Common multi monitor problems, and how to fix them

Multi-monitor issues? Here's how to resolve them

Dell Ultrasharp 49-inch monitor review U4919DW
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Multiple monitors have all sorts of advantages — even over single, enormous ultrawides — from improving productivity to providing versatility in their placement on your desk. But the experience isn’t always perfect. Sometimes you plug in a second monitor and it doesn’t work at all, or it keeps minimizing your game when you mouse into it accidentally.

If you’ve followed our guide on how to set up multiple monitors and you’re running into difficulties, check out the list below of the most common multi-monitor problems, and how to fix them.

No signal

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Although getting no “signal” to your new monitor can be cause for concern, it’s arguably the easiest problem to fix. It simply means that the visual data is not reaching the display. There are a number of reasons why this happens and plenty of fixes you can try to sort it out.

  • Use Windows’ detect tool: It may be that Windows hasn’t recognized that a second display is connected. To force it to check, right-click the desktop and select “Display Settings,” from the menu that appears. In the Display Settings window, click the “Detect” button.
  • Turn the screen off and on again: Some connection types don’t like hot swapping while a monitor is powered on. Turn the display off and then on again. That may be all it needs to recognize the video feed and start displaying it correctly.
  • Check the cables are plugged in correctly: It might sound obvious, but a loose cable can cause no signal errors more often than any other problem. If they do seem well secured, unplug and plug them in again just to be sure.
  • Make sure you’ve selected the right input: Monitors with multiple input options need you to select which cable you’re using. Use the buttons on your monitor to make sure that you’ve selected the same one as the cable you’re connecting to it.
  • Change data cable: If you’re using an older cable standard like VGA or DVI-D, you might want to try a newer alternative like HDMI or DisplayPort. You can also just try using another cable of whatever standard you’re using in case there was a problem with that particular cable.
  • Change graphics port: If you’re using a dedicated graphics card with multiple output ports, try swapping which one you use. Sometimes ports themselves can be damaged and switching to another is all you need to do to correct it.
  • Update your drivers: Although Windows 10 supports multiple monitors by default, your set up may not for some reason or another. Making sure you’re running the latest graphics drivers for your system can sometimes fix problems with no signal errors.

If you’re still having trouble with the additional monitor, verify that it works by itself by unplugging the other screen and double checking the above steps again. If it does, consider running it as the main display until you’ve discovered what the problem is. If it doesn’t, then we’d suggest contacting your retailer or manufacturer to discuss a return or replacement.

Wrong resolution

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If you add a new, higher-resolution monitor to your system and find that it’s not displaying at the right resolution, it might be borrowing some settings from your older display, or simply trying to match your other existing screen.

Step 1: Right-click your desktop and select “Display Settings,” from the menu that appears.

Step 2: Click the monitor you wish to edit in the top window.

Step 3: Scroll down and look for the heading “Scale and layout.” Underneath “Resolution,” use the drop-down menu to select your monitor’s correct resolution

If this process doesn’t work, make sure that your monitor and graphics card can run at your chosen resolution. If you’re still running into problems, try updating your graphics drivers.

Wrong refresh rate

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If you’ve bought a fancy new, high-refresh-rate monitor for gaming, you want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of it. Windows 10 has a penchant for not picking up on the speediest of settings that your new display supports, so manually choosing it yourself is often a must.

You can double check what refresh rate your monitor is running at with the Testufo tool.

Step 1: Right-click your desktop and select “Display Settings,” from the menu that appears.

Step 2: Scroll down to the bottom of the window and click “Advanced display settings.”

Step 3: Click “Display adapter properties for X,” where “X” is the display you want to adjust the refresh rate for.

Step 4: Select the “Monitor” tab at the top.

Step 5: Under the heading “Monitor Settings,” use the drop down box to select your preferred refresh rate.

Duplicate or extended

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There are a few different ways to display content on two screens, but “Duplicate” is often the default. If yours is just showing a copy of what’s on your main screen and you’d rather it acted more like an extension of it, here’s how to change it.

Step 1: Press Windows key + “P” to bring up the “Project” menu.

Step 2: Select “Extend,” either by clicking it with your mouse, going up or down with the arrow keys and pressing Enter on the right one, or pressing Windows key + P to cycle through options.

Alternatively, you can right-click the desktop and select “Display Settings,” and use the drop-down menu at the bottom of the window to choose your preference under the “Multiple Displays,” heading. That way you can also adjust which monitor appears on the left and which is on the right by dragging and dropping the numbered displays at the top of the window.

These same processes can be used to change to duplicate if you’d prefer it that way.

Games keep minimizing

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If you find that your games keep minimizing when playing on a single monitor for no obvious reason, you might be accidentally clicking in the pane of your second display. Some games don’t lock the boundaries of their fullscreen window, which means that when you mouse to the edge of the screen, your pointer can transition into the second window.

Clicking selects that second screen, or whatever is on it, minimizing the game. This is particularly problematic in games without a mouse pointer, like FPS titles. Here are a few methods for fixing the minimization problem:

  • Check your display options within the game itself. If you’re playing in “Windowed” mode, try switching to “Full Screen” instead. If that doesn’t work, try switching to “Borderless Window” mode. It won’t stop your mouse from moving into the other screen, but it can stop the game minimizing when it happens. You’ll just need to click back in to the window to switch back to the game again.
  • Applications like the Dual Monitor Tool can let you lock a mouse pointer to one monitor in particular. You’ll need to unlock it after you’ve finished playing, though.
  • Turn off the second screen. It’s a little drastic, but turning off the second screen when playing games that don’t need it can make it so that you don’t drift into that extended display mid-game. You can do this by hitting the power button on it, or pressing Windows key + “P” and then selecting “PC screen only,” from the list.

Now that your multiple monitors are all working correctly, make sure you get a good dual-screen wallpaper for them.


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