If you’re like most computer users nowadays, you probably have multiple applications up and running at the same time. In an effort to “multi-task” you might be using an e-mail client, a chatting application, a web-browser, a word processor, or any number of other programs. Most of the time, you’ll be using these applications, whatever they may be, simultaneously and this is where the frustration arises: you have to keep switching between applications to see the data that you need. One easy solution to this dilemma is using multiple monitors. Not only is it a lot nicer to have two maximized applications open and visible at the same time, it has also been shown that those who work in this fashion are 30% more effective at what they do. Taking advantage of a second monitor is a lot easier than you may think.
Windows XP will easily accommodate additional monitors, and comes with quite a few useful tools for doing this, right out of the box—so to say. Additional requirements are, obviously, another monitor, and possibly a new video card, depending on how old your system is. There are no size, resolution, or aspect ratio requirements for the additional monitors that you hook up. A user could, if he or she so desires, hook up a 15 inch CRT with a 30 inch widescreen LCD, it really doesn’t matter. However, it’s rather nice to have two identical displays, running at the same resolution. Currently, I’m sitting in front of two 19 inch widescreen LCD monitors, and it’s really nice to be able to work on two monitors with the same specifications, so that an application will look, and behave the same on either monitor—not that it really matters if you’re only working with Microsoft Word, or other basic programs. The additional monitor doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If you’re like the average user, you’ll have gone through various upgrades these last few years, and chances are that you might have an old monitor lying around somewhere, so why not put it to use again?
As far as video card requirements go, there really isn’t anything special needed in this area either. As far I’m aware, all of the cards sold by ATi and nVidia, include at least two outputs, called “heads.” For basic computing requirements, such as word editing, e-mailing, etc, it doesn’t matter if the output types are the same or not; one can be an analog VGA output, and other can be a digital DVI output. The digital output will provide a better, cleaner signal, but unless you’re doing high-end video editing, or anything of that sort, the difference is negligible—personally, I doubt that the average PC user can casually distinguish between the two. As stated before, you can use any combination of outputs, as long the monitors that you’re using support your choice. However, if you do have to buy a new graphics card to make use of multiple monitors, keep in mind that you’ll have to purchase a card that it compatible with your current machine. AGP cards will not work, or even fit for that matter, in PCI slots, and likewise, PCI Express (PCIe) will not work with the older PCI bus interface—there are numerous other compatibility issues, so be sure to read all documentation first. The newer, more expensive graphics cards might not offer VGA outputs, only DVI, but this isn’t necessarily a problem if you need a VGA connection, as often times the cards ship with a VGA-to-DVI adapter. Before you remove your old card to replace it with the new one, it’s a good idea to back up you data on an external hard dive or other suitable medium.
Hooking It All Up
Getting set up ought to be very simple, but I have found that some systems don’t always play along as nicely as they should. Despite this, however, I’ll only explain how it ought to work, but feel free to leave me a comment explaining the problem.
Turn off your computer, and then hook up the second monitor using whatever connector you have available. Once the monitor is connected and hooked up, turn your PC back on and then follow the following steps when you’re logged back into Windows. Ok, so here are the steps:
- Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, and double-click Display icon.
- In the Display properties window click the Settings tab.
- In Settings tab under the Display click the down arrow and select the secondary display connected to your computer.
- Once selected check the Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor option.
Now, if everything went right, then the second monitor should now be displaying your extended desktop. Assuming that your monitors are identical, the effective horizontal resolution of your screen is now double that of before. Application windows can be dragged over to the second monitor, as if the two monitors where one. If you have any additional concerns or questions feel free to leave a few comments.