How to add a third monitor to your laptop

What's better than a two-screen setup? A three-screener, of course. Here's how to work around the video-output limitation.

If you spend any significant amount of time working at a desk, the single best way to boost your productivity is to connect a second monitor.

Most laptops have either a VGA or HDMI output, making the addition pretty simple: just connect the LCD, tweak Windows' settings to extend your desktop, and then enjoy the benefits of a double-size workspace. (My preferred arrangement: Outlook "permanently" open on the right, my browser and other stuff on the left.)

Ah, but why not go a step further? Why not extend your desktop even further with a third screen?

Simple: few desktops, and almost no laptops, have a second VGA or HDMI output, meaning there's nowhere to connect that third screen.

Ah, but there are workarounds. If you happen to have an older and/or spare laptop lying around, you can install MaxiVista ($39.95). It leverages your laptops' network connection to extend your primary Windows desktop, meaning there's no physical connection required between the two machines.

Another option: take advantage of a spare USB port, which can drive a third monitor when connected using a USB-to-DVI or USB-to-VGA adapter. You can find these adapters online for around $40-50.

Finally, don't overlook monitors expressly designed for second- or third-screen duty. Right now I'm liking the AOC e1659Fwu (shown above, though mysteriously without its cord), a 16-inch LCD that's actually powered by USB, meaning it requires no separate AC adapter. I wouldn't call it portable, necessarily, but it's definitely easier to maneuver than a traditional monitor. Plus, it works in both portrait and landscape modes.

The e1659Fwu currently sells for $129.99, which strikes me as a pretty decent price--and lots of online resellers carry it for under $100. The only hiccup: the resolution is on the low side at 1,366 by 768.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags productivitymonitorhardware systemslaptops

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?