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How To Use USB-C With Dual Monitors

Who would have guessed that something as simple as a cable could revolutionize technology in such a dramatic way! This one nearly-universal cable can be used for so many purposes and with so many different devices. Many people seem to ask, apart from transferring data, charging, and power delivery, how else can a USB-C cable be used?

It’s easy to pick up a USB-C hub that will allow you to connect your computer to multiple monitors. However, the graphics capability of the computer may limit the performance or number of monitors. More advanced monitors include daisy-chaining, in which a single USB-C port can connect more than one monitor.

Regardless of the types of monitors you have, you can set them up for whatever work you need to get done. Let’s find out how many monitors a USB-C cable can support, how you can connect two monitors using a laptop and USB-C, and also how to pick the best adapter or dock for the job. Read on to find out more!

How To Connect 2 Monitors to a Laptop with USB-C 

A USB Type C adapter or hub connected to the laptop

To be able to connect two monitors to your laptop using a USB-C, the laptop must support MST (Multi-Stream Transport). MST allows connection to a single Display-Port on a laptop or desktop for multiple monitors. When you connect two monitors to a dock and the laptop automatically detects them, that means it can support MST.

If your laptop supports MST, you will be able to set up your monitors in the following three ways:

  • With the images on the two monitors being the same
  • With the images on each screen being separate or independent of each other
  • With one particular image splitting into different parts across each monitor.      

If the laptop does not support MST, then the two monitors will only be able to display the same image.

Now let’s look at the two different options for connecting two monitors to a laptop:

Option 1: How to Daisy Chain Two Monitors together

Using Multi-Stream Transport (MST), you can connect two monitors directly together instead of needing to connect both of them to your computer. You’ll need DisplayPort cables or USB-C cables to do it.

  1. Connect a power cable to each monitor.
  2.  Turn on the power.
  3. Connect one end of a USB-C cable to your computer.
  4. Connect the other end of the USB-C cable to one of the monitors.
  5. On the first monitor, there will be an orange plug. Remove it, because you’ll need to send the signal out to the second monitor, and the port will do so.
  6. Take one end of a USB-C cable and plug it into the open port in the first monitor.
  7. Plug the other end of that USB-C into the second monitor. Leave the orange plug in this monitor.

Option 2: How to Connect Two Monitors to a Laptop using USB-C

There are two main methods for connecting two monitors to a laptop using a USB-C.

To achieve either, you’ll need two monitors, a laptop that supports MST, a power plug for each, a USB-C cable, the USB-C dock, and a DisplayPort or HDMI cable, whichever works for your monitors. A Display Port cable has a small notch on one corner, and the end is wider.

  1. Check whether the laptop you want to use can support the two monitors and has a port for USB-C.
  2. Connect the dock to your computer with a USB-C. You should make sure that the dock you have can support two monitors and has a USB-C port.
  3. Then, connect one end of your DisplayPort or HDMI cable to the dock and the other end to a monitor. Then do the same for the second monitor, and you’ll be good to go.

How Many Monitors can a USB-C Support?

It’s possible to connect two monitors using a dual-monitor docking station or by daisy-chaining the monitors together. The docking station is an incredible invention that allows you to easily declutter your working station. With a single power adapter, you’ll be able to very easily connect your dock to your laptop.

Connect the dock to the power adapter, then connect your laptop to the dock so that it can power and charge. Docks can support USB power delivery of up to 60 watts.

How to Pick the Right Adapter or Dock for You

USB Type C adapter or hub connected to the laptop

There are several things you need to consider when choosing the right dock to use for your situation.

  • It’s important to consider the laptop model you are buying the dock for: The computer’s operating system will significantly determine the kind of dock it can work with. Not every laptop is compatible with every dock. However, there are docking stations that work with multiple operating stations.
  • The docking station might have all the correct ports, but does it have the right cables?: You need to be aware of the cables you’ll need since docks don’t support all cable types. The right cables should also have the right plug to allow you to connect to your port. The cable should also be long enough to cover the distance between your laptop and your dock.
  • What kind of connector will you be using? You need to consider this, as the connector on your laptop and your dock should be of the same type. For example, if you’ll use the USB-C on your laptop to connect your dock, find out if your laptop has the same USB-C port. This will let you know whether you can connect an extra monitor.
  • Another factor to consider is what you want to use the docking station for: You will discover that docking stations have different functions. Some can only support one extra monitor. Some can support two. Others have ports where you can charge your phone or laptop.
  • You should consider whether your dock can support video and audio output: If the video and audio quality are of great significance to you, you need to know whether the dock you want to purchase supports 4K resolution and whether the speakers will work well.
  • How easy it is to install and work the docking station should also be of great concern: You would hate to be in a position where the installation process is long and tedious.

Have a look at some of our recommended docks:

How To Manage Your Multiple Monitor Setup

Assuming you’ve actually gotten all your screens connected, you should know that the next step is to manage your monitors within your computer’s display management system, to ensure you’re actually using the right resolutions and to manage other details like the orientation of the image. This is slightly different depending on which operating system you’re in, so, here are the quick-and-dirty instructions for the big 3:

Managing Monitors in Microsoft Windows

  • To access display management, right-click on your desktop and select Display Settings. From there, you can adjust the resolution, orientation, and scaling of your monitors.
  • Use the Windows key + P shortcut to switch between monitor modes quickly.
  • Use the Snap Assist and Task View features to manage windows and virtual desktops.

Managing Monitors in Apple macOS

  • To access display management, go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click Displays and adjust the resolution, orientation, and scaling of your monitors.
  • Use the Mission Control, Split View, and Spaces features to manage windows and virtual desktops.

Managing Monitors in Linux

  • To access display management, open the terminal and enter the command “xrandr” to list the available displays. From there, you can adjust the resolution, orientation, and scaling of your monitors.
  • Use the xrandr command and GNOME Tweaks tool to configure your display settings.
  • Use the Workspaces feature to manage virtual desktops.

Do All USB-C Ports Support Monitors?

Unfortunately, not all USB-C ports support monitors. If you’ve purchased an expensive (or even an inexpensive) USB-C dock, it’s like that the port is going to work with your monitor.

However, if a USB-C port can’t support a monitor, it’s probably just there purely for power delivery.

If that’s the case, the port will typically have a small lightning logo next to it, signaling that it’s for power delivery only. That said, trying out a port with your monitor isn’t going to hurt or break anything, so why not check it out?

How Your Computers Graphics Capabilities May Limit Your Monitors

Not all graphics cards (or integrated graphics processing chips) are created equal, and some may not be able to handle multiple monitors at high resolutions or refresh rates…or even at all. To be clear, most modern computers will have USB-C ports able to handle multiple monitors, but if you plug a USB-C hub into a Macbook Air and try to split it to two ultra-wide monitors, there’s a good chance that the computer will simply not have the power to do that.

To figure this out, consider your graphics card, or the main processor on your laptop (which has the graphics processing unit integrated). Next, simply google the make and model of that card or chip and review it’s specifications against this checklist:

  • Number of displays supported: Some graphics cards may only support a certain number of displays. Check to see how many displays your graphics card or chip can support.
  • Resolution: Your graphics card or chip may have a maximum resolution it can support, which can limit the resolution of your monitors. Check to see what the maximum resolution is for your graphics card or chip.
  • Refresh rate: Your graphics card or chip may also have a maximum refresh rate it can support, which can limit the refresh rate of your monitors. Check to see what the maximum refresh rate is for your graphics card or chip.
  • Cable types: The type of cable you use to connect your monitors can also affect the graphics capabilities of your setup. Check to see what types of cables are compatible with your graphics card, or the ports on your laptop. If there’s a port mismatch, obviously you can consider a hub as we discussed, but for graphics cards you really want to just HAVE the ports you’re going to use on the card.