Configuring Windows for Multiple Monitor Support

So you don’t have an NVIDIA or ATI dual display video card? Not to worry! The good news is that Windows versions since 98 forward (not NT) all support the use of two graphics cards for multiple-monitor configurations. Sure, you’ll be missing some of the cool features included with both the nView and HydraVision software packages, but at least you’ll still have the benefits of more space to work with. Also, a variety of utilities (including some found in Microsoft’s Power Toys) provide some of these features, such as virtual desktops.

In order to configure your system to use two graphics cards, the cards used must be either AGP- or PCI-based. In fact, Windows can support up to 9 displays in this type of configuration, although finding this many free PCI slots may present you with a small issue! Unfortunately, older ISA cards are not supported. One display will be configured as the primary display, and another as the secondary. It is not possible to configure which is which in Windows, since the order in which the BIOS initializes the devices controls this. The primary display will be the one visible during the boot process, and you may be able to change the settings there, if your BIOS allows it.

If your second desktop does not appear to function correctly after rebooting, access the Display program, and ensure that the option to extend your desktop to the second desktop is checked. Also, be sure that you have the correct driver installed for each device, since each is still an independent card with its own requirements.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.