How to Use Your Laptop Like an External Monitor
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Using an extra monitor for work can be an amazing productivity boost. No more split-screen action between Microsoft Word and Chrome, and no more having to prioritize which panel should be on top. Multi-monitor setups also look cool and can be used as a media screen when not in use or when you’re gaming, but definitely not when you’re meant to be working.

If you don’t have another monitor, but do have a separate laptop, you’re in good hands. It is extremely easy to create your own multi-monitor setup Too Much Screen Space? 6 Ways To Use Your Multiple Monitor Mac Setup Too Much Screen Space? 6 Ways To Use Your Multiple Monitor Mac Setup So you set your Mac up with a second monitor, which was really exciting – but now you've no idea what to do with all that space. Read More without cables, using your home network, with a host of tools to help you get the job done. Let’s take a look!

The Benefits Of Multi-Monitor

Multi-monitor hook-ups are not uncommon. You’ll see them everywhere; your Doctor may be using one monitor for notes, and another for diagnoses. Even using a single extra monitor can boost your productivity How to Be More Productive with Dual Monitors How to Be More Productive with Dual Monitors You need space for several documents, to get an overview and swiftly shift between tasks. What's true for your desk also applies to your virtual workspace. We show you how it matters. Read More , provided you keep using it for productive activities! If you’re used to clicking through multiple windows, or hitting Alt + Tab like there is no tomorrow, consider the massive amount of extra working space you could be utilizing.


Key to the productivity 6 Ways to Set Up Dual Monitors to Be More Productive 6 Ways to Set Up Dual Monitors to Be More Productive Read More of a multi-monitor setup, as alluded to above, is remaining on task. There is an ease to switching on a film when the second monitor is in use, or using it to display pictures, or other distracting media. Don’t do this!

Creating a multi-monitor setup with a laptop usually works one-way: using your local network. Most laptops only feature VGA, DVI, or HDMI outputs, meaning the connection will only work in one direction. If you’re happy to use your laptop as the primary system, by all means, proceed.

Otherwise, read on.

Multi-Monitor Software

Two of the biggest reasons for using more than one monitor are Working Space, followed closely by its accomplice, Frustration with the Split-Screen. Several applications let you easily share your mouse and keyboard between laptop and desktop.

N.B: I’ve tested all of these connections using a Windows 7 Ultimate desktop connecting to a laptop running Windows 10 Pro Insider Preview.


I’ve long used Synergy for exactly this scenario, and it continues to be one of the most popular device cohesion applications. Synergy comes with an auto-configuration tool, a network wizard, and an option for SSL Encryption enabled network connections What Is an SSL Certificate, and Do You Need One? What Is an SSL Certificate, and Do You Need One? Browsing the Internet can be scary when personal information is involved. Read More .

Synergy Pro Interface

However, Synergy isn’t free. It comes in two flavors; a basic version for $10, and a pro-version for $29. Both are lifetime licenses, though only Pro-users have access to SSL Encryption.

Synergy kindly provided us with 15 free codes, which we will be giving away to our readers. You can get one on our Facebook Page.


InputDirector offers almost exactly the same functionality as Synergy, but without the frills of a nicely designed UI. However, it shouldn’t put you off, and it only takes a moment to configure your Master/Slave settings to get up and running. If you do have troubles, there is an extensive User Guide available online.

Input Director Interface

A free version is available for Personal Non-Commercial Use, and we are advised to contact the author for license pricing information.


ShareMouse is one of the simplest of all to set up, working straight out of the box for me. ShareMouse is full featured, coming with a Clipboard 5 Tips to Manage Your Windows Clipboard Like a Pro 5 Tips to Manage Your Windows Clipboard Like a Pro Better known as Copy & Paste, a tool for students to lift passages from Wikipedia, the Clipboard can save you loads of typing time. We'll show you how to use it like a pro. Read More , drag-and-drop file sharing, and an interactive monitor manager. I also like the slight screen-fade on your unused screen, so you know exactly which monitor you’re using.

ShareMouse is free for Personal Non-Commercial Use, but you are limited to a maximum of two monitors. Or, you can register for professional use, granting you up-to 19 networked monitors/systems, encryption, and a handful of other tools for $49.95.

Mouse Without Borders

Mouse without Borders is a workspace unification application developed by The Garage 5 Free Microsoft Online Services & Apps You Didn't Know Existed 5 Free Microsoft Online Services & Apps You Didn't Know Existed When you think of Microsoft, what's the first thing that comes to mind? It might take you a little longer to think of something positive. We're here to help with that. Read More , an internal development “team” used by Microsoft employees. Any employee can approach The Garage with an idea, and they’ll have the power of over 2,300 eager Microsoft minds behind it.

Mouse Without Borders Interface

Mouse without Borders “makes you the captain of your computer fleet,” so long as your fleet doesn’t comprise more than four systems. In typical Microsoft fashion, Mouse without Borders uses a system of codes to connect your systems, also displaying the network adapter you’re connecting through. It also comes complete with drag-and-drop file sharing, and a useful Clipboard feature.


I gave the free Multiplicity trial a look over, and it is a delightful application offering the full-spectrum of keyboard and mouse sharing tools. However, once the free trial runs out you’ll be asked to upgrade to a basic license which only offers you control of 2 PCs for a one-off $19.99, or if you require more, licenses scale up to 50 PCs for $329.99.

If you do need professional support for your multi-PC network, the latter seems to be reasonable value for a professional application (though I haven’t scoured the market for other deals, so don’t take that as gospel, please). If you’re just linking your laptop and desktop, I would advise one of our other options.

External Monitor Roundup

I’m a big Synergy fan, but you will not be disappointed with any of the other applications on this list. Each of the keyboard and mouse sharing applications come with their own strengths and weaknesses How to Use Two Monitors: 3 Steps to a Multiple Monitor Setup How to Use Two Monitors: 3 Steps to a Multiple Monitor Setup There are many things to consider when you want to use two more more monitors. Configure your dual monitor setup with these tips. Read More , and each of them complete their main task to a high standard. With that in mind, I will leave the final decision to you, dear reader.

And for more ways to use your laptop, check out the best laptop docking stations 9 Laptop Docking Stations for Turning a Notebook Into a Desktop 9 Laptop Docking Stations for Turning a Notebook Into a Desktop If you want all the fixings of a PC with the convenience of a laptop, these laptop docking stations are great. Read More .

What is your multi-monitor application of choice? Have we missed your favorite from the list? Let us know what you think below!

Explore more about: Computer Monitor, Multiple Monitors, Productivity.

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  1. Gordon Bennett
    July 22, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Aren't any leads required? I've watched a number of videos on this issue and no one mentions leads for some reason. Is it taken for granted that we know which leads to use?

  2. Sean Smith
    June 3, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Input Director doesn't let you drag Windows from one monitor to the other. Do any of the other options? I was expecting it to act like a second monitor had been attached to the Desktop PC whereas this is just a way of using the same keyboard and mouse on more than one machine.

  3. NutonDev
    April 14, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Displaying distracting media"? What kind of an opinionated article is that? When developing a web site where you have to follow guidelines and prototype on a single, do you think an extra monitor is "distracting"? If someone uses laptop as a typewriter or tv then for sure. Otherwise casting curse at additional monitor estate is like recommending a small table over a large one. If you're fine - then use it, but don't try to tell others they are wrong if they prefer large.

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 14, 2017 at 10:20 am

      Well, we're allowed to infer our opinion at MUO. I don't mean all the time, and I make it quite clear that the second monitor is great for productivity.

      In fact, I'm not sure why you're so angry.

      I was merely stating my own experience. Since writing this article I've returned to a multi-monitor setup. I didn't tell anyone they were wrong, you've got the wrong end of the stick.

  4. Bucky the Bronco
    January 14, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Article title is misleading. Website loads articles I wasn't looking for. Can't use the back button. This site is shit.

    • Gavin
      January 17, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      Sorry it wasn't what you thought. The website uses a continuous scroll feature which has led to some users reading articles they weren't expecting. However, I'm not sure why the back button didn't work. Even with the continuous scroll, each URL is loaded so you should have been able to move back. I'll mention it to our developer.

      Hopefully you'll find other things you can make use of...

  5. lemo
    November 22, 2016 at 7:58 am

    ayy lmao

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 14, 2017 at 10:17 am

      Top keks?

  6. Liam Anthony Dalton
    October 3, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    The Word; L'Ordinateur

  7. Gavin H.
    September 24, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I thought it was a little strange when I saw that the second computer name on Mouse without borders said Gavin-PC because not only is my name Gavin, but that's my laptop name as well.

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 14, 2017 at 10:17 am

      Haha, I've had that problem before!

  8. Gardner West-Bound
    September 21, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Microsoft has certainly made all things email very complicated, over the years. Your article, which purports to lift the veil of fog surrounding it, merely adds to the confusion. You gave the article the title, "Hotmail No More! Microsoft Outlook Email Services Explained" and yet all you have accomplished is delivering a history of the various iterations if Hotmail over its lifetime. You did not conclusively state whether "" will be discontinued altogether, or merely undergo yet another facelift and iteration.

  9. Ed
    September 12, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Hi Gavin,

    I cracked my laptop screen so badly I can't see anything on the desktop, let alone getting to some important documents. I was thinking about connecting the laptop with cracked screen to another laptop via VGA cable and use that laptop as an external monitor. My question is how to set it up on the laptop when the screen is cracked?


    • Gavin
      January 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      Honestly, I would just remove the hard-drive from the cracked laptop and either use it as an external drive with an enclosure (or just a SATA to USB if you want to be really cheap). Or install it in the second laptop, remove needed files to a secondary drive, and then replace the original drive.

      Sorry this is a late reply, I hope you got sorted!

  10. Chris
    July 30, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Even with the word "like" in the title, there is a pretty direct, unambiguous implication from "Like an External Monitor" that you should be able to do one thing in particular:

    Open an application window on your desktop (for example), and then drag that window to your laptop screen.

    If you can't do that, then the title doesn't make any sense at all. In the absence of that fundamental feature, you're not using your laptop screen as an external monitor; you're just sharing one computer's mouse and keyboard. The two concepts are actually nothing alike.

    • b
      December 10, 2016 at 11:18 pm


  11. george
    July 3, 2016 at 12:32 am

    change the title and description. It is extremely misleading. I really don't understand how that could have been a mistake.

  12. Faisal
    January 7, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Well I use multiplier for showing the same display to my customers, but I am really looking forward to something like synergy. Count me in for the giveaway. Thanks

  13. ugugx
    January 7, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    WoW, same here, what i got was that i`m going to use my laptop screen as a secondary monitor for my workstation.

  14. Karyn
    January 7, 2016 at 3:14 am

    The title isn't inaccurate. "Like" means, in this case, "similar to". So the title implies that the article contains information on ways to use your laptop to have an experience that is similar to having a second monitor. The article is actually exactly what is described in the title. Even the picture, with is disproportionately large mouse and keyboard seem an attempt to illustrate what the article contains. A single mouse and keyboard shared between machines.

    If it had said "How to use your laptop as an external monitor", then it would have been deceptive.

    It is understandable that people have misunderstood the title. Only because, the expectations that it was something more or different is rooted in the fact that the English language is grossly misunderstood by an astonishing number of it's native speakers. However, that is hardly the fault of MUO or it's writers.

    I'm just sayin'.

    • Karyn
      January 7, 2016 at 3:18 am

      Anyways. Saving this for later. Thanks for the info! I've been wondering if there was a way to do something like this. Definitely has potential to be extremely useful for the multi-tasker.

    • Coast
      April 30, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      To clear it all up, the title should have just simply stated "How to share your mouse and keyboard between computers". As it stands, most people seeing this title will be thinking that they are reading something that will show them how to setup two systems as external or dual monitors.

  15. Anonymous
    January 6, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Im not always sure if the articles/titles are being dumbed down or if I've moved past the content as a whole.

  16. Al Pennyworth
    January 6, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Many years ago, I used some software called Maxivista which would allow another computer's monitor as a second monitor. When I read the title, I expected to read about software similar to this but I was sadly disappointed when I got to the description of Synergy. At that point, I knew the article did not match the title.

    Too bad.

  17. Jayson
    January 6, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    I was intrigued in this article, and thought it was about using a laptop as a monitor for another system. Where it appears that all of these software packages let you use your own Keyboard/mouse on multiple machines. Bummer that the article didn't portray what the title depicts.

    • Anonymous
      January 6, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      Seems to be pretty common with Make Use Of recently. Completely BS titles as click bait. I'm so frustrated with it I'm ready to remove them from my G+ circles.

      • V2SJ
        January 25, 2017 at 9:04 pm

        I was under the same impression as you guy. As someone have point out that the Title did say "like second monitor". it is deceptive to call what outline here as 2nd monitor. You guy MUO loss a bit of credibility here.