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page title icon How to Use Your Laptop as a Monitor

| Updated on August 1, 2017

If you’ve ever seen one of those movies that involved some high tech dude who appeared to be some sort of hacking genius working some magic in his lair, you would have noticed that it’s almost inevitable that this tech dude used more than one monitor at the same time.

Why Use More than One Monitor?

Truth is, using multiple monitors can prove to be extremely useful especially when functioning several different types of windows at the same time. According to, by simply adding an additional monitor as part and parcel of your daily technical requirements, you could be boosting your productivity by at least 20 to 30 percent. If you’re working an 8 hour shift, that’s 1.6 hours more efficiency you can achieve than if you were to stick with using just a single monitor.

If you walked into any investor’s office, you will notice that they operate their activities by using a multitude of screens ranging anywhere from the minimum two to four monitors at a time. Why? It’s handy especially when you need to make comparisons between windows as well as keeping track of all activities from different sources.

By using multiple monitors, you are able to drag your mouse to and fro between the monitors as well as drag programs and windows between them. Rather than having to switch between tabs and windows, you have expanded your screen’s real estate allowing you to look at all windows at the same time.

There are several applications to using multiple screens such as for the coder who wants to see different codes side to side, the gamer who wants to keep an eye on different gaming worlds at the same time, the multi-taskers who want to perform multiple activities simultaneously, and many more.

Although there have been allegations stating that your productivity doesn’t necessarily increase by using an extra monitor, there is only one way to find out if the dual monitor system works for you. That is, to try it yourself.

The best part of it all is, you don’t even have to get another monitor to see if you like having a dual screen. As long as you have a laptop and a monitor, you’re good to go.

How Can You Use Your Laptop as a Second Monitor?

The first step you need to do is to link your laptop to your monitor. The majority of laptops come with ports that enable you to hook up external monitors by simply plugging the monitor cable into your laptop’s HDMI, DVI, or DisplayPort. Ensure that your laptop has acknowledge the connection to your monitor and accepted it as ready to use.

Setting up your laptop as a second monitor differs between Windows and Macs so we’ll break it down accordingly.


Using a Windows laptop as a monitor

Once you’ve booted up, you will have most likely have ended up in your desktop screen. From here, follow the following steps:

  1. Right click on the background of your desktop. This will open up a menu where you will find the “Properties” tab. Click it.

  2. Once in the Properties tab, go to Settings.

  3. A second screen will pop up and you can drag it to the position which is where your laptop screen should be.

  4. A prompt should pop up asking you if you’d like to enable this monitor to your laptop. Click Yes.

  5. You must make sure that the checkbox next to “Extend my Windows Desktop onto this Monitor” is selected to enable the link between your laptop and the monitor.

  6. Once you’re done with the above steps, press the “Apply” button to update your settings.

Now the problem you may face, as do many others, is being able to identify which screen belongs to which number. For example, whether your laptop screen is identified as Screen 1 or Screen 2 and same with your monitor.

To solve this issue quickly, all you have to do is Press the “Identify” button and the numbers will pop up on each of your screens (both laptop and monitor). This will help you choose which screen you would like to set as your primary screen.

This is entirely a personal preference, however, if you do not use a keyboard and only have your laptop’s keyboard to work from, you probably would want to configure your laptop screen to be the primary screen for ease of accessibility.

To change between primary monitors, all you have to do is select the monitor you want to be primary and check the box stating “Use this device as the primary monitor”. Click the Apply button to enforce your changes.

If your taskbar has not automatically shifted to your primary screen, all you have to do is drag it over. You can do this by left clicking your mouse onto the taskbar and holding it down while dragging it over to your primary screen.


Using a Mac laptop as a monitor

To use your mac laptop as a second monitor is extremely easy (when compared to the whole Windows setup). Similar to the Windows setup, you must ensure that your laptop and monitor is connected.

Now all you have to do is:

Go to your system preferences:

  1. Choose the “Displays” tab.
  2. In the event that the OS X has not automatically detected your new display, click on the “Detect Display” button.
  3. Click on “Select Arrangement” which will allow you to control and reposition any displays to reflect the existing connection to your monitor.
  4. The “Select Arrangement” setting is extremely handy and can even allow you to reposition the dock to your convenience.

Wrap Up

It’s extremely simple to set up your laptop as a second monitor and can truly help improve your efficiency in performing tasks.

Should you have any trouble setting this up yourself, there are available software that can help you configure this such as the following:

  1. Synergy – an extremely popular application great for device cohesion. Some of the awesome features in this application is its auto-configuration tool, an SSL Encryption enabler, and a network wizard. Do note however that the Synergy application comes at a price of $10 for the basic version and $29 for the pro version.
  2. Input Director – this application offers almost identical features and functionalities as Synergy. The main drawback is its lack of an aesthetic user interface when compared to Synergy. The positive side is that Input Director comes free of charge for personal use and non-commercial use.

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