I have a three monitor setup. Two 24" LCDs (1x DVI connection, 1x Mini DP), and an audio receiver over HDMI (which outputs through to a plasma TV).

In my everyday use of the computer, I essentially have three monitors running at once -- however, the third "monitor" -- the receiver -- I rarely ever see, as the TV is usually off. Regardless, the receiver still holds its own monitor that stays up with its own desktop, albeit invisible to my eyes.

The problem: When I turn off either LCD (primary or non-primary), after turning it back on, all of my windows and folders have jumped to the receiver's desktop. I then either have to turn the TV on to see that desktop and drag everything off, or use a keyboard shortcut for a program I use (Actual Window Manager) where I will alt-tab to each window, press the shortcut, and have it jump through the monitors back to my main one.

I suppose the essence of the question is -- how does Windows 7 decide which monitor to bring everything to when a primary monitor turns off? Or, how does Windows decide which non-primary to choose as the "new" primary monitor?

EDIT Is it possible to change a monitor's number in the ordering?

  • Just an observation, it depends on the layout. If the secondary's on the left, turning it on make coordinates around (0,0) move there. The icons have their coordinates recorded, so they jump to the leftmost one. – bytebuster Jul 18 '12 at 4:29
  • I believe vista or maybe 7 introduced the shortcut key combos start + arrow key to snap a window to the next snap area in that direction. So if your monitors are arranged left to right 1,2,3 and starting from a window in the left monitor and press start + right arrow repeatedly the window will snap across to the right edge of screen 1, then left edge of screen 2, then unsnapped on screen 2, then right edge on screen 2, left edge screen 3, unsnapped on screen 3, right edge screen 3, then left edge screen 1, etc. It makes for a very quick way to retrieve a window from out of view. – BeowulfNode42 Apr 12 '14 at 2:36
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    @BeowulfNode42 Start + Shift + Arrow Key is the official method, which goes straight from monitor to monitor without changing the position onscreen. – wizzwizz4 Mar 20 '16 at 17:22

I know the exact issue you are having. Here is why Windows chooses your TV when you turn off the two monitors, or have all 3 off.

Without going into too much depth about how graphics cards and displays communicate, basically your receiver that the TV is plugged into is constantly sending an 'Active' signal to your HDMI. Normally, you turn off a monitor, and the graphics card knows, and it's all honkey dory. But, your graphics card isn't reading the 'Active' signal from your TV, its actually getting it from the receiver.

So, regardless if your TV is on or off, your computer thinks that it is indeed turned on, so it keeps sending it data. This doesn't change the primary monitor, but, if your HDMI cable is monitor #2, I'm and your primary is #1, then Windows is most likely dumping the windows onto #2 from #1 when shut off. And your computer thinks your TV is on, because it doesn't know better due to the receiver. Make sense?

  • Makes complete sense, thanks! But with that, how come when I turn the TV on (after the other monitors have already been on), all of the other monitors blank/flash and reconfigure the display ordering? If the receiver is constantly feeding a signal, shouldn't the computer not "realize" when the TV is actually turning off/on? I'd guess that perhaps when a receiver-connected device powers on, it "resets" the HDMI signal as a new connection...? – Coldblackice Jul 30 '12 at 20:17
  • Is there any way to change a monitor's number in the Screen Resolution ordering? So that I can make the TV's number last, so that when I turn one of my monitors off, the windows don't all jump to the receiver's monitor (where I can't see them unless I turn the TV one)? – Coldblackice Jul 30 '12 at 20:29
  • Sorry to get back to you so late, I've moved out of state, got a new job etc. Anyway, the ordering depends on where it is physically connected to your graphics card. So typically there is a DVI-1, DVI-2, HDMI. The only way you can make it 'Number 1' would be to use an adapter for HDMI and plug it in to the DVI-1. However I'm not sure if that will solve your issue. I for one have a TV as my main display, with two 24" monitors, and when I turn it off, my displays stay the same. I know for a fact this is something to do with your receiver. – Tillman32 Oct 4 '12 at 14:35

There is an excellent program that may solve your problem called Synergy. It comes for both PC and Mac. If I understand correctly what you are trying to do.

Lifehacker had a good writeup on it: How to Control Multiple Computers with a Single Keyboard and Mouse

  • 1
    this is not the issue here, as the OP is referring to one computer only. – Eliran Malka Jul 27 '12 at 8:15

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