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I'm well aware of how to extend the desktop manually to my second display. But as we all know, it's tedious to go in to resolution setting each time. I tend to shut off my second display, either for full screen applications that can't handle it too well, or simply when I'm not using it.

What I'd like to have is for the desktop to automatically extend only when the second screen is turned on (but still plugged in). I'm not sure if the display signals the hardware if it's on or not, so this might not be possible in the first place.

Does a standard display notify the hardware that the display is turned on? Is there any software that utilizes this to allow you automatic switching of the desktop extension?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Are you aware of this shortcut to control display extension? This solution is not as simple as turning your second screen on and off and having it 'just work', but it is much easier than working with the resolution settings dialog.

Hold WIN and press P repeatedly to cycle through the following display options:

  • Computer only displays your desktop only on your primary screen.
  • Duplicate replicates your desktop on your primary screen and secondary screen.
  • Extend displays an extended desktop across two screens.
  • Projector only displays your desktop only on your secondary screen.

To enable an extended display quickly after turning on your second screen, hold WIN and press P until Extend is the highlighted option:

Cycling through display options using the keyboard shortcut

Release the keys to enable an extended display across your two screens.

To return to a single-screen display, hold WIN and press P until Computer only is the highlighted option. Release the keys to disable the extended display.

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I was surely not aware of that. Great tip, and it's next to as good as what I wanted! Thanks –  Zoomulator Jul 1 '12 at 11:46
    
This can also be accomplished via DisplaySwitch.exe - stackoverflow.com/a/12347530/186623 –  Marcus Pope Mar 10 at 21:41

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