Tech support desk. Am I being an idiot?

So, second hand PCs, Dells. Want to run them with 2 monitors. Windows 7 does this.

So, buy VGA splitter cable. Install. I get duplicate monitors. But that’s all.

!windows button! P gives monitor choices. I want extend, not duplicate. But it won’t take. Won’t work, nowt happens.

So, am I being an idiot here? What is it that I’ve not done?

36 comments on “Tech support desk. Am I being an idiot?

  1. You need to use another graphics output from the PC, you can’t split a VGA cable to extend the desktop.

    Has it got a DVI, DisplayPort or HDMI output as well as the VGA one?

  2. I’d have thought a cable splitter is just going to send the same thing to each monitor.

    Can you connect the monitors by USB? That might work.

  3. You’re trying to do the kind of stuff which would be perfectly technically possible if Microsoft wasn’t solely motivated by profit.

    Whoops winding up the wrong blogger.

  4. A way around this problem without opening up the box and fitting a new graphics card is an external video USB adapter. I have had success with this in the past:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00B99FSUS
    Simply plug it in and it will create a separate video output to your new monitor and then Windows 7 will give the option to extend your display to the second monitor.

  5. There may be a VGA output on the motherboard and another on the graphics card. If you have a graphics card. Otherwise you”ll need one and another vga cable.

  6. You can get a cheap graphics card with a couple of outputs on it to drive more than one monitor. This one would do the trick https://www.cclonline.com/product/262238/GV-N710D5-1GI/Graphics-Cards/Gigabyte-GeForce-GT-710-1GB-Graphics-Card/VGA4648/ You can connect 3 monitors to this one and it gives you enough variations on output to connect to most fairly recent monitors. I have used at least 2 monitors since the mid 90’s, I now use 3, although my card will output to 4, it certainly makes you far more productive.
    Sir Terry Pratchett used to use 6. Best photo I could find, https://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/15538495.exclusive-exhibition-celebrates-life-and-legacy-of-sir-terry-pratchett/ I would make the assumption he used 2 graphics cards.
    In Windows 7 you just need to right click and adjust in display settings.

  7. “I have used at least 2 monitors since the mid 90’s, I now use 3, although my card will output to 4, it certainly makes you far more productive.”

    The only possible reason I can think of to have two separate monitors is to have a prawn film running at the same time as a work screen.

    Whether that would make me more productive is questionable

  8. I have used at least 2 monitors since the mid 90’s, I now use 3, although my card will output to 4, it certainly makes you far more productive.

    I’m pretty tech savvy and I’ve never moved beyond 1. I’m curious as to how more productive it would make me. I might experiment.

  9. Yep, I do this every time I’m on a site, your video system needs to have two outputs, merely splitting a single output in two just gives you that single output doubled.
    You may have inadvertantly got misled because the erm.. white connector… rummage… DVI socket outputs two video signals, so you *can* use a video splitter to get two video signals – because the two video signals are coming out of the same socket, albeit on different pins. A VGA socket only has enough pins for one signal.

  10. Having multiple monitors is life-changing. I totally get the scepticism, and certainly not everyone needs it, but it makes even basic multi-tasking so much less disruptive. Basically, you don’t lose your place any more and it’s surprising how much time that takes when you have to change application windows frequently.

    I often have to take information from a spreadsheet, presentation or document into another spreadsheet. Often with dozens of columns and rows. Being able to have them both open on separate monitors is so much easier.

  11. My PC had both analogue and digital video outputs so I* used one for each screen and it worked fine.
    Doing electronics design you need a screen for the board you’re laying out and another for the schematic drawing you made earlier, datasheets, internet… Truthfully I could use four with ease.
    * Not without help from ever-useful son, of course.

  12. Having multiple monitors is life-changing. I totally get the scepticism, and certainly not everyone needs it, but it makes even basic multi-tasking so much less disruptive.

    Virtual desktops (ie, press a key to move to a new set of windows, leaving the current ones just as they are till you move back) has been part of sane desktop operating systems since the 90s and probably before.

    On the few occasions I’m forced to use MS Windows, I always wonder how anyone manages to get any work done using it.

  13. Word of caution on using USB video devices. The use a lot of juice. Maybe more than your USB socket can comfortably supply. Feel one running. They get hot. Fucked up a laptop by plugging in one of these things. Totally lost all the usb sockets, permenently (luckily it was the very last of the machines had a PMCIA slot, so was able to plug in a PMCIA to USB card & rescue it) Strongly advise running any USB video devices off an independently powered USB hub rather than plugging in direct.

    Multiple screens are a boon. Useful for seeing your source material & what you’re working on simultaneously.

    Tim mentions PC’s plural. You running more than one at a time?. If you are, worth getting a bit of freeware called Synergy. LAN your machines together & turn them into one big desktop controlled by a single rodent & k/b across multiple screens. Useful way of utilising redundant machines to give you a lot of processing power across multiple applications.

  14. The USB video adapters are very effective and much cheaper than a “proper” graphics card. Quite good enough unless you’re a gamer.

  15. As above, either use multiple gfx cards or a gfx card with multiple outputs.
    Right click on the desktop and select to change your graphics settings.
    Should have an option to extend your desktop over two monitors.
    Can usually change the resolution etc for each individual screen.
    I concur with the others, it’s incredibly useful to have say a monitor in portrait mode for viewing PDFs and other documents, and another one for doing something else (in my case cad work).
    Of course other operating systems have multiple switchable desktops, but it’s not the same as viewing both simultaneously.

  16. Really what everyone else (nearly) has said. You need two outputs not a split VGA.

    Check the back of the PC, if not too old it should have a display port outlet or possibly a DVI, or HDMI port. If you want to post the model numbers I can check.

    Get a display port to whatever the monitor supports (modern ones typically have VGA and HDMI) converter and a standard cable – or get a specific cable.

    When the hardware is installed right click on the desktop and select Display settings (maybe be different under W7 as I’m looking at W10 right now – I think there were two options under 7 but it shouldn’t be hard to find the right place) and select extended desktop.

    If there’s no additional port, two options – buy and install a cheap video card (it will add a second output) or use a USB video adapter. On a desktop the USB should be fine unless you want really high resolution.

  17. I’ve two (massive) screens at work.

    I’m not particularly convinced it actually makes me significantly more productive.

    I find 90% of the time, the one in front of my is the one I’m working on, and have Autocad Inventor, Exel, half a dozen PDF etc on, the one on my RH seems to just end up with my mail client on it – and even then, if I actually want to rely to an email it gets popped out and dragged onto my LH screen.

    Both screens are identical in size and quality, but I think the problem is that physically it’s way more comfortable to look straight ahead than off to the side, and thus it’s the screen straight ahead I use for 90% of everything.

    It’s not helped by the fact that Autodesk Inventor (mid-range 3d CAD package for those who don’t know what it does) doesn’t really run properly over two screens (goodness only knows why, it’s one of it’s less endearing “features”).

  18. “Sir Terry Pratchett used to use 6.” Daedalus.

    As I remember he was once asked why he had 6 monitors on his desk and replied that there wasn’t room for any more. 🙂

  19. Splitter will, obviously, only split a single monitor’s signal to two monitors.

    Check the back of the computers. Depending on the motherboard, many will have multiple video outputs from the iGPU. Usually at least 1 HDMI and 1 DisplayPort(DP).

    If you have this – and it will depend on how old those motherboards are and how high-level the PC’s were when new – then you run one cable to each monitor.

    Obviously you’ll need at least one DP monitor and one HDMI. Luckily, most modern stuff comes with both – but if you’re buying cheap/used it may not.

    One final thing – HDMI allows sound pass through – you’ll get sound from the HDMI connected monitor’s speakers (if it has any). DP does not. So if you want sound you’ll need to be able to deal with that.

    One final, final thing – Windows does not support sound from more than one source. So you won’t be able to have a video playing on both monitors and have each one coming from an independent sound source. It only supports one sound source and all sound comes from that.

    So once you get this set up you’ll know beforehand that its something you can’t do and not a ‘I can’t figure out how to do it’ thing.

  20. Virtual desktops (ie, press a key to move to a new set of windows, leaving the current ones just as they are till you move back) has been part of sane desktop operating systems since the 90s and probably before.

    But not as good as multiple screens.

    I sometimes translate documents. I need my text program as my main screen, and I also need the target document which I am working from. But I also want a map page so I can find the place referred to. Flipping between desktops is such a pain. I can’t see the places on the map and in the text simultaneously, since the text needs to be beside what I am typing.

    I resort to a second computer (my laptop) at times, to get that extra screen.

    Once I start to use dictionaries to check on the secondary meaning of the words in the text, it all goes to pot.

    Multiple screens is very useful.

  21. But not as good as multiple screens.

    Depends on the use case. For just switching context, it is.

    Multiple screens is very useful.

    Undeniable.

  22. Yeah. I use two screens and it’s very useful.

    I’m a tax expert not a computer expert so I got someone in who knew what he was doing to set it up.

  23. I use two monitors, one of which is turned 90 degrees to be in portrait orientation. It is *extremely* handy for seeing the whole of an A4 page of text, or for the sort of spreadsheet that has a lot of rows. If a spreadsheet has a lot of columns, of course, I stick it on the landscape monitor.

    As a tax expert who is able to plug things in, I set it up myself.

  24. I got to the point when I found it difficult to function without two screens – one for writing reports and preparing presentations, the other for the reference material I was using.

    A minimum of two screens were ideal when learning to code and developing websites, but I would have preferred a third. One for the code I was writing and one with the page displayed in live update or help and research in to how to code a specific problem or fix a bug.

  25. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/garage/profiles/mouse-without-borders/

    A handy alternative if you’ve got a knackered old laptop sitting around that you want to use the screen of to display something that isn’t computationally intensive. Not quite the same as a second monitor but you can control it from your main computer, move files across and share the clipboard.

    Have to say I like the portrait screen idea – always found it a bit daft that monitors are usually oriented the “wrong” way for letters and reports.

  26. Just a word of advice tim, if you replace or install a new graphics card just check that it can handle multiple monitors. Sometimes they have multiple outputs but not the ability to run multiple monitors. It will be shown on their specification and if you have any doubts you have my email and I will help.

    Just let me know the model of dell

  27. Pellinor,

    I use two monitors, one of which is turned 90 degrees to be in portrait orientation.

    That is a fucking brilliant idea. I use two at work and I’m doing that on Monday.

  28. Glad you like it 🙂

    Most people here go ‘That’s a really good idea!’ then carry on using two in landscape (and complain that they take up a huge amount of desk).

  29. “The only possible reason I can think of to have two separate monitors is to have a prawn film running at the same time as a work screen.

    Whether that would make me more productive is questionable”

    BraveFart.

    As others have pointed out it can be very beneficial to use more than one monitor. I have progressed to a couple of 32″ 2560 * 1440 monitors and a 24″ 1920 by 1200. I would have gone for 2560 * 1600 30″ monitors but they are at a horrendous premium. You can get reasonable 32″ 2560 * 1440’s for less than £200 these days. I usually have my email open on the 24″ monitor and what I’m working on in the middle monitor, could be AutoCAD, Word, Excel or similar. I’m considering using a smaller monitor over the middle 32″ for the menus for the AutoCAD. If I have the work program in the middle I will always have something else on the other monitor, that is relevant to whats going on, on the middle monitor.
    I think you need to try it out and see what its like.

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