to Dual Monitors in Windows
One of the reasons that computers are getting
cheaper is because monitors are getting cheaper. The video
hardware that drives them is also more affordable than ever
before. Microsoft realized that when they released Windows 98
and built in support for multiple monitors. That support
continued with 98SE, 2000 and ME. If you use NT, you're not
out of luck, but this article won't help you. Your best
alternative is to use a dual headed card, like the Matrox
G450, one with two monitor outputs.
Getting dual monitors to work correctly seems
to be a hit or miss affair. In many cases, it's just a matter
adding a second video card and monitor and rebooting the
computer. In other cases, you need to do some cyber gymnastics
to get things working correctly.
The process is the same no matter which
version of Windows you are using. First, be sure that your
system is working correctly. Boot into safe mode and verify
that you have only one video adapter and monitor showing in
the Device Manager. If there are more, but you only have one
adapter and monitor, you'll need to remove the extras.
Once you're sure that your video setup is
working fine, turn off the system and look inside. Remember
that you'll need a video card for each monitor that you plan
to run under Windows. That means that your system must have a
free expansion slot for each one. You may find that you have
problems with IRQ sharing or DMA channels, depending on your
motherboard and video card, although many video cards seem
relatively intolerant of IRQ and DMA conflicts. Install your
video card in the appropriate slot, and then connect the
Restart your system. If all goes well, your
computer will boot the same way that it always has…the
second monitor will still be dark. If your system prompts you
to login, do it. You may need to install drivers for your
second video card, depending upon whether or not Windows has
built in drivers or not. Just follow the on-screen
Once the drivers are installed, check the
Device Manager to make sure that the display adapter is
Once the drivers are installed, open the
Display Properties window. In the settings screen, you should
see something like this:
You'll see that a second display is shown.
Click on the grayed out display marked as "2". The
window will change slightly to look like this:
You can then change the desktop resolution and
color depth. Once you've done that, click your mouse on the
"Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor" to
enable it. Remember that the resolution, color depth and
refresh rates of each monitor adapter combination don't have
to be the same. The window should look something like this
Click on OK and your second monitor should
activate itself as an extension of the first:
You'll find that you can change the relative
geometries of the two monitors by moving their respective
boxes around in the Settings window.
things don't work?
If you can't get your second monitor to work
at all, there are a couple of steps that you can take. In some
systems, you need to change a BIOS system to allow the PCI
display adapter to initialize first, instead of the AGP
adapter. You should be sure that both of your display adapters
are supported by the version of Windows that you are using.
Also, be sure that the display parameters
(resolution, color depth, etc.) are within your monitor's
limits. Windows allows you to select different display
parameters for each monitor, so even though one might have
lower performance than another, you'll still be able to use
Windows 2000 driver support for older PCI
cards may be a little iffy. Many popular cards do have
drivers, but just about as many don't. Also, remember that
your computer has only one AGP slot, so you can only use one
AGP card. The rest have to be PCI or ISA.
And speaking of ISA video cards, I'd really
recommend against using one. You'll find that your video
resolution and color depth are very minimal and you may create
more problems with IRQ sharing than you want to get into.
Also, of course, many newer motherboards don't have ISA slots.
If you have a motherboard with one of Intel's
i815 chipsets, you may have onboard AGP video. While it might
be tempting to use the built in video and get a separate PCI
card for the second display, please let me talk you out of it.
Almost any AGP card that you buy, even the cheapest one, will
outperform the video from these chipsets. If the onboard video
is your main video source, put your money into a new video
card before you consider adding a second monitor.
Dual monitor setups are a great way to expand
your desktop without buying a monstrously expensive large
monitor and, in most cases, it's very easy to do. A little
preparation before you do the job should result in a whole lot
of fun at the end.
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