How can I connect an external monitor to my laptop?

Almost all laptops, especially those made within the last few years, have the ability to connect an external display, such as a CRT monitor, flat panel display, or Projector, and have the display sent to that device instead of to the laptop display.

VGA or DB15 monitor connectorConnect the monitor, flat panel, or projector to the laptop's external video connection on the back of the computer. An example of a VGA connector for a computer monitor and VGA port on a laptop is shown to the right. Once connected, your laptop may automatically switch to the new external display or you may be required to press a sequence of keys in order to switch from the laptop to the external display.

The key sequence can vary depending on the laptop; however, is often either: Fn + F3, F4, F5, F7, F8, or F9. For example, pressing and holding Fn + F7 at the same time could switch between your laptop  and external display. The function key may be labeled as CRT/LCD or have a picture of a monitor on the key or close to the key. Unfortunately, the keys pressed to switch displays is dependent on the model and manufacturer of the laptop. If none of the above key sequences work, consult your laptop documentation or consult your laptop manufacturer.

Note: For computers with Mac OS X 10.8 or later, if you have trouble getting an external display to work with the computer, access the System Preferences menu and selection the Displays option. Then, press and hold the Option key. In the bottom right corner of the Displays window, you should see a Detect Displays button. Click that button to force the Mac OS to look for any external displays that are connected to the computer.

Some laptops also have the ability to have the display on both the laptop and external display or a single display at a time. Laptops with this ability can switch between these modes by continuing to press the same function keys until in the mode the user desires.

DVI, HDMI, and Display PortTip: Newer laptops and monitors may use a DVI or HDMI connection. See these links for additional details and pictures of these connectors. If your display has a DVI connection, but your laptop only has a VGA connection, you need to use a video converter that converts VGA into DVI.

Newer laptops may also have a DisplayPort, which can be used to connect external display devices that utilize a DisplayPort cable. If your external display uses VGA, DVI or HDMI instead, you can also get a DisplayPort adapter cable, allowing you to connect your VGA, DVI or HDMI display to the laptop's DisplayPort.

How do I disable the auto-switch or specify an external display?

Although not available with all computers, some computers allow you to enable and disable the external display auto-switch feature or specify what display you want as the default, through the CMOS setup.

How do I change the resolution on a monitor connected to a laptop?

Unless the monitor is detected or setup in the operating system, it may not work properly or only display at the default resolution. If you want to change the external display's resolution, make sure the monitor is detected by the operating system.

Microsoft Windows users can verify the monitor is detected by looking in the Windows Device Manager and making sure a monitor is listed.

Linux users running X Windows or a variant may need to modify their XF86Config file and add the display settings for the external monitor or projector.