How to Use a Laptop as an External Monitor

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How to Use a Laptop as an External Monitor

Having an additional display for work is a huge productivity boost—no more switching between Microsoft Word and Chrome. No more deciding which window should be shown first. A multi-monitor configuration also looks great, and the additional screen may be used as a media display while not in use.

If you don’t have an additional monitor but do have an extra laptop, you may use it as a second screen. Here’s how to turn your laptop into an external display!

Can You Use a Laptop as a Second Monitor?

Multi-monitor setups are becoming more widespread. They’ll be everywhere. A second monitor for notes and another for diagnosis may be used by your doctor. Using a second monitor may increase your productivity by providing you with the additional screen real estate you need.

Using a laptop to create a multi-monitor arrangement is a one-way street. Your laptop most likely only has an outgoing VGA, DVI, or HDMI connection. As a result, you may connect a monitor and operate the laptop on both displays. Isn’t that ideal?

What about if you don’t have the right cable?

In such case, a KVM switch is required. A KVM switch is a physical switch that allows you to connect your system to another network. Previously, you may have had to flick a switch to connect your PC to a printer.

KVM software is required to utilize your laptop as a second display. You install the program on your desktop and laptop, and the local network connects the two machines. You may use a single keyboard and mouse to manage both your desktop and laptop, thus converting your laptop into a second display. One reason you no longer need a dedicated KVM switch is the emergence of KVM software!

Related: The Best Portable Monitors for Your Laptop

Using KVM Software for a Second Monitor Laptop Setup

Working space and annoyance with the split-screen are two of the most common reasons for employing multiple monitors. Several software make it simple to share your mouse and keyboard between your laptop and desktop computer.

It is important to note that you cannot drag and drop an active window across KVM software. It just does not operate that way. Some programs, however, allow you to drag and drop a file to open it on the laptop you use as a second screen.

It’s not exactly the same, but it’s better than nothing and often quicker than utilizing a cloud drive (and especially a USB flash drive).

1. Input Director

Input Director is a useful free virtual KVM software. The installation package lets you choose whether to be the Master (Server) or the Slave (Client).Install the Slave installer on your laptop and the Master installation on your main machine.

You may customize the placement of the laptop you’re using as a second screen in relation to your main display after it’s installed. You may add the Slave by entering its network IP address or the hostname that is shown in each Input Director box.

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Pointer Wraparound, which lets you to move your cursor from one screen to another (rather than running in parallel), and the all-important shared clipboard, which allows you to copy across devices, are two of Input Director’s cool features. Another useful feature is that you may configure Input Director to only enable computers on a certain network to operate the Master.

Download: Input Director for Windows (Free)

2. ShareMouse

ShareMouse is one of the most basic but effective virtual KVM utilities for turning your laptop into a second display. ShareMouse has a plethora of useful features, including shared clipboards, drag-and-drop file sharing, and an interactive monitor manager.

When not in use, you may also configure your unused monitor to fade. It makes it simple to keep track of which screen is active while also conserving electricity on your laptop.

ShareMouse is available for free for non-commercial personal usage. However, you are restricted to a maximum of two displays. For $49.95, you may register for professional usage, which gives you up to 19 networked monitors/systems, encryption, and a few additional capabilities.

Download: ShareMouse for Windows or macOS (Free)

3. Synergy

For a long period, I used Synergy before moving to ShareMouse. Nonetheless, Synergy is a wonderful open-source virtual KVM utility. It is ideal for converting your laptop into a second display, since it supports drag-and-drop file sharing, a shared clipboard, and encryption.

Synergy does not come cheap. It is available in two versions: a $29 Basic version and a $39 Pro version. The basic edition’s pricing has risen dramatically in recent years (from $10 to $29), and the Pro version has also risen. Symless, the developer of Synergy, is also working on Synergy 2, which might explain the price increase.

One interesting aspect of Synergy is that it can be installed on your Raspberry Pi and used as a central controller for all systems connected to your network. Synergy is also available for many other operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Ubuntu, Debian, and other Linux distributions.

Synergy for All Operating Systems ($29 Lifetime License) may be downloaded.

4. Barrier

If paying for Synergy does not excite you or your pocketbook, you may try an open-source derivative of an older version. Barrier forked from Synergy 1.9 before redesigning the majority of its user interface and other operations.

But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in functionality; it offers a fairly comparable set of choices to the premium version. It should be noted that Barrier and Synergy are incompatible. Barrier must be installed on each machine that will be used. Barrier, like Synergy, is available on a variety of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions.

Download: Barrier for All Operating Systems (Free)

5. Mouse Without Borders

The Garage’s Mouse Without Borders is a workspace unification application. The Garage is a Microsoft internal development team where workers may incubate and grow personal ideas into real-world applications.

The Garage has been in charge of numerous outstanding initiatives, such as the Microsoft Launcher for Android, the Microsoft Health Bot Service, and Windows 10 Eye Control. You may also utilize Mouse Without Borders, a virtual KVM solution that “makes you the commander of your PC fleet.”

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In true Microsoft form, Mouse without Borders connects your computers via a code system, while also showing the network adapter you’re using. It also has drag-and-drop file sharing and a handy Clipboard tool.

Download: Mouse Without Borders for Windows (Free)

Related: Virtual Monitor Apps to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Ultrawide Monitor

Use Your Laptop as Second Monitor With Windows 10 Project to This PC

Windows 10 has a Miracast function that lets you utilize your laptop as a second display. The Project to This PC feature uses two Windows 10 PCs to expand or replicate your main display onto the secondary screen.

As a consequence, it’s a convenient way to get a second monitor up and running, particularly because it doesn’t need any third-party software.

How to Use Project to This PC With a Laptop Second Monitor

On your laptop, head to Settings > System > Projecting to This PC. From here, you can select the projection settings for your setup, including which devices can connect, if new devices must request a connection, and whether pairing devices must enter a PIN before connecting.

If you’re only using your laptop as a second monitor at home, you can allow any device and leave the PIN blank.

Now, on your main PC (the one you want to project from), press Windows Key + P, then select how you want to project your screen. As you want to use the laptop as a second monitor for productivity, you should select Extend.

Select your laptop when the option to connect appears, and you’re good to go. Better still, you can use the Windows 10 Miracast feature to project your Windows 10 computer or laptop to your TV, too.

Use Your Laptop as a Second Monitor With spacedesk

If you find the Windows 10 Miracast option a little underwhelming, you can opt for a third-party option instead.

spacedesk is a free app that allows you to extend your desktop to a secondary display using your local area network, either via a wired or Wi-Fi connection. You load spacedesk on your main PC and the laptop you want to use a second monitor, connect the two, and begin boosting your productivity.

The biggest advantage of spacedesk is that it allows you to attach more than one extra screen to your main PC. You may utilize your laptop’s second monitor as a second display and connect a tablet as a third display. The same is true for your smartphone, a second laptop, and so on, allowing you to connect up to four monitor displays at the same time.

How to Use spacedesk to Turn Your Laptop Into a Second Monitor

To begin, download and install spacedesk on your main PC:

Download: spacedesk for Windows 10

Using the aforementioned URL, you can also obtain spacedesk download links for Windows 7 and 8.1.

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Next, download and install the spacedesk Windows viewer on your laptop:

Download: spacedesk Windows viewer for Windows 10

Scroll beyond the main spacedesk app download links to discover the links to the spacedesk Windows viewer.

When the installation is finished, launch the spacedesk program on your main machine. On the primary PC, the spacedesk program serves as a server for incoming connections, enabling you to mirror or expand your desktop display to another machine.

Return to your laptop and launch the spacedesk Windows viewer program. You should see a connection choice for your primary computer, which will transform your laptop into a secondary display.

Change the connection settings using the Functionality menu before opening the connection. From here, you may confirm that you can utilize the remote device’s keyboard and mouse, as well as select the screen resolution of the connection. The screen resolution should be 19201080 by default, but it will also fall back to a lesser resolution if necessary.

Create your spacedesk settings, then connect to the primary machine by choosing it from the list.

Use a Physical KVM Switch for Second Laptop Monitor Use

If you wish to use a hardware KVM switch, that’s just acceptable. When I need to plug in a Raspberry Pi or two, I have a KVM switch on my desk. A KVM switch may also be used for various purposes.

The UGREEN USB 3.0 Switch Selector is a simple KVM switch that may be used to convert an outdated laptop into a second display. If you’re utilizing a laptop as a secondary display, you don’t have to be concerned with the “V” portion of the switch (the “V” stands for video, which your laptop monitor already has!). As a result, you may divide your mouse and keyboard input using a USB sharing switch.

The UGREEN USB 3.0 Switch Selector is a simple input/output box that accepts USB connections from four devices and allows you to switch output between two PCs. Connect one output to your main PC and the other to your laptop, and you’re ready to go.

Related: Easy Steps to a Dual Monitor Setup in Windows 10

Can You Use a Laptop as an External Monitor?

A laptop may be used as an external display… kind of. I understand. It’s not like you can drag and drop an open window to a second monitor. Using a virtual KVM, on the other hand, is clearly the next best thing.

Despite the occasional issues with multi-monitor setups, you may make considerably more effective and productive use of your laptop as a second display by utilizing one of these solutions. Why not give them a shot?

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