How to Use a Laptop as a Monitor

smilimh woman in front  of laptop

One monitor is often more than enough for your average computer tasks. You can shrink down windows you're not using, listen to music in the background, or even try split screen. However, it won't provide nearly the same kind of experience as adding a monitor to your setup. 

But do you need to buy a dedicated second monitor? What are the alternatives, and could you use an old laptop as one? 

Here's everything you need to know about how to use a laptop as a monitor

How to Add a Second Monitor

There are two main aspects to setting up a second monitor. 

First of all, you need the right hardware and setup. You can't use a laptop-to-monitor connection if you don't have the necessary connections. Your computer also needs to be powerful enough to handle a second monitor.

Second, you'll need to figure out how to activate the second monitor after it's plugged into your computer. That also includes knowing how to use the right settings to get the best resolution and refresh rate. 

Required Hardware

Two things you need when adding a monitor are the monitor itself and the connection cables. 

The monitor you choose will have a big effect on image and colour quality. You'll really notice the difference in quality if your second monitor supports 720p while your main monitor supports 4K. In addition, higher-quality models will have less lag between your two screens.

Most computers have multiple monitor port options if your monitor isn't compatible with one or the other. You can make use of any of the extra ports to display an image to the second monitor. 

Some of the most common connections include HDMI, VGA, DVI, and DisplayPort. While HDMI is the most popular these days, it's not uncommon to see the others included. You'll need to make sure your new monitor has the same connection as one of the open ports on your computer. 

Set Up On Computer

Once you have the second monitor and the right cabling, you need to set it up through your computer. How you activate the second monitor on Windows differs from on macOS. 

For Windows, you go to your display settings. These can be found in your systems settings.

Under the Multiple displays section, you can select from the dropdown list how you want to use your second monitor. For example, you can extend your current screen onto the second monitor for a widescreen experience. 

On macOS, you go into the Displays menu under your System Preferences. There, you can determine the main display and fine-tune your display settings. 

How to Use a Laptop as a Monitor

Using a laptop as a primary monitor or even a second one isn't quite as simple as plugging it into your computer and activating it. In almost all cases, you'll need to utilize a program that can facilitate the process. 

Once you have the program installed, you'll need to set your laptop as a monitor. On a Windows laptop, you'll click on the "Projecting to this PC" option in your system settings. Back on your main computer, you'll find the laptop in your notifications menu where you'll accept the connection. 

Connecting a MacBook to your Windows computer is a bit more complicated and may involve using a virtual desktop. For example, spacedesk routes your computer through a website which is then accessible on your MacBook. 

Benefits of Adding a Monitor to Your Setup

Utilizing a second monitor can bring a lot of benefits to your gaming experience and workflow. 

As a gamer, it can be jarring to pause a game to look up information. It's even more annoying if you make a living off of playing and streaming games. 

A dual monitor setup allows you to play a game and connect with your audience at the same time. You could also stream a movie on your second screen if you want. 

If you do most of your work on your computer, then a second monitor lets you multitask. Keep Slack open on your second screen while you focus on your primary monitor. Video editors can view their work in full quality on their second monitor as they make changes. 

Cons of Connecting Your Laptop as a Monitor

There are some drawbacks to using a laptop as a monitor. 

First of all, most laptops only have a display output. They're meant to act as the main computer that you might connect to another display or television.

Second, you may experience some lag when outputting video to something that isn't a dedicated monitor. Televisions process frames more thoroughly than monitors. Your laptop may have a different refresh rate than your main monitor. 

Finally, most laptop screens are smaller by default than dedicated monitors. You'll have less real estate to work with. 

Using Other Devices as a Monitor

In addition to laptops, other devices such as Android tablets can be used as monitors. Many people use their Android devices similar to a laptop, but they lack a lot of the ports that a standard laptop has. 

If you want to use your Android as a second monitor, you'll have to mirror your current one. You can find second monitor apps on your Android and install them on your computer as well. They connect through either a USB cable or WiFi. 

The only problem is that there may be a noticeable delay between the images. You also may not be able to extend your screen between both monitors. 

Invest in a New Screen

Now you should know how to use a laptop as a monitor if you must. It's helpful if you have an old one lying around and want to get some use out of it. However, you'll almost always have a better experience by investing in a new monitor. 

Tech Bitz n pc's sells all the PC-based components you may need, from cases to graphics cards and more. We're based out of Sydney, Australia but have fast nationwide delivery options. Contact us to learn more and check out our online stock. 

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