion's free version should suffice.

To install DisplayFusion, simply download it and run the executable file. You'll go through some basic setup--be sure to keep Start DisplayFusion at Windows startup checked so that the program will run each time you turn on your computer.

Once installed, DisplayFusion will exist as a small icon in your taskbar. Double-click the icon to open DisplayFusion and choose your poison--you can stretch one image across all monitors or use a different image for each monitor.

Need help finding an image to span across your monitors? Check out InterfaceLift, Dual Monitor Backgrounds, Dual Widescreen Wallpapers, and Wallpaper Abyss for free, high-resolution, multiple-monitor wallpaper.

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