Multiple Monitors in Windows 8

I’ve got a dual screen set up at my home with my laptop (Dell Studio) and the TV (Sharp – HDTV). The second screen is to my right while the first screen is in front of me usually. The multiple screen set up is really nice to have, especially if your second screen is an HDTV. You can instantly watch videos on the TV while you work on your laptop or desktop.

Dual Screen

How to set it up

To setup the dual screen you’ll first need two screens (obviously!) then you’ll either need a VGA cable or an HDMI cable depending on what your laptop/desktop and second screen offer. I’ve used a VGA cable for my set up though my laptop and TV have the option to use an HDMI cable too. Like most new systems, it’s pretty much plug and play and you don’t need to restart your computer or TV.

Dual Screen Options

Similar to other Windows OS like XP, Vista or Windows 7, Windows 8 also offers four options for use with a second screen. In Windows 8 to turn on the second screen you have to go to the Charms menu. If you are not quite sure how that works, do read my other post about how to use Windows 8. Once the Charms menu comes up, the fourth Icon says ‘Devices’, when you click on that it shows ‘Second Screen’ and clicking on that brings about the four options to use the Second Screen. Alternatively you can right click on the desktop, click on Screen resolution and check the ‘Multiple displays’ option also to turn on or off the second screen. These are the four options available.

Second Screen

  1. PC Screen Only – As it suggests this will turn off the second screen
  2. Duplicate – Both screens will display the same thing
  3. Extend – This is the best mode to use a second screen because you can use the two screens for different purposes
  4. Second Screen Only – This will turn off the first or primary screen

The usage of the four modes are pretty much based on individual preference and also based on which is your primary monitor and which is your secondary monitor. You can use either your laptop or your other screen as your primary monitor and you can switch them any time you like. I use my laptop as the primary monitor and use the second screen which is a TV as my second monitor. So mostly when I’m just using a single screen it will definitely be my laptop screen. I use ‘Second screen only mode’ if I’m watching a movie or something. One thing I’d like to mention is the fact that the duplicate mode doesn’t work in my set up. I’m still not able to figure out why. The mode I use the most is the ‘Extend’ Mode. This way I can use the two screens for different things. All the remaining things that I’ll write about will refer to this set up only.

General settings for Dual Screen set up in Windows 8

If you right click on either of the screens in the general desktop area you can see the option ‘screen resolution’. Clicking on that will open the screen resolution settings page. Here you have the option to change either of your screens to function as the primary screen. You can also change the resolution of the both screens separately. There are some other settings you can change here too.Settings

Generally the desktop icons are in the primary screen but you can move them to the second screen if you want. At any point if you turn off the second screen then the icons from the second screen will automatically move to the first screen and switching the second screen back on moves the icons back to the second screen also. Though the taskbar appears on both screens, the clock and system tray only appear in the primary screen. There are two other settings available for the taskbar in the multiple screens setup. You can make the taskbar only appear in the primary screen or appear only in the screen where the program is active.  To see how to change this and also for some other useful information about how to use multiple monitors refer to this link from Microsoft

Metro UI and the Start Screen

One thing that I like about the dual screen setup in Windows 8 is that it gives you the option to use one of the screens for the desktop while the other screen can be used for the metro applications. I mostly use the metro apps in the second screen while I run the desktop in the laptop. To open the start screen you can either go to the charms and click the icon for start or you can press the windows key on the keyboard. The start screen will appear on whichever screen you brought out the charms bar in. Some things that I’d like to point out about the usage of the metro UI are

  • The start screen functions like the start menu, even if you open the start screen in the second screen but click anywhere on the first screen the start screen will immediately disappear.
  • You can run desktop programs/windows simultaneously on both screens, but you can’t run two metro apps on two different screens at the same time. So at any given time only one of your screens can be used for metro apps.
  • If you open a metro application in the second screen and drag the application by going to the top and then dragging it into the first screen, the first screen will now function as the metro display and your desktop will appear on the second display.
  • If you are running a metro app in the second screen and you drag a window/program from the first screen into the second screen, both screens will immediately start to function in the desktop mode.
  • When you are running a metro app, you can use Windows key +Page up (or page down) to move or change the metro app between the two screens.
  • For moving the desktop program/window between screens use Windows key + Shift + Right or Left Arrow.

Drawback in the Dual Screen mode

The only thing I found quite inconvenient in my setup is that, if I have to bring out the charms menu in my primary screen (The Laptop) I have to be careful when I move the cursor to the right edge as I can end up moving the cursor straight into the second screen without bringing out the charms.

So that’s how I use the dual screen setup. Do let me know if you know any other tricks/tips on using multiple screens in Windows 8 or if I’ve left out any important features or functions.

Windows 8.1 is currently out, do check out what’s new in Windows 8.1

Please leave a comment if you find the information here useful and do check out my personal blog if you have the time!!