Hardware Laptops Software Windows

How do I connect a monitor to my laptop?

black flat screen computer monitor
Extend your workspace with an external monitor (Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com)

Connecting a monitor to a laptop is really simple once the connections all match. We’ll run you through the most likely scenarios and recommend a few bits of kit to expand your laptop’s working environment onto a something a bit bigger.

Check the connections

Connecting a monitor to a laptop is nothing more complicated than getting a cable to run between the two devices. The software running on your machine will do much of the heavy lifting once the devices are hooked up.

USB-C, Thunderbolt and HDMI connections of a laptop
USB-C, Thunderbolt and HDMI connections

Choosing the right connection

Most laptops and monitors have a HDMI port (as shown on the right above) and this is by far the easiest method of connecting the devices together. HDMI cables are cheap and one cable will transmit video and audio. If the monitor has superior speakers to the laptop, then Windows can push the audio through those instead.

If you’re utilising an older monitor that doesn’t have HDMI, then a cheap adapter will work just as well. HDMI to VGA converters are readily available as are HDMI to DVI-I and HDMI to DVI-D. If your kit doesn’t use full sized HDMI, you’ll find mini and micro HDMI versions are in plentiful supply.

If your laptop is pre-HDMI, then it’ll probably use a VGA port to connect to a monitor. A analogue VGA cable will only transmit video. If audio is required from the monitor’s speakers, use a phono cable connected to the laptop’s headphone jack.

Can I connect my laptop to a monitor using USB-C?

Most new laptops come with these ports. It’s important to realise that USB-C only describes the size and shape of the connector. A laptop’s USB-C capability is decided by the manufacter’s specification and not all will allow video transmission. Some are purely for USB data connections, others just for power. To understand the functionality of the USB-C ports on your laptop, download the manual from the manufacturer’s website.

Snippet of laptop manual showing USB-C specification
Check the USB-C specification

If your monitor has a USB-C input (and again, check that this port is capable of accepting a video signal via this socket), then a simple cable will get the job done. For monitors without USB-C, a variety of adapters are available to give USB-C to VGA or USB-C to HDMI. If you’re interested in the more technical side of USB-C, we have an article on exactly that!

Can I connect my laptop to a monitor using Thunderbolt?

Yes. 99% of Windows laptops which have Thunderbolt will use version 3 or 4 of the specification. These are capable of video transmission. If the monitor isn’t Thunderbolt ready (remember that a USB-C socket doesn’t guarantee that it’s a Thunderbolt port), then a variety of adapters are available to help you make the connection.

If your Windows laptop has Thunderbolt 2, then congratulations. It’s a rare beast but it should also be capable of connecting to a monitor.

Windows Project Settings
Windows Project Settings

Windows 10 and 11 are pretty good at working out how to put a decent picture on the screen, but they do default to duplicating the laptop display. If you’d prefer to use the monitor to expand your desktop, press Windows Key + P and select Extend. If you need to fine tune things further, you can also select More Display settings to perfect your laptop to monitor setup.

About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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