How can you connect your laptop to an external display?

It doesn’t matter how big your laptop’s screen is – if you’re going to be doing any serious multitasking for work or school, connecting a monitor can be a huge help. Any modern laptop should be able to connect to any external monitor you have, but you may have to get creative.

The first step is to find out which outputs your laptop supports. There will likely be a USB-C port, DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort with HDMI, mini-HDMI, Thunderbolt and/or DisplayPort support. If you have an older computer, it might be VGA or DVI (the ones covered in holes). If you’re not sure what ports you have, a quick Google search might help. You should be able to find a listing on the manufacturer’s website or in reviews for your laptop model.

Here are some examples:

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 on the left.

To the left of the vents is a USB-C port that supports DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3. Not all USB-C ports support DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3, so double check this on the manufacturer’s website. You can also look for symbols next to the port.
Photograph by Monica Chin / Moyens I/O

HP Pavilion x360

A second HDMI port from the right (labeled). Second from the left is a USB-C supporting DisplayPort.
Photo: Cameron Faulkner / Moyens I/O

Vaio SX14 Windows PC

This is a VGA port.
Photograph by Amelia Holowaty Krales / Moyens I/O

Dell G5 15 SE

A second Mini DisplayPort from the left. A third HDMI port from the left. The rightmost USB-C supports DisplayPort but not Thunderbolt 3.
Photo: Cameron Faulkner / Moyens I/O

Next, you’ll need to find out which inputs your external display supports. You can find a variety of different options, but most have HDMI or DisplayPort. (If you have both HDMI and DisplayPort, the ideal choice depends on the specific standards each port supports, the type of work you want to do, and the capabilities of each device. You might want to check out an explainer. computer magazine there is one in depth.)

From there, the final step is to connect the two devices. The easiest way to do this is to find a cable that connects the two standards. For example, if your laptop has a USB-C port that supports DisplayPort and your monitor has DisplayPort, USB-C to DisplayPort cable. If both your laptop and monitor support HDMI, the standard HDMI cable it will work.

For some scenarios it may be easier to use a dongle or dock. For example, if you’re working with Thunderbolt 3 on your laptop and HDMI on your monitor and you already have an HDMI cable, you can combine both. USB-C to HDMI dongle rather than buying a whole new cable. If you’re using a Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Pro with USB-C only, you can connect your laptop to a USB-C hub with HDMI support. In this case, to connect an HDMI monitor, simply insert the HDMI into the slot.

After installing your cable, plug in your monitor and turn it on. Plug your laptop and monitor into the correct ends of your cable and you’re ready!

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