Today marks the second day that the first thing I had to do after sitting down to write my blog was get back up and go find a pair of glasses. I swear I don’t need glasses all the time, but my (in)ability to see clearly begs to differ.
Yesterday in my post about my office essentials (and how they fit in a box) I mentioned that I use my second laptop as an additional screen — to extend the display from one laptop to another, creating a two-screen display to work on. There is rarely a time when I wouldn’t benefit from having multiple screens to work off of. When it comes to web design I frequently have one tab open for light graphic design in Canva, Siteground & WPadmin open, a Google or Word doc full of copy, another program open with the brand kit, and the list goes on. Having at least two screens, if not more, to spread those programs over saves time clicking between pages trying to find the one you’re looking for. There are only so many layers of programs I can have open on my laptop before I don’t know where anything is.
Reminder: All tech solutions are currently Windows 10 based. Should you need help with another system contact me here.
What You'll Need
- Two laptops that each have bluetooth capability
- A bit of patience
- A cord (only if you intend to connect in a non-wireless capacity)*
*The Traditional Way
It’s important to note that while this post is specifically about connecting a second display wirelessly via bluetooth connection, buying a second screen that is just that — a screen you plug in via HDMI or USB (~$100) is also a viable option. For me, it frequently makes sense to take both my laptops for different reasons, so the bluetooth connection works better than also carrying the extra screen with me.
There are other ways to connect displays wirelessly via the internet, but most need to be specially set up for this feature to work. Again, should you need help with this feature specifically please reach out so I can get you the solutions you need.
How to Connect Wirelessly Via Bluetooth Connection
Turn on Bluetooth and Add a Device
- Make sure the Bluetooth is turned on for both of your devices. To double check this, search for Bluetooth Settings in the search bar. At the top of this panel you can turn Bluetooth on as well as add a device.
- Assuming you have never connected these two computers before (why would you have?) you’ll need to use the Add a Device button to get these two systems to recognize each other.
- A pop-up will populate the screen. Choose Bluetooth and let the computer search for your second laptop. It may originally show up as “Unknown Device” — while I don’t recommend connecting to any unknown device while sitting in an airport or coffee shop, if it’s the only Unknown Device, chances are good it’s your second system.
- Click on the correct device to link the two.
- At this point both screens should show you a PIN, if they match, connect the two screens. If this is not the case there is a chance you are trying to connect to someone else’s system. Go back and locate the correct device and try again. Once the PINs match and you click Connect you are all set to use the Display features.
I have to be honest here and say that Bluetooth can be very finicky. If your device doesn’t show up when you try to connect them, try the usual trouble-shooting methods, like turning both devices on and off, or switching which device you’re using as the main display. Connecting from either device is sufficient to get started, but for the below steps you’ll need to connect the two displays from the computer you want as your primary device.
I do recommend giving each of your devices a unique name, in hopes that it will be easy to find the one you want when you are in an airport or coffee shop full of other bluetooth devices. The standard name is usually something like LAPTOP-697FP0 which isn’t helpful as a unique identifier if you don’t know to look for it.
Connect the Two Displays
- Once you are certain your two devices are connected via Bluetooth, navigate to Display Settings by searching “Display Settings”in the bottom left corner search bar. Become familiar with this bar — a logical string of keywords will usually get you to what you’re looking for if you give it enough time to think.
- Scroll down to Multiple Displays and click on Connect a Wireless Display.
- A menu should slide in on the right hand side which shows available devices. Select the device you would like to connect as a display.
- On your second laptop a pop up should appear letting you know a screen is trying to connect wirelessly. There is an option to pick if you want to Allow or Block, Always or Once. No matter what I do I can’t seem to get the “Always Allow” option to stick, so I just leave it as is and click “OK”.
- At this point the second screen should turn blue with white text and offer up a PIN, which the first computer will ask you to input. Once the PIN is verified the two screens will sync up, which kind of feels like magic the first time you do it. You’ll now see a toolbar at the top of your main display which allows you to disconnect and access the settings for this connection. **If at this point something appears wonky instead of magical with your two screens, fear not! Let’s return to the settings so you can finish creating your dual screen setup.
- Back in Display Settings under Multiple Displays you will see a drop down menu which gives you options to:
- Extend these Displays: This will result in two displays, where you can slide your mouse between them and split your programs between the two.
- Show Only on One: This will show the screen only on the main display.
- Show Only on Two: This will show the screen on ly on the secondary laptop. (Note: While it might seem like a silly option, this can come in handy when you are having a screen issue on your main laptop. Switch the display to the second screen can let you know if you are having issues with your Graphics Cards or your physical display.)
- Now, scroll back to the top of the Display Setting panel. You will see a diagram of the two screens, labeled 1 and 2, 1 being the main display and 2 being the extended display. This shows how your laptops are positioned in relation to each other for use of the mouse. I.e., if your second laptop is on the left side of your main computer, the number 2 display should sit to the left of the number 1 display. You can test that they two are set up correctly by sliding your mouse across the screens to make sure it goes where you think it will when leaving the edge of your main laptop.
You should now be all set to use your displays as if you had two full monitors in front of you. When you are ready to disconnect simply hit the Disconnect button on the toolbar up top. Note: If you don’t disconnect before shutting down one or the other it can be a pain to get them connected next time. This is one of those time where Bluetooth can get finicky and I recommend the regular on/off troubleshoot method to fix it.
And now you have your very own dual monitor setup which gives you the ability to be productive anywhere you can find table space for both your systems.
If you have any questions about this process or need help with a similar task don’t hesitate to reach out so I can lend my expertise.