How to Connect a Laptop to an External Monitor

by C. Taylor

In addition to its LCD screen, just about every laptop has a 15-pin VGA or 24-pin DVI video port that can connect an external monitor. Laptops running Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate can enjoy an extended or mirrored desktop that simultaneously uses both screens. Unfortunately, that is not an option for Windows 7 Starter users, who can only use one or the other. Being as Windows 7 Starter is most often seen on smaller netbooks, this limitation still allows users to replace their tiny screen with a potentially massive one.

Attach the video cable to the back of your external monitor. Make sure to use the correct cable for the monitor, such as DVI or VGA. Secure the cable to the monitor by tightening the two connector screws on the cable.

Attach the other end of the cable to the laptop's video port and secure it in position as before. If the laptop's port differs from the cable's connector, you'll need an adapter to convert VGA to DVI, or vice versa. When using an adapter, connect the cable to the adapter and connect the adapter to the laptop's video port. Both connections need to be secured via the two screws on the cable and adapter.

Plug the monitor's power cord into a wall outlet and turn the monitor on. If your laptop isn't currently running, turn it on. Windows will automatically recognize the new monitor.

Right-click an empty area of the desktop and select "Screen Resolution."

Click the "Multiple Displays" drop-down menu and select your preferred arrangement. "Duplicate These Displays" mirrors your desktop on the external monitor. "Extend These Displays" creates one large desktop across both screens. "Show Desktop Only on [#]" uses only a single screen.

Click and drag the monitor graphics to match your extended desktop's physical arrangement. As an example, if you have the external monitor to your right, you'll want to drag the second monitor graphic to the right of the first monitor. Doing so allows natural mouse movements that mimic your physical arrangement.

Click "Apply" and then click "OK."


  • If you don't need to fine-tune your arrangement, you can press "Win-P" repeatedly until your preferred arrangement is highlighted.

Items you will need

  • DVI or VGA video cable
  • VGA-to-DVI or DVI-to-VGA adapter (might be necessary depending on the laptop and external monitor ports)

Photo Credits

  • Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images