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Equaling 3 Displays Total (or 2, if the laptop display cannot be used).

I work at home on two large monitors, but at the office on a laptop with a single large monitor. Is it possible to attach two (or more?) external monitors to a laptop without having them clone each-others display?

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What laptop are you using? –  jasonh Jul 17 '09 at 6:18
I use a Lenoveo X60s and tried to attach a second external monitor using the Matrix DualHead2Go. Unfortunately the notebook was not able to drive those monitors at a resolution higher than 1024x768 (not enough RAM). Upon inspection I found that Matrox had that info on their product page! Mea Culpa! –  lexu Jul 19 '09 at 5:32
video or system ram? –  user174734 May 19 '13 at 17:30
Note that if you're content with a 2 display solution, it might seem like Windows won't let you use two external monitors. However, most GPU config panels (including those for HP internal cards) will still allow you to change this by going through the Graphics Options. –  Lilienthal Feb 23 at 12:55

10 Answers 10

up vote 31 down vote accepted

Matrox DualHead2Go (for two monitors) or Matrox TripleHead2Go (for three monitors) could be a solution.

Jeff Atwood also has a blog post about this.

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Typically most laptops only have enough video card grunt to support two monitors, one internal and one external.

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Or two external monitors. My Dell Latitude D820 from my old job, as well as the D830s and Thinkpads, all dual monitors connected to our docking stations. –  Justin Dearing Oct 3 '09 at 21:27

For my laptop I have a VGA and HDMI out, so I just use a VGA->DVI adapter and a HDMI->DVI adapter for my extra 2 monitors. Works great and is extremely simple to setup, no extra drivers or configurations to deal with.

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what laptop model do you use? –  icelava Apr 27 '10 at 6:48
ok i tried with my Dell XPS Studio 16 (HDMI + VGA db15) but only one external monitor can be activated at a time. –  icelava Apr 28 '10 at 17:52

I've run into this myself before, and here's the answer I've come up with for now:

  • 20" LCD running from USB Video card, using VGA cable, running at 1600x1200 (16-bit)
  • 20" LCD running from laptop external VGA port, using VGA cable, running at 1600x1200 (32-bit)

For the third display, I can either use the 1680x1050 LCD that's part of the laptop, or I can plug the laptop into a docking station and use a DVI cable to power another 20" LCD.

The USB video adapter is fine for non-design tasks, but I wouldn't trust it for color-critical tasks. I don't know the brand/model off the top of my head, but I'll add it later. It was only $100 or so.

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We use VGA Splitters at work. With the right drivers installed you can happily drive dual displays, and in the case of a notebook even 3 monitors.

We mainly use the Dell XPS series notebooks and it works well. It is not a native solution, but better then none at all.


To correct my original statement. We use DVI to VGA splitters, which does have the ability to see 2 monitors as individual screens. This is specifically usefull when owning Dell OptiPlex Desktops with ATI DVI only external graphics cards.

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I don't think you can extend your desktop using a vga splitter... only clone it. –  fretje Jul 15 '09 at 10:21
@fretje We use both Nvidia and ATI graphics card and they more then happily extend it. I am using it as I am typing this. –  Diago Jul 15 '09 at 10:42
@Diago: I don't understand... the link you provide says explicitly "It splits the (S)VGA signal providing simultaneous display of the same picture." How on earth could you make 1 vga-port output 2 different displays? –  fretje Jul 16 '09 at 8:17
The link I supplied is not the exact version we have. However in our case it is driven by the drivers. The exact technical detail I can't explain. As long as the drivers can detect two separate monitors, it will work. –  Diago Jul 16 '09 at 8:51

DisplayLink produces some chipsets that allow to convert HDMI / DVI video stream to USB. Plugable and Anker sell them (around 50-60 USD for one converter). It works for Windows and sometime on Mac (check the product's description). There is some experimental support for Linux.

I have 5 of them with my laptop and it works good for me:

enter image description here

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On my Thinkpad T60, I added a 3rd monitor using an external USB video card. The specific model I'm using is the IOGEAR model GUC2020DW6 external video card ($65 shipped in the US from Amazon as I write this).

I have the 3rd monitor connected via the GUC2020DW6 running at its native 1680x1050, and it works great for business applications (email, Word, Visual Studio, etc.). However, I am running Windows XP -- I haven't tried it with Vista/7 and Aero effects.

  • Update 10/12/2012: The GUC2020DW6 does work just fine with Windows 7 and Aero.

I wrote more about the investigation that led me to this solution in December 2008, here: http://blog.jonschneider.com/2008/12/adding-3rd-monitor-to-laptop.html

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It depends on your laptop. Most allow two monitors; look for an option under display->settings that says "Extend desktop onto this monitor" or something like that (I'm writing from Linux; I assume you want Windows). Click on the second monitor icon, then check this box.

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Clearly the question is about having 3 displays total. –  Herb Caudill Jul 18 '09 at 19:51

Good question. At work I have a Lenovo T61P with a big 1920x1200 screen.

I would like also to have another small monitor connected.

One solution that I am thinking to is a small USB monitor like this


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If you get the Advanced Mini-dock, you can connect a DVI and VGA external monitor. I've got one 1920x1080 and one 1680x1050 monitor hooked up to my work laptop at home. –  jasonh Jul 17 '09 at 6:14
@jasonh thank you I didn't know it –  Drake Jul 17 '09 at 7:53
@jasonh how can I tell if my docking station is an advanced one or not? I have a lenovo t410 and a docking station and it's not recognizing the DVI port AND the VGA port. –  Stephanie Page Nov 14 '11 at 14:47
I would look on the bottom of the dock, for the FRU number. Then go to Lenovo's site and search for that FRU and hopefully it will tell you what kind of dock it is. –  jasonh Nov 20 '11 at 22:21

Another alternative is to use a software KVM (like Synergy) and another PC (with as many monitors as you like). Useful if you need a PC, and your laptop is a Mac, too.

You can also use a similar technique, and ScreenRecycler to have the laptop desktop extend onto another machine.

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Maybe Synergy+ also? code.google.com/p/synergy-plus –  nbolton Aug 19 '09 at 2:51

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