Having more than one monitor connected to your computer can make a world of difference, both for work and pleasure.
Whether you want to be able to view one document whilst editing another, or if you just want a wider view in Battlefield 3, many people are beginning to move to dual monitor setups.
It can lead to a vast increase in productivity, allowing for double, or triple the amount of desktop space. A dual monitor setup can be achieved at a very low cost and very simply. I'll talk you through the setup, the costs involved, and some recommended products.
I'll be taking you through this process right from the beginning, so to start, make sure your computer is off, and unplugged at the mains. Also, you will need to 'ground' yourself by touching the metal case of the computer before opening the case.
The Dual Monitor setup
So you want to connect a second screen to your computer. Your first consideration should be the costs. You will need to buy two different products; a graphics card to power the screens, and the screens themselves. Both of these can be bought surprisingly cheaply. First we'll have a look at graphics cards.
Choosing your graphics card
There are a couple of things to take into consideration here. Firstly, what will you be using the computer for? The most graphically demanding applications include anything that requires 3D images, and high performance video, such as Blu-Ray. This includes 3D designing and games, and High Definition video. Don't be mistaken by thinking that applications such as Adobe Photoshop fall into the 3D category, Photoshop is a 2D design package, and won't require much graphics processing at all. If you are considering using the computer for any 3D applications, you will want to be looking at mid- high-end graphics cards. Products like the Nvidia GTX 460 and upwards, or the AMD HD 6850 and upwards.
These cards require powerful Power Supply Units, with the correct adapters. You will need at least a 500W power supply, as well as the correct adapters to power the cards. Have a look at power supplies from Corsair or Antec. Search for "Corsair Enthusiast Series TX 650W V2", or "Antec TruePower New Modular 650W".
The connector you will need looks like this, be aware that your card may need two of these connectors (usually a 6 pin PCIE connector):
If you don't require 3D processing power or high definition video display, you don't need the extra graphical power. Have a look at lower end graphics cards, such as: Nvidia 8400GS and the AMD HD5450. Neither of these cards require high end Power Supplies.
Regardless of what graphics card you choose, you will need a PCI-e slot in your computer. They look like this:
Nearly all PC's built in the last few years will have a PCI-E slot, but it's worth double checking before you buy.
Installing your monitors
Once you have chosen a graphics card based on your requirements, you'll need to choose a monitor. In my experience, most people prefer to buy two brand new, identical monitors, or buy their existing model again. Either way, there is no reason to spend over £150 to get a perfectly decent monitor.
With your graphics card installed in the machine, you'll need to connect the monitors to the ports on the back. Lower end graphics cards tend to have a DVI and a VGA, they look like this;
You may also have an HDMI port. Higher end graphics cards tend not to have a VGA port, as it is now out-dated by DVI. Depending on what cables are supplied with your monitor, you may also find that you need a convertor to allow you to plug both screens in.
Look for VGA to DVI convertors; they can be picked up for under £10.
Setting up in Windows
With the graphics card installed and your monitors plugged in, you can now turn on your PC. I'm going to presume you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7 at this stage. When your computer powers on, you may notice that only one screen works. When you get to your desktop, right click anywhere on the blank desktop background, select Screen Resolution and click Detect. This will put two numbers on the screen in relation to your Primary and Secondary monitors. By dragging the two blue screens (these represent your monitors), you can adjust the screen positioning and resolution. Under Multiple Displays, select 'Extend these displays'. Both monitors should now be working. You can change your primary monitor by ticking 'Make this my main display'.
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