Does The VGA Splitter Allow You to Get an Extended Desktop?

Does the VGA splitter allow you to get an extended desktop? Yes and no. Here’s the deal. There’s software that allows you to extend your desktop, whether it’s from the operating system itself to an app or through the hardware having a setting allowing for the desktop extension. More often than not, a video splitter displays the same image on two or more monitors. You need a video card with multiple video outputs to work in tandem with your splitter.

Usually, the splitter itself can only at best duplicate or mirror the same desktop or user interface. Back in 2012 in fact, when Windows XP was the predominant operating system of the world, splitters don’t extend desktop apps on their own. They needed video cards with desktop extension services to enable desktop splitting to happen.

How to setup dual monitors with one VGA output? 

Does The VGA Splitter Allow You to Get an Extended Desktop?

The Video or Graphics Card and VGA Splitter Combo

You need more than the VGA splitter and at least twin monitors to do the desktop extension. You also need the right software and a compatible video card to allow the splitting to take place. Otherwise, the most you’ll get is screen mirroring or duplication from your splitter. Once you’ve got a video card, a VGA splitter, and monitors for the task, then you can do screen extensions or toggle between single screen, split-screen, and desktop extension modes on and off. 

  • Check Your Video or Graphics Card: Before buying extra monitors and splitters for VGA connections, you should check if your PC video card or graphics card supports extended displays in the first place. Some PCs are incapable of handling that much graphical power. Look at your PC specs and its graphics ports. VGA splitters are needed for multiple monitor connections for PCs and laptops with one sole VGA port. You won’t need a splitter if your video card has two VGA ports unless you want to connect a third monitor in the mix.

There are PCs that have VGA, DisplayPort (DP), DVI, and HDMI ports on them, but those are rare. It’s usually VGA and HDMI, DP, or DVI. You might need splitters for HDMI, DP, or DVI, but for the purposes of this article we will cover the VGA ones. Also take note that many motherboards include integrated graphics that can only run single monitor or dual monitor setups. Check the specs of your PC if dual monitor is even possible, although many modern PCs have this as a default extra option.

  • A Discrete Graphics Card and Lag Issues: There are at least three ports available if you have a discrete graphics or video card, not including the ports on your motherboard. Additionally, even though it’s possible to set up multiple monitors using your graphics card and motherboard, there’s a performance drop and lag you might not want to happen when you move windows between monitors. If you wish to get rid of this lag, enter on our PC BIOS the “Always Enable” option for your Integrated Graphics Device.

You can access this by going to the BIOS and selecting Configuration, Video, Integrated Graphics Device, and activating the “Always Enable” option. Also, as much as possible, use the same type of monitor to do your Desktop Extension. This way, you won’t end up with the wrong resolution on the differently sized or proportioned monitor or have to go through hoops to change the resolution on your second monitor compared to your main monitor. Keep things simple. In the case of this article, choose VGA-type monitors that are either both CRTs or both LCD flat panel HD monitors. 

  • How to extend monitor with one VGA port? VGA Splitter Requirements: A good VGA splitter for the job that we recommend is the VGA Splitter 2 Port USB Powered Support 1920X1400 Resolution 250MHz Bandwidth for Screen Duplication that’s available cheaply in Amazon.com. As its long title suggests, it doesn’t only cover Windows XP to Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines. This USB-powered splitter also allows for VGA splitting technology for modern HD machines as well for maximum 1920 x 1400 resolution computers. It’s not an adapter though so don’t connect it to an exclusively HDMI PC.

You can also avail of a VGA Y-Cable that allows 2 monitors to link up to a single card. They’re usually available online after some casual Google searching and Amazon shopping. They’re also available in Dell branded machines in case you’re curious where his type of hardware is usually seen in brick-and-mortar stores. Some Dell PCs have a special driver and cards to support dual VGA monitor functionality for Windows XP and above. However, many modern machines are also dual monitor ready, but this time for HDMI-type flatscreens.

  • Ensuring Compatibility: Because many Windows operating system types—from the discontinued Windows XP to the currently supported Windows 8 and 10—allow almost automatic support for dual monitor screens, most users presume that any Windows PC can do dual-monitor or multi-monitor setups. As noted above, this isn’t always the case, especially when dealing with VGA monitors. You need to have a specific type of video or graphics card that allows this feature to be accessible to you.

You also need compatible monitors and drivers for good measure. You also need that VGA splitter in case you only have one VGA port. If you do everything right, you should end up with something that doesn’t lag much or cause errors. However, some video cards can only support mirroring instead of desktop extension, so you’ll need to get a video card upgrade that your motherboard can support to get that dual monitor setup going.

  • Monitor Detection: Sometimes, VGA monitors that can be detected in Windows XP can’t be detected by Windows 7. XP detects monitors labeled 1 and 2, but in Windows 7 it can only detect 1 monitor. There are times when using a VGA splitter keeps an OS from detecting 2 monitors and instead they can only detect 1. Perhaps using a good splitter like the 2-Port VGA Splitter used for screen duplication is what’s called for, but mostly it’s a video card issue.

The best way to deal with Windows 7 monitor issues is to have a graphics card with 2 outputs for VGA. With that said, even if you have a discrete graphics card, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can use all ports at the same time. There are certain older Nvidia cards that are unable to use 2 monitors on the same card, even if there are 2 ports available. Check the name of the card by going to Control Panel, Device Manager, and Display Adapters then going to Google to see what monitor setups can be used with it,  like a dual monitor setup for Nvidia GTX 1660.

  • Split Screen on One Monitor: Before we cover extended desktop options for VGA-type or non-HDMI monitors, let’s first talk about how to do split screen on one monitor since it’s one of the ways for you to toggle between two screens or programs at the same time without minimizing them to your taskbar. To split the screen on one monitor for Windows 7 and above, you need to press and hold the Windows Key of your keyboard.

Afterwards, press the right or left arrow key. The left key shows the active program window on the left side of the screen. The right key shows the active program on the right side of the screen. You now have a split screen. To get out of this mode, simply maximize one of the program windows through clicking the maximize icon on the top-right corner of any given window.

  • Extending Screen Across Multiple Monitors: You need to first get a splitter for your VGA port since usually most desktops or laptops only have one port available. Once again, a splitter isn’t enough to extend the desktop but it’s still one of the required ingredients for most VGA-based systems. Otherwise, you might have to daisy-chain one monitor to another using a special adapter to allow them to fit or work with only one VGA port. To extend the screen across monitors, you should do this with Windows 8 and 10. 

First off, on the desktop, right-click on an empty area where the wallpaper is. This will result in a drop-down menu where you can select the Display settings option. Afterwards, scroll towards the Multiple Displays section and look for the option that allows you to extend displays. Remember that you should have the second monitor available and running through a splitter at this point as well as a video card that allows you to do monitor extensions for your display.

  • Duplicate Displays Option and Turning Off Extended Display: It’s much easier to duplicate or mirror displays than it is to extend the monitor. For one thing, the video or graphics card you have is likely to support that instead of dual monitor extensions. Duplicate displays can be useful to show others what you’re viewing on your computer monitor when doing presentations or connecting your PC to a projector. You can even toggle from one monitor to another or turn on a specific monitor while turning the other off.

When turning off your extended display, you need to select the Show Only on the options portion, which depends on which screen you wish your display to get displayed. You can also press the Windows Key and the P Key together to click the Extend Option as a hot key or shortcut of sorts. It turns on or off your extended display option automatically. This shortcut is also useful to select the PC screen only display to toggle between a primary and secondary monitor.

  • Extended Displays on Windows Vista and 7: You will also go through the same motions as with Windows 8 and 10 to access extended displays on Windows 7 and Vista. Click on the empty part of your wallpaper or desktop to select the Screen Resolution. From there, go to the Multiple Displays option. Right beside it is the drop-down list where you can select the option to Extend These Displays. Here, you can also press the Windows Key and P Key together to turn on the Extended Display mode.

Select the Duplicate These Displays option so that each of your monitors can display the same screen. For many splitters, this is the default setting. In other words, you can plug-and-play your extra monitor as a mirror of your laptop or PC desktop. Otherwise, you can select the option manually on your own. It’s the Extended Desktop or Display option that requires you to actually tinker with your settings more often than not. You can also duplicate, turn off, or select monitors using your hot keys during presentations and whatnot.

  • Setting up your PC: You’d think that with plug-and-play technology, all you need to do is plug your monitors into your PC and you’re good to go. Not necessarily. You might need to undergo several other steps, particularly when dealing with vintage VGA tech on sensitive modern OS like Windows 8 and 10. You have to configure your Windows OS to play your multiple monitor setup whether it’s for duplication or desktop extension. Windows 7 and 8 requires you to do a right-click on the desktop wallpaper to get to the Screen Resolution panel.

Click Display Settings instead if you’re using Windows 10. From there, you can configure your screen settings and options for multiple monitors for your operating system, which should also include desktop extension. It’s also through this app that you can confirm if your computer recognizes 1, 2, or more monitors. You can’t have a dual monitor setup unless the OS itself knows you have multiple monitors installed, which is sometimes not the case even though the second or third monitor can easily duplicate the same signal through the splitter. The extra display might still be read as one monitor because it’s using one signal split into multiple displays.

  • Make Sure The Display Settings Can Identify Your Monitors: You should be able to identify by your Display Settings which screen is which to allow you to toggle between extended desktop mode or duplicate/mirrored screens mode. You can click the “Identify” function of your Display Settings app to have a large number to appear on each of your screens, labeling them as 1 or 2. Select which monitor you wish to make your main display or the one where the Start Button or Taskbar is visible. The other monitor should then serve as your extension monitor.

The drop-down menu on the app allows you to pick whether to extend or duplicate your desktop. In the majority of multiple monitor rigs, you’ll wish to extend your desktop across all 2 or more displays to allow for things like easier video editing, easier graphic design, or easier gaming in a truly immersive type of environment. Video cards like Nvidia and AMD can also allow you to setup your dual screen configuration through the Control Panel of your GPU. Choose your Control Panel for AMD or Nvidia then find the display section. This allows you direct card and display access outside of the OS.

  • Editing and Gaming: There are many reasons why you should extend your desktop. Maybe the widescreen settings for your Netflix watching enjoyment is too small for your tastes, so having an extra VGA CRT or flatscreen LCD monitor can assist you in getting that extra screen real estate. Just make sure you get a VGA splitter that’s recognized by your video card or operating system as an extra port for your extra monitor. Some splitters are so primitive or low-grade that they make the computer think you’re only using one monitor when you’re instead attempting a dual monitor setup.

It’s not enough that your extra monitor or monitors are duplicating the same screen as your main monitor. You need the graphics card to realize that the additional display is there in the first place. This way, you can make your videogame experience a lot more immersive than normal, especially if you angle your dual or triple monitor setup in a way that encompasses all angles of your FPS game. In editing videos, creating graphic design, or even writing documents, it pays to have a larger-than-normal user interface for all your tools or timelines to be visible all at once without toggling between them on your taskbar.

What Is Desktop Extension Good For Anyway?

When working with a computer for things like graphic design, document-making, or video editing, it pays to have more than one screen available or to have a longer, bigger desktop real estate. You can open multiple applications or documents at the time for multitasking purposes or as side-by-side split-screen. In Windows, you can do this with a single monitor through the split screen feature. However, if you have an extra monitor, you can instead extend the screen and desktop to those two instead of merely duplicating the

In video editing in particular, you can have the final video available on one screen while the timeline of edited clips are extended in the other screen. Or you can view the whole timeline through a two-screen or three-screen type of setup. In videogames, an extended desktop also allows you to see the action in multiple angles, leading to immersion that rivals that of Oculus Rift VR headsets. A wider screen, if you have the video card and splitters for it, enables you to work with a bigger user interface, allowing you to do thing you couldn’t normally do, like multi-task between typing and browsing without minimizing any windows and whatnot. 

References:

  1. Setting Up The Extended Desktop With VGA Splitter Cable“, Dell.com, September 6, 2011
  2. How to extend display on two monitors with VGA splitter“, SuperUser.com, July 4, 2012
  3. Sarah Jacobsson Purewall, “How to create an insane multiple monitor setup with three, four, or more displays“, PC World, March 12, 2020
  4. How do you split the screen in Windows?“, Computer Hope, May 13, 2019
  5. VGA Splitter 2 Port USB Powered Support 1920X1400 Resolution 250MHz Bandwidth for Screen Duplication“, Amazon.com, Retrieved April 5, 2020

 

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