Get two monitors working side-by-side

If you’ve upgraded your computer display to Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), your old Cathode Ray Vacuum (CRT) monitor most likely collects dust somewhere. Sending it to the local dump is not so easy. It is a very dangerous item. Its CRT tube must be disposed of properly. Usually you can pay a small fee to have the local dump accept it. But can you still use it, instead? With Windows XP, you can.

Windows XP supports two physical displays to be used on one computer.

First, determine what type of video adapter your computer has, and what physical slot-type your motherboard supports. If your display adapter is an internal integrated (onboard) video adapter, adding another display adapter will not work, unless your motherboard has an available PCI card slot or AGP card video slot. You can then add your own video card and disable the onboard video adapter. If your motherboard has a PCI or AGP type video card, you’ll have to buy a dual-head video adapter, or two separate display adapters. Dual-head display adapters have two video connector ports. Their drivers support dual display. They do cost quite a bit more, too.

If your computer has an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) type slot, you can only add a PCI card. AGP slots are built into motherboards for the specific purpose of AGP video adapters. Motherboards can only physically support one of these cards. If you want to add another display adapter, it has to be a Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) type of slot. Modern motherboards are dropping the AGP slot. Ultimately, there won’t be any support for them. PCI-X (the next generation of PCI technology) is the standard today. It allows Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to come of age along with dual-core CPUs, and now dual-core GPUs. They can even operate in pairs, called SLI mode – Scalable Link Interface (from nVidia) or CrossFire from ATI/AMD – which is a special technology allowing you to pair up video cards to work in tandem. Imagine also having the ability to have up to four separate video cards in one computer. This is available now from many of the major motherboard manufacturers.

Adding a second display adapter is not always easy and may not always work. If you are planning on taking this advice, your first step should be to take your tower to a local computer shop, to test out some of their display adapters. If you are the adventurous type, at least keep your sales receipt in case you need to return the item.

To be safe, purchase a PCI display adapter with at least 32Mb of onboard memory. Once installed, plug one monitor into each of the adapters and power them on. Windows XP will boot and ultimately find the new adapter card. Install the drivers (either on CD, or download them) and reboot the PC. Once rebooted, you can now configure and enjoy your new dual display system.

To configure the dual displays, right-mouse-click anywhere on the desktop, select properties.

The last tab is called settings, and you will notice that you have two monitors, labeled respectively.

Identify your favorite monitor by clicking the Identify button. If your favorite monitor is #2, simple drag it to the left to make it #1. You have the option of setting your desktop preferences; to have both monitors act as one; both act independently, as well as different color quality, and screen resolutions. You may stretch the desktop to fill both monitors by checking Extend My Windows Desktop onto this monitor. Both your monitors should have the same screen size, maybe even think about buying a couple of used CRT monitors to have a nice symmetrical look to your workstation.

You can actually have your e-mail open in one display, your icons and Internet browser on another.