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?

  • 2
    What laptop are you using?
    – jasonh
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:18
  • 6
    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
    Commented Jul 19, 2009 at 5:32
  • video or system ram?
    – user174734
    Commented May 19, 2013 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
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 12:55
  • @Lilienthal, I'm not sure what you're talking about. I have two external monitors ((1) VGA and (2) DP to DVI via dock) connected to my laptop, controlled via Windows, works fine. i.sstatic.net/v7hif.png
    – cp.engr
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 1:38

11 Answers 11


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

Jeff Atwood also has a blog post about this.


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.

  • what laptop model do you use?
    – icelava
    Commented Apr 27, 2010 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
    Commented Apr 28, 2010 at 17:52

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

  • 1
    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. Commented Oct 3, 2009 at 21:27

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

I have recently switched to the Plugable UD-3900 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station, as it can connect two monitors. Regarding the graphics:

  • HDMI port supports resolutions up to 2560x1440* and DVI/VGA port supports display resolutions up to 2048x1152 / 1920x1200; wired Ethernet port supports 10/100/1000Mbps speeds
  • Full support for Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, & legacy XP systems. Surface RT, Mac OS X, and Linux/Unix are not supported. Docking station suggested for use with web and productivity software; not recommended for gaming
  • *2560x1440 output only available when using a single HDMI display. If dual displays are connected, each will be limited to a maximum resolution of 1920x1200. 2560x1440 output requires a "High Speed" HDMI cable. 2560x1440 mode operates at a 50Hz refresh rate; all lower modes support 60Hz refresh. 2560x1440 output requires current DisplayLink drivers and attached monitor must natively support 2560x1440 via HDMI input

Plugable UD-3900 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station rear Plugable UD-3900 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station front

  • 1
    Are all 5 of those external displays running off a single laptop? that's awesome if so :D Assuming your laptop is a beast though, right? Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 21:29
  • 1
    @slugmandrew Yes, but no need for a beast :) Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 21:44

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.


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.

  • I don't think you can extend your desktop using a vga splitter... only clone it.
    – fretje
    Commented Jul 15, 2009 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. Commented Jul 15, 2009 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
    Commented Jul 16, 2009 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. Commented Jul 16, 2009 at 8:51

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


I had 2 external monitors IN ADDITION to my built in laptop monitor working perfectly on Windows 10 without any 3rd party software (or hardware), up until I updated my graphics drivers. After that I found I could only have 2 displays working at one time.

After a bit of searching (and found nothing), I tinkered with some settings until I found out how to ENABLE ALL 3 MONITORS to work again.

Just to clarify, I have Windows 10 on an ASUS R501VM laptop with HDMI & VGA output.

With both monitors plugged in, Windows display settings & Intel HD Graphics could only detect 1 external monitor at a time.


  1. Open "Control Panel"
  2. Select "Devices and Printers"
  3. You should see both external monitors being recognized.
  4. Right click the monitor that is currently not working and select "Display settings"
  5. From there you should be able to tick a box that says "Enable this display" or something similar.
  6. Click [Apply] and you should now have all 3 monitors working!

I hope this helps.


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.

  • 2
    Clearly the question is about having 3 displays total. Commented Jul 18, 2009 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


  • 4
    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
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:14
  • @jasonh thank you I didn't know it
    – Drake
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 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. Commented Nov 14, 2011 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
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 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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