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I'm relatively new to the Thunderbolt docking station world, so I appreciate your patience.

I have a Dell Thunderbolt TB16 docking station connected an old Dell monitor via a VGA to DisplayPort cable. A Dell Latitude work laptop running Windows 10 displays great when it's connected through the Thunderbolt charging cable on the docking station. I have a wireless keyboard and mouse, and I am now wondering why I didn't look into a docking station earlier.

I have a second personal laptop, an Acer E15 series also running Windows 10, and I would like to use the same wireless mouse and keyboard I have set up through the docking station when the Dell Latitude is not plugged in. The Acer doesn't have a Thunderbolt port, so I thought I would try hooking it up to the docking station through the HDMI port instead, expecting that it could talk to the monitor through the docking station.

No dice. Tried the Fn-F5 and Fn-F6 key combinations (the F keys that have the monitors display icons) and while the laptop registers the different display and casting options available, I can't get the laptop screen to display.

Questions:

  1. What am I missing? Or is what I'm trying to do impossible?

  2. If it is possible to do, would I be able to set up the Acer as a second monitor through HDMI when the Latitude is hooked up through the Thunderbolt dock cable?

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Unfortunately, the answers to both your questions is that it's not possible to achieve the effects you desired.

The TB16 thunderbolt dock can only communicate and connect to a computer through the thunderbolt connector. Without a proper thunderbolt port, the Acer will not be able to connect to it and use it to talk to the monitor.

The HDMI port on the TB16 thunderbolt dock is for video output, as is the HDMI port on the Acer. In the described setup, the Acer's HDMI video output has been connected to the TB16's HDMI video output.

For the second question, as the HDMI on the Acer is for video output only, it is unable to accept video inputs, so unfortunately, the Acer will not be able to act as a second screen for the Dell.

Reference: Dell Thunderbolt TB16 support website for more details and illustrations on the various ports, ways to connect, and functions of the dock.

Note: some Acer E15 models may have a USB-C port that the TB16 Thunderbolt dock can physically plug in to, however, the Acer's port does not have Thunderbolt capabilities and is a USB 3.1 only port. It is also generally advised to not plug a power delivering cable (as the TB16 can deliver power through its thunderbolt cable to charge the Dell) into a port not designed to handle charging.

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  • Thanks for your answer, Gen Test. Damn. Is there any configuration where I could hook up a second monitor? The office offered to send me two monitors and declined because my current desk isn't that big and I had an old small (er) Dell monitor lying around at home already. – rhodes2001 Sep 3 '19 at 12:18
  • You can use the TB16 to connect additional monitors (up to 3 HD monitors). As for specifics, I would suggest you to look up "dual monitor setup" images for inspiration on how you might arrange them. – Gen Test Sep 4 '19 at 2:02

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