How to Set Up Three External Monitors With a Dell Laptop Docking Station

All Dell laptop-docking stations have a port that allows you to connect an external monitor. A couple of high-end docking stations even have two video ports. However, if you are a power-user or avid gamer, using three monitors with your laptop allows you to create a surround wall for video displays and work or play more productively with your notebook. Regardless of the type of docking station you use with your laptop, you can add multiple monitors to your laptop with a couple of USB video adaptors.

Power off the laptop if connected to the docking station. If you have not connected the laptop to the docking station, do so but do not power it on.

Connect the first monitor to the DVI or VGA port of the docking station. Turn on the laptop and allow the machine to boot in to Windows. Log in with your Windows username and password if prompted.

Right-click anywhere on the open Windows desktop, then click "Screen Resolution" on the pop-up list. In the "Screen Resolution" window, click the "Detect" button to refresh the list of monitor displays. Click the display labelled "2" to select it.

Click the "Multiple displays" drop-down list and select the "Show desktop only on 2" option. Click the check box next to the "Make this my main display" option to enable it. Click the "OK" button. Windows displays the desktop on the external monitor screen only -- and not your Dell laptop's LCD.

Open the optical drive on your Dell laptop, then insert the installation disc for the USB video adaptor. Wait a few seconds for the installation wizard to appear on the external monitor screen, then follow the on-screen prompts to install the software for the USB video adaptor on your Dell laptop. Restart the laptop if prompted. If prompted to restart the laptop, the display initially appears on the laptop screen; however, after Windows starts, the display reverts to the external monitor.

Plug the cable for the USB video adaptor into one of the ports on the docking station or port replicator. Wait a few seconds for Windows to detect the device and configure the driver you installed with the disc.

Connect the monitor cable for the second display to the USB video adaptor. If necessary, use the converter-plug provided with the adaptor to match the connection type of the monitor. Power on the second monitor.

Right-click the Windows desktop again, and then select "Screen Resolution." Click the "Detect" button to refresh the monitor list, then select the monitor icon labelled "3." Click "Multiple displays," "Extend these displays."

Click the "OK" button. Windows displays the desktop across both external monitors -- but not on the laptop display. You can drag windows from one monitor to the other and use both screen simultaneously.

Connect the second USB video adaptor to the docking station. Wait a few seconds for Windows to detect the adaptor and configure the driver. You do not have to install the driver again if using two identical USB video adaptors.

Connect the cable from the third monitor to the USB video adaptor. Power on the monitor.

Right-click the Windows desktop on one of the external monitors -- does not matter which one you choose -- then click "Screen Resolution." Click "Detect," then select the "4" monitor.

Click the "Multiple displays" drop-down list, then "Extend these displays." Click the "OK" button to extend the desktop across all three external monitors. You can now use all three monitors simultaneously.


You can enable your Dell laptop's LCD screen and use it as well -- if you like. However, using the smaller laptop screen with three larger, external monitors might be somewhat cumbersome.

Things You'll Need

  • DVI-to-VGA or VGA-to-DVI adaptor (if monitor connection do not match that on docking station)
  • Two USB video adaptors
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About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.