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In my office we have a number of decrepit "all-in-one" desktop machines, where the monitor is melded in to the base unit.

With age they are all slowly developing some sort of internal hardware issue whereby the built in screen stops working. Our IT dept doesn't do hardware fixes, they are well out of warranty and it's extortionately expensive to get them repaired by the manufacturer - so we purchase new machines to replace them. This is great in many ways, because frankly they all needed replacing many years ago, but the problem behind this is that while we wait for the replacement computers, we don't have enough working machines for all of our users at peak times.

As a temporary work around, it would be useful to hook up an external screen to these breakdowns. But, connecting an "external" monitor doesn't directly help - it works while booting, but once Windows (XP SP3) takes over, the second monitor stops recieving signal. Obviously, with no working screen I can't access any of the options to enable the screen directly and there are not magic functions keys on desktops (that I know of). And I can't connect monitors to the machines before they breaksdown; we've only a few spare monitors and barely enough space on the desks for them.

So, on a desktop running Win XP SP3, is it possible to blindly activate a second monitor?

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If the monitor is truly integrated, it may be possible to disable it in the system's BIOS setup. Have you checked there for options related to the integrated monitor? –  boot13 Sep 9 '10 at 11:46
    
@boot the BIOS options are rather sparse. Can't see anything related to the screen at all. –  DMA57361 Sep 9 '10 at 11:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Record the needed steps on a working machine, then repeat on a defective machine:

  1. Take a working computer and let it boot. Then go through the steps you need to, to switch the main display to the external monitor. While you do this, take notes on the keyboard shortcuts for the actions you take.
  2. Now take a defective computer and let it boot. Execute the keyboard shortcuts from your notes and see if it works.
    Works: Solved!
    Doens't work: repeat step 1 to check for mistakes and gaps.
  3. Bonus points for recording the steps into software and then put the "recording" into the defective computer's Startup folder.
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I was hoping to avoid trying to log in and navigate through control panel blind. That said, it's less likely to get me in trouble than messing with the hard drives, but also slightly less fun... –  DMA57361 Sep 9 '10 at 13:30
    
This works, thanks, but I was kind of hoping for some magic laptop-style hot key or something... oh well. –  DMA57361 Sep 10 '10 at 12:43

Assuming that all these computers are sort of interchangeable, my suggestion would be to :

  1. Take the hard disk out of the busted computer and replace that inside a working one
  2. Connect external monitor to working computer and boot on hard disk of busted computer
  3. Change your primary monitor to the external one:
    a. On the Settings tab of the Display Properties dialog box, click the monitor icon that represents the monitor you want to designate as the primary monitor.
    b. Click to select the Use this device as the primary monitor check box and OK.
  4. Shutdown working computer
  5. Transplant the hard disk back into the busted computer and connect external monitor before booting.
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Good idea this, and one I'd not considered. I'm technically not supposed to mess around with hardware. But if there's no other suggestions soon I'll see if I can get away with giving this a try. –  DMA57361 Sep 9 '10 at 13:00

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