The Most Common Issues with Multiple Monitors and How to Resolve Them

Man working at two monitors.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Multiple monitors offer numerous benefits, such as increased productivity and a more immersive gaming experience, even surpassing the advantages of single, massive ultra-wide displays. However, using multiple monitors is not always without its challenges. There are instances when connecting a second monitor results in no display at all, or when a game constantly minimizes unintentionally. If you are encountering difficulties despite following our guide on setting up multiple monitors, don’t worry! There are potential solutions you can try to address the most common multi-monitor problems on your desktop PC or laptop running Windows 10 or 11.

Second Monitor Not Displaying

Man working at two monitors.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When your new monitor isn’t receiving any signal, it can be a cause for concern. However, this is generally an easy issue to resolve. “No signal” simply means that your display has power but isn’t receiving visual data. There are several reasons why this problem occurs, but fortunately, there are plenty of fixes you can try.

  • Force Windows to detect your monitor: It’s possible that Windows didn’t recognize the connection to your second display. To ensure detection, right-click on the desktop and select “Display Settings” from the pop-up menu. In the window that appears, click the “Detect” button located under the display diagram. For Windows 11 users, this option can be found under the “Multiple Displays” section.
  • Turn the screen off and on: Some connection types don’t support hot swapping while the monitor is powered on. Try turning off the display and then turning it back on. This simple action may prompt the monitor to recognize the video feed and display it correctly.
  • Verify cable connections: Loose cables are a common cause of “no signal” errors. Check that all cables are securely connected. If they appear to be properly connected, unplug them and plug them back in to ensure a secure connection.
  • Remove other peripheral devices: Disconnect any unnecessary peripheral devices, such as cameras. Sometimes, these additional connections can interfere with your monitor setup. If your display starts working after disconnecting these peripherals, they were likely causing interference. In such cases, you may need to find newer, compatible accessories or use connections on your PC instead of your monitor.
  • Verify the correct input: Monitors with multiple input options require manual selection of the cable and port being used, such as HDMI 1, HDMI 2, DisplayPort 1.4, or USB-C. Use the monitor’s buttons to cycle through the channels and select the correct input from your PC. If you are using an adapter to switch between different input types, the adapter may be causing issues with the other monitor. Try removing the adapter if possible or replace it with a different one to see if it resolves the problem.
  • Change the data cable: If you are using an older cable standard like VGA or DVI-D, consider trying a newer alternative such as HDMI or DisplayPort. It’s also worth trying a new cable in case the old one is faulty, with bent pins, a short circuit, or exposed wires.
  • Change the graphics port: If you are using a dedicated graphics card with multiple output ports, try switching to another port. Sometimes, ports themselves can become defective or damaged. Switching to a different port may be enough to resolve the problem.
  • Update your drivers: While Windows generally supports multiple monitors by default, your current setup may not be configured correctly. Updating your graphics drivers to the latest version can sometimes resolve issues related to “no signal” errors.

If you are still experiencing trouble with your extended desktop monitor, you can verify its functionality by unplugging the primary screen and rechecking the steps mentioned above. If the extended monitor works properly in this scenario, consider using it as the primary display until you identify the underlying issue. If the problem persists, contact your retailer or manufacturer to discuss a return or replacement.

Wrong or Differing Resolutions

Windows 10 change display resolution.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you have added a new monitor with a higher resolution to your system and are experiencing display issues, it could be due to incorrect resolution settings. In some cases, your new monitor may be inheriting settings from an older display or trying to match the resolution of your primary monitor.

Here’s how you can address this issue:

  1. Right-click on your desktop and select “Display Settings” from the drop-down menu.
  2. In the Settings app window that appears, navigate to the Display panel.
  3. Click on the secondary display shown in the diagram.
  4. Under the “Scale and Layout” section, click the drop-down menu below “Display Resolution.”
  5. Select the screen resolution that suits your requirements. Windows typically designates one of these resolutions as “recommended” based on the hardware of the display.

If adjusting the resolution doesn’t resolve the issue, ensure that both your monitor and graphics card support the chosen resolution. If problems persist, try updating your graphics drivers.

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Please note that it is possible to use two monitors of different sizes, refresh rates, and resolutions as long as they have the required connections. However, each monitor’s individual specifications will limit their performance. If one monitor has a significantly lower resolution than the other, the difference may cause variations in how content appears. We recommend against overclocking specifications like refresh rate for dual-monitor setups. GPUs can struggle to handle two monitors, and it’s best not to make things more challenging for them.

Wrong Refresh Rate

Windows 10 change refresh rate.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If your monitor is set at an incorrect refresh rate, it may display a “no signal” error. This error occurs when the PC outputs a signal that the display cannot handle. Fortunately, you can manually adjust the refresh rate settings in Windows to resolve the issue.

Follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on your desktop and select “Display Settings” from the drop-down menu.
  2. In the Settings app window that appears, scroll down and click the “Advanced Display Settings” link under “Multiple Displays.”
  3. On the next screen, select the problematic monitor from the drop-down menu under “Choose Display.”
  4. Under “Display Information,” click the “Display Adapter Properties for Display #” link.
  5. In the pop-up window that appears, click the “Monitor” tab.
  6. Under “Monitor Settings,” use the drop-down menu to select a different refresh rate.

You can use the Testufo tool to double-check the current refresh rate of your monitor.

Other Monitors with Incorrect Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio doesn't match monitor size.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Sometimes, when using monitors of different sizes, you may encounter an aspect ratio issue where one monitor displays content incorrectly, utilizing only a small portion of the screen. This problem may occur due to a resolution or settings mismatch, but it can be resolved with following steps:

  • Review your resolution settings: Carefully check the resolution settings for each monitor you’re using. Ensure that the resolution settings match the specifications of each monitor. Use recommended or screen-fitting options whenever possible.
  • Switch cables: If possible, try using a different cable standard. For example, switch from DisplayPort to HDMI or vice versa. Additionally, ensure that the cables you are using support the required resolution. Older cables may not support UHD/4K resolutions, which could lead to aspect ratio issues.
  • Using a TV as a second monitor: If you are using a TV as a second monitor, access the TV settings and disable any Overscan or Underscan options. These settings may also be referred to as Relax mode. Additionally, ensure that no accidental Aspect Ratio modes are enabled. Consult your TV’s manual for more detailed instructions.
  • Check display orientation: Although less common, the issue may be related to the monitor’s orientation. In Windows, navigate to the Display section and check the Display Orientation settings. Try switching the orientation to something like “Portrait” and then switching it back to “Landscape” to see if it resolves the problem.

Game Displaying on the Wrong Monitor

Changing Display Settings in Windows 10.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s not uncommon for games to display on the wrong monitor, causing inconvenience if you have a primary display dedicated to gaming and a secondary one for other tasks. Fortunately, there are some quick and easy ways to rectify this issue.

  • Use in-game settings: Check the game’s settings menu for an option to select the desired display. Some games allow users to choose their display preference, so always check there first before making other adjustments.
  • Check your display outputs: If you frequently encounter a situation where games or applications display on the wrong monitor, inspect your display inputs. Ensure that your secondary display is connected to the primary display output of your graphics card. If necessary, swap the connections to see if that resolves the problem.
  • Make it your primary display: Press the Windows Key + I to open the Settings menu, navigate to System > Display, and select the monitor where you want your games to appear. Tick the box next to “Make this my primary display.”
  • Use only one monitor: If the above solutions don’t work, go to Display settings and choose the display on which you want to play your games. From the “Monitor Settings” (Windows 11) or “Multiple Displays” (Windows 10) drop-down menu, select “Show only on 1” or “Show only on 2” as appropriate. Remember to disable this configuration after finishing gaming. Although this method always ensures your game appears on the correct display, it may be inconvenient for everyday use.

Duplicate or Extended Images

Windows sidebar menu for controlling multiple monitors.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

There are various ways to display content on two screens, with “Duplicate” being a common default setting. If your second display mirrors your desktop rather than extending it, you can change this view easily.

To switch between duplicate and extended mode, you can use either of the following methods:

  1. Press the Windows + P keys simultaneously to open the Project menu. Select the “Extend” option. You can choose this option using your mouse or by pressing the up or down arrow keys and pressing Enter. Alternatively, you can cycle through options by pressing the Windows + P keys.
  2. Alternatively, you can follow a more extended path:
    • Right-click on your desktop and select “Display Settings” from the drop-down menu.
    • In the Settings app window that appears, select your secondary monitor shown in the diagram.
    • Under the “Multiple Displays” section, select “Extend Desktop to This Display” from the drop-down menu.
    • Return to the diagram and use your mouse to drag the second monitor to the left or right of your primary screen.
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These steps also apply if you wish to switch back to duplicate mode.

One Monitor Keeps Going On and Off

A PC gaming desktop setup with two monitors and a gaming chair.
Digital Trends

If one of your monitors repeatedly turns on and off or repeatedly connects and disconnects, there may be an issue with its connection. Here are some steps you can take to address this problem:

  • Check your power cable: Ensure that the power cable is properly plugged into both the monitor and the wall socket. Check both ends of the cable to ensure a secure connection.
  • Check the data cable: Whether you are using HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-C, or an older legacy connector, make sure the cable is firmly connected. If in doubt, unplug and reconnect both ends of the cable. Also, inspect the end connected to your computer for any potential issues.
  • Swap cables: If you have spare cables available, try swapping them to identify if the problem lies with the cable itself. Consider replacing the power strip or connecting directly to the wall socket if necessary.
  • Change ports: Attempt using a different port on both your monitor and your computer. Faulty ports can cause connection problems of this nature.

Color on One Monitor is Incorrect Compared to the Others

HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop on a desk with two monitors nearby displaying games and a keyboard and headset to the side.

Designers and artists may encounter situations where one monitor in their setup exhibits incorrect color saturation or poor color accuracy compared to the others.

Here are two potential solutions to address this problem:

  1. Use monitors of the same model: If color accuracy is paramount, the best way to ensure consistency is to use two identical monitor models. Consider replacing the monitor displaying poor performance with a copy of your primary monitor, which offers better color accuracy.
  2. Calibrate the monitor: If replacing the monitor isn’t possible, you can attempt to calibrate the poorly-performing monitor to achieve better color accuracy. Open the same image on both monitors and adjust the settings until they match. For precise color accuracy requirements, consult our guide on monitor calibration and explore the section dedicated to colorimeters.

Two Monitors Can Connect, But Not the Third

Dual monitors by window.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you are working with a three-monitor setup and find that the first two monitors connect seamlessly while the third monitor fails to respond or behaves differently, you can follow these steps:

  • Unplug monitors and connect one at a time: Sometimes, simply unplugging all monitors and connecting them one by one can help your computer recognize all three monitors and utilize them correctly, without requiring any additional steps.
  • Ensure display settings are configured correctly: In the “Multiple Displays” section of the Display settings in Windows, verify that the “Extend these displays” option is selected. It’s a good practice to review all your display settings to ensure they are correctly set up for multiple monitors, as Windows updates can sometimes reset these configurations.
  • Check for updated graphics drivers: Follow our guide on updating your graphics drivers and ensure that all drivers are up to date.

Games Keep Minimizing

Fortune settings adjustment screen.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If your games keep minimizing while playing on a single monitor, it is possible that you are accidentally clicking on the pane of your second display. Some games do not lock the boundaries of their fullscreen window, allowing the mouse to transition into the second window when moved towards the screen edge.

Here are a few methods to resolve this issue:

  • Check in-game settings: If you are playing in “Windowed” mode, try switching to “Full Screen” mode, which captures your mouse. If the issue persists, attempt using “Borderless Window” mode, as it prevents the game from minimizing when accidentally clicking on the second monitor. You would need to click back into the game window when necessary.
  • Use a third-party app: Consider using applications like the Dual Monitor Tool, which allows you to lock the mouse pointer to a specific monitor. Remember to unlock the mouse when you’re finished.

Now that your multiple monitors are functioning correctly, make sure to find a fantastic dual-screen wallpaper to enhance your experience.

Apps and Tabs Keep Getting Shuffled Around

The Remember Windows option in Windows 11.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Sometimes, after going into sleep mode or when monitors switch to screensavers, you may find that your app windows or tabs have moved and are displayed on the first monitor, disrupting your setup and wasting time rearranging them. This issue is known to occur in Windows 10, likely due to “Rapid Hot Plug Detect” problems. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate the problem.

  • Update to Windows 11: Windows 11 includes a new feature specifically designed to address this issue. After updating to Windows 11, visit the Display settings and look for the “Multiple Displays” section. There, you will find an option labeled “Remember Window Locations Based on Monitor Connection.” Ensure that this option is enabled, and it should resolve the problem.
  • Switch off DisplayPort: Another approach is to switch from DisplayPort to HDMI. This issue appears to be specific to DisplayPort connections. By using an alternative connection interface, you may be able to prevent the problem from occurring.
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Distortion and Artifacts

Dell UltraSharp 27 4K PremierColor Monitor.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In some cases, your secondary computer monitor may work, but it might exhibit distortion and artifacting, making it challenging to use or preventing smooth gaming. If your primary monitor doesn’t exhibit these display issues, the problem is likely related to your hardware. However, there are steps you can take to address the problem:

  • Check monitor ports: Ensure that all ports on your computer are clean and free of dust. If there hasn’t been any maintenance for a while, use compressed air to carefully remove any dust and debris from the ports. Also, inspect the ports and cables for any signs of damage.
  • Buy a new monitor cable for the secondary monitor: It’s possible that the cable you are using with the secondary monitor is old and failing. This is especially true if the cable lacks proper shielding and experiences interference from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or electrical noise. Find a new cable that offers excellent shielding.
  • Shorten the cable length: If possible, select a shorter cable compared to the one you previously used. The longer the data has to travel through the cable, the higher the chances of interference. A shorter cable can reduce artifacts and similar issues.
  • Try connecting without switch converters or adapters: Look for cables that don’t require separate adapters or switches for control.

Additional Monitors Suddenly Stop Working

Roll Back the Display Driver.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In some cases, you might have been using a multi-monitor setup without any issues, but suddenly, the additional monitors stop working altogether. Fortunately, this problem can usually be resolved.

  • Check your connections: Start by ensuring that all connections are secure. Check that each monitor is properly connected, and make sure none of the cables have become loose since you last booted up.
  • Remind Windows: Occasionally, Windows may lose track of additional monitors. To help Windows refresh and recognize all monitors, press the Windows Logo + Ctrl + Shift + B keys simultaneously. Hold them down for a second, and then release them. Check if this action brings your other monitor back to life.
  • Restart everything: Shut down Windows and turn off all your monitors. Then, turn everything back on and boot up again. Often, this simple restart can resolve the issue.
  • Roll back driver updates if necessary: If your display driver recently updated, it could be the cause of the problem. Access the Device Manager, select “Display Adapters,” and choose your display adapter to view more details. In the Properties window, navigate to the Driver tab and select “Roll Back Driver.”

Images Don’t Align on Monitors of Different Sizes

If you have monitors of different sizes, especially with varying resolutions, sharing images seamlessly between them as if they were one ultrawide display can present difficulties. However, with some effort, you may be able to resolve this problem.

  1. Adjust monitor resolution scaling: The most direct solution is to modify the resolution scaling for one of the monitors. You can either adjust one monitor’s resolution to bring everything into scale or set the same scale for both monitors, enabling them to work together more harmoniously. To calculate the appropriate scale, divide the vertical pixels per diagonal inch of both monitors and adjust the resolution or DPI scale accordingly. Reddit offers helpful guidance on this matter. Review your monitor settings to see if you can adjust the resolution or DPI scale accordingly. Your GPU settings may also provide options to assist with this.

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