Increase the Pixels - How-to Add Another Computer Screen

Getting The Best From A Multiple Computer Screen Setup

Steve Smith, host of your TQA Weekly, explains how to get the best performance from a computer using a multiple screen setup, and provides valuable insight into possible related issues.

Episode #2-44 released on July 29, 2012

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Multiple screen setups can seem to be a pain in the neck to setup. There are settings to remember, frames per seconds lost, and even positioning the screens in the control panel seems to be awkward, or unclear. This guide will help with many of the issues, and, also, address problems that could arise from different types of configurations.

Let's talk about graphics cards, and the industry for a moment. Look at what Nvidia and ATI normally state about their graphics cards designs and specifications. Most of the time, a graphics card, is capable of handling one screen flawlessly, and two screens with ease. The performance is always based on the memory, GPU's performance and the amount of available wattage from the motherboard, and power supply. These are details that have to be addressed.

The average user only needs to use one screen, so why would anyone like you want to have more than one screen? Bragging rights, web development, gaming, graphic design, audio editing, video editing, etc... These are all valid reasons amongst the many other reasons that are possible for having the need for more than one screen in use. If you need more space, get another screen.

Best practice is to use two screens with identical screen resolutions. The best is to use two identical screens to get the closest color match possible, and then, to place them one beside the other on a desk or table. The closer, the better for you, since it will require less work turning your head around to see the second screen. Opt for identical connection types to maintain the same look in the pixelation in the screens. If you use HDMI for one, use HDMI for both. HDMI or DVI are the best connections, and both allow for digital transfer of images from your computer, to the screens, I'm of course referring to the HDCP standard there.

Before connecting the second screen, make sure you have the latest drivers, and are using a graphics card with enough memory on the board. If you graphics card has less than 1GB, you will experience a severe lack of response and frame rate decline from your graphics card.

Make sure you have enough wattage. A 450 watt power supply is not always a 450 watt able power supply. If you want to use more than one screen, your graphics card needs more wattage. Opt for a professional, high quality, gaming power supply with some wattage to spare. If you have more spare wattage, you'll get more performance out of your graphics card, in both single and dual screen setups. If you lack the necessary wattage to run the card, you will experience loss of frame rate, and in some cases, graphics card failure. The extreme is only possible under extreme duress where the GPU attempts to pull too much wattage, sacrificing the power to the cooling fans. This is dangerous, any computer lacking sufficient wattage to power the CPU fan, or GPU fans risk catastrophic failure caused by thermal damage to either processing unit. To give you an idea of how sensitive our newer CPU's are, it requires less than 10 seconds of running time with a failed fan to experience failure of the chip due to thermal damage. The damage is irreversible and requires replacement of either the CPU, board, and/or graphics card depending on the failure felt. The best way to figure out how many watts you need in the power supply, is to consult the motherboard manual. Also, you should verify how many connectors your graphics card(s) may need, and verify that your power supply comes with that exact amount, or more. The higher the wattage, the more connectors you will have.

Now, if you have the latest drivers, enough memory on your graphics card, and enough wattage to spare for the graphics card to use, you can connect the second screen to your computer box, when the computer is powered off. This is important, introducing another screen to a graphics card, while the computer is powered, can short circuit the graphics card, or worst, the whole computer. Any electrical transfer to the frame of the graphics card, or the computer box, or in the wrong connectors can cause serious damage, and this is besides the dangers to the your own health from possible electrocution. Power down the computer, turn off the power supply, and screens, then connect the two together using an undamaged power cord, and video cable.

Now, that your screen is connected, power your computer. Once your logged in, into an administrator account, head over to the control panel, then into the Display settings. Within the Display settings, click on settings then turn on the second screen. Adjust the resolution of the screen, if necessary, designate the primary screen, and you can drag the screen icons into the right order so your mouse crosses from one screen to another, in the right direction. Look at links in my show notes for the exact procedure for your version of Windows.

Now, what should I expect? Depends on what you are using the screens for. If your a gamer, you will experience fewer frames per second. Maybe, a less responsive image, depends on memory, the GPU, and wattage, of course. Ways of adjusting for this are to add more ram to your computer, a better processor, if that is the case, or upgrade the graphics card, if that is the piece causing the issues. Verifying that the graphics card is not getting too hot, because the side effect is loss of performance. If you don't have the latest drivers, this may also cause issues. If your experiencing an excess of heat, you may, also, want to opt for a better cooled computer box.

Now, what if you want to add a third screen? Well, first you need to find a graphics card that will allow for this, most will only support two screens at a time. For more screens, you will pay more money. Otherwise, you could install another graphics card, but this will require an even more powerful power supply with more watts of power. You must, also, refrain from using the ATI Cross Fire, or Nvidia Sli, in order to use the second graphics, as a graphics card for the third screen. The control panel usage remains the same, and heat will become more of an issue whether you use a single, two or three screens with either a single graphics card made for more than two screens, or two distinct graphics cards. Besides heat, and the requirement for more wattage, you may see a lot fewer frames per second because the memory of the graphics cards are being divided across more screens, and you may need to adjust the ram quantity, and processor for the maximum amount of performance out of your computer. In some cases, opting for an SSD hard drive may increase some of the performance by reducing seek time for the data stored on the hard drive required by the graphics cards. If you want to have three screens working at the same time, and want the maximum benefit of performance, you will spend quite a few dollars getting your computer up to par.

Next week, learn how to avoid phishing attacks, and avoid being had by these clever scams, as I describe ways some spammers may attempt to persuade you that they are supposedly legit.

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Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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