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How to Use A Laptop as A Monitor for A Multi-monitor Setup

By 

Certified Awkward Tech Guy™

Last Updated 11 Apr 2021


If you mainly work on your computer either for business, school, or gaming, then you might need a multi-monitor setup of your own. Laptops are portable to allow you to work from anywhere flexibly. In this case, your laptop could double up as a second screen for your desktop.

You don't have to recycle or shelf laptops that don't function at peak performance. These laptops are great candidates for a second monitor, provided the screen and operating system are still functional.

To set up your laptop as a monitor, you will need to understand the operating system, the connection options, and some screen adjustments. Multi-monitor setups are an affordable way of creating extra screen space instead of buying a second monitor dedicated to this. Multi-monitor setups can help boost your productivity through:

  • Viewing, researching, and composing of documents or multiple tabs on different web pages side-by-side for easy comparison
  • You can dedicate one display to real-time notifications, alerts, or messaging apps
  • Streaming different videos or matches as you work
  • Gamers can stream their favourite gamers while they play the game itself

Despite all its benefits, this is a practice that not many know about. Some people overlook the fact that you can use your laptop as a monitor quite comfortably and efficiently.

However, it's slowly being taken up and considered a feature that many Windows 10 users and gamers find quite essential, primarily if you work while sitting at your desk and don't have another dedicated display device available for use.

Here’s how to make the best of using your laptop as a second display in your home or office.

  • One easy way of doing this is to extend your laptop display across the other monitors
  • Alternatively, you can extend your desktop’s display through your laptop that then acts as a monitor. This can prove slightly more complicated since your laptop is mainly designed to output its display instead of another device. For instance, connecting it to your TV using an HDMI cable

What You Need to Set Up Your Laptop as A Second Monitor for Your PC

Kindly note that this applies only to Windows-based desktops and laptops only. So here's what you need:

  • Your PC (Personal Computer) - the primary computer that you work on
  • The laptop monitor - the laptop that you'll use as the second screen
  • Both devices having the latest, updated version of the Microsoft Windows 10 Operating System (OS)

The Microsoft 10 OS has an in-built Miracast technology that connects laptops that run on that system easily for anyone. With Miracast Technology, you won't need any cables, cords, or wireless dongles. All you need is the most updated operating system running on both machines.

Some cables claim to do this but will not because the video ports on a laptop are mainly designed for output and don't allow audio/visual information input from an external source.

Steps to Connect Your Laptop as A Second Monitor

1. Setup on Windows 10 OS

Besides having both your main PC and secondary laptop ready, making sure both devices have the updated Windows 10 version or higher, you will also need to be logged in as administrator.

Set up should take a few minutes if everything is set up right. First, turn on both your machines to read "Discoverable." Afterwards, follow these steps to begin:

Enable your laptop

  1. Open “Settings” on the laptop that you want to use as the second screen
  2. Select “System” on it
  3. Then from the options select “Projecting to this PC
  4. From here, pick the option that best works for your needs:
  • Setting 1 - "Windows PCs and phones can project to this PC": If okay, change the settings from “Always Off” to “Available Everywhere”, or you can choose “Available Everywhere on Secured Networks,” depending on your network security
  • Setting 2 - "Project to this PC": If you'd rather have a prompt every time you use your laptop as a monitor, choose “Every time a connection is requested” if not, choose “First time only"
  • Setting 3 - "PIN for pairing": You will need to create a PIN to restrict other devices from projecting data off your laptop screen. This is recommended, primarily if you use public Wi-Fi or shared devices
  • Setting 4 - "Projecting to this PC only when plugged in" Select this to ensure you have the laptop with you when it displays and save on battery life

Note down the PC name which appears at the bottom of that window. You’ll need it to choose which device to connect with later.

Connect your main PC

After your laptop monitor is set up, go to your desktop PC:

  1. Press Windows Key+P on your keyboard on the main PC
  2. On the display settings, select how you'd want your monitor screen to be displayed
  3. If you want your secondary laptop to display as a true second monitor, giving you that extra screen space, select this option
  4. Next, you should get a prompt with your laptop device name with an option to connect
  5. Select on it, and immediately they connect, you can use the multiple screens setup
  6. When you finish using the second laptop monitor, select “Disconnect

2. Setup on macOS

If you're using a MacBook desktop as your main PC, first, you'll need to check the ports on your device to determine whether you will need an adapter. If you'll need one, pick the suitable cable and plug it into the laptop that will act as a monitor.

  • Go to the Apple Start menu, on the "System preferences" then click on "Displays"
  • Then click the "Arrangement" tab, don't select on the "Mirror displays"
  • You have the option to arrange your displays. Drag them to desired positions
  • If you then choose to set a different display as the primary display, drag the menu bar to the screen, you'd want to use

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Use A Laptop as A Monitor

1. How do I control all these monitors from my main desktop monitor?

Install and configure the Input Director on your master computer and slave computer(s). The Input Director Window lets you control multiple Windows computers with the same mouse and the same keyboard.

2. What do I do if I use Windows 7 or 8?

If you use an older version, you can use the "Extend" feature. You can use any modern TV or monitor as the second monitor. You'll need a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, plug into the USB port, and HDMI port to connect to the desktop monitor. With this option, you'll not need Wi-Fi or an ethernet connection to project.

About the author

Anton is the founder of 25pc. He is a huge gaming tech nerd and loves helping people save money. To find out more about him read his about me page.

Anton is the founder of 25pc. He is a huge gaming tech nerd and loves helping people save money. To find out more about him read his about me page.

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