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 15-pin video connection on the back of the computer as 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 laptop; however, is often either: Fn + F3, F4, F5, F8, or F9. For example, pressing and holding Fn + F3 at the same time could switch between your laptop  and external display. The function key will often 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.

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 wants.

Tip: 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'll need to use an video converter that converts VGA into DVI.

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.

Additional information