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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 6/16/06 How-to use two monitors on one computer

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) June 15, 2006 3:19 PM PDT

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6/16/06 How-to use two monitors on one computer

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 6/15/06 3:19 PM


I have a question about using two monitors at the same time. Recently we bought a 19-inch flat monitor, but we still like our bulky Dell Trinitron 19-incher, and it still works great. A friend of ours said he saw on TV that people had set up their PC using two monitors at the same time and, for example, are able to drag an Excel spreadsheet to display along with another PowerPoint slide from each monitor. Can you tell us, is it possible for newbies like us to do this, and how and
what type of wire do we need to link these two monitors together; plus, how do we set XP's OS to do it? Thanks.

Submitted by: Steve N. of Fairfax, Virginia



Hi Steve, it is possible to use two monitors and hopefully this will help you.

1. First you must consider the power usage of using two monitors. If you are not concerned about this, then you can move on.

2. Do you have room for two monitors; do you have a power strip or a free outlet to plug into near by?

3. Do you have the correct hardware?

What you need...and assuming you don't have a dual-capable graphics card installed...

You will need a few things before getting started: one, a free AGP (accelerated graphics port) or PCI (peripheral component interface slot) on the motherboard. The reason for this is that you need an open slot to plug in a graphics card that will support dual-monitor hookups.

There is another way also, by installing two PCI video cards or one PCI and one AGP , but with dual monitor cards , life can be much easier. Another issue is same picture problem. If using two PCI video cards, you may get the same screen on both. Many times, dual monitor cards have extra software, separate images so you can in fact, put one wallpaper up on your monitor and on the next, put a different one.

What about your onboard monitor port? When using graphics cards, typically the onboard graphics are disabled so this would do no good.
As it stands, a dual monitor card is the easiest route to take.
Many graphics cards require a higher power supply, typically 350W for a round about. You need to inquire as to what the card needs before buying the card.

What kind of graphics card? Matrox seems to have a good rating for multiple monitor allowance and would be my (personal) pick. There is also ATI Radeon or Geforce. "There are many types and opinions of what works though and I would encourage you to do a lot of searching, pricing and questioning before making a choice. "

Cost can start becoming an issue, depending on the graphics card, power supply, and cost of running two monitors, once again you have to ask, Is this what you really need? What benefit will it be to me?

Installation of the card will depend on the type you aquire and you should follow the instructions of the manufacturer of the card. There are some important things to remember with the installation of a graphics card. Yes I stated that installation will depend on the type but some basic rules still remain...

1. ESD (electro static discharge) the same effect as rubbing your feet on a carpet and shocking the cat. There is enough voltage to destroy a circuit and can render the pc useless. The typical user may not have a grounding strap to prevent this but one precaution you can take is to ground yourself to the metal chasis , (the metal pc housing) when working inside. Keep the computer up off of static inducing surfaces like rugs, beds etc...

2. Make sure power connections to the pc are unhooked, you don't want to take a risk of getting shocked or damaging the computer.

3. If you are not sure on what to do, contact support or someone who knows how to accomplish the task as you may cause more harm than good.

That said, and assuming your pc is up to specs, you may want to know what to do AFTER you get all your gear hooked up. There are many options and the basics are where you may want to start...

Windows XP has support for up to 10 monitors and will accommodate just fine. Here is a great link which covers Windows information on how to begin detecting and setting up...

Here is another link with a lot of information on how to use dual monitor features among other issues if you get stuck...

I hope this helps answer some of your questions Steve.
Good luck with your dual monitors.

Submitted by: Paul K. of Gladstone, Michigan

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