Tutorial Thursday

When hooking my laptop up to an external monitor, the first thing that I like to do is extend my desktop over to that monitor. That way I am able to use my main monitor, but I am also able to utilize the screen on my laptop which practically doubles the amount of screen space I have to work with.

The only problem is that Windows has never let me choose which monitor is the primary one, and by default it always sets my laptop to be the primary display. I don’t like this because I have my main monitor in front of me, and my laptop sits more off to the side. Despite there being an option to choose which monitor is the primary one in the Display Settings, it has always been grayed out for me. After several hours of messing around, I have finally been able to figure out a solution that should work for everyone who has that option grayed out.

Vista’s External Monitor Option Grayed Out

On Windows Vista, the grayed out option reads “This is my main monitor” while on XP it says “Use this device as the primary monitor.” The two options mean the same thing, but the wording has been changed in Vista.

The reason that the option is grayed out is because some graphics cards don’t support changing the primary monitor. Well, they do, it just takes a little trickery to get it done. It won’t take you long to do, and doesn’t require you to download any additional tools or hack the registry. I was actually surprised at how easy it is after I figured out how I could get around it:

  1. Here’s what I’m starting out with: the monitor on my laptop is enabled and my external monitor disabled:
    Vista External Monitor
  2. The first thing you need to do is to enable only the monitor that you want to be the primary one. This is done by pressing the Function (Fn) key on your laptop along with the “F” key that switches the display. There should be either a picture of a monitor on the “F” key or it should say something like “CRT/LCD”. For me the key combination is Fn+F8:
    External Monitor Keyboard Shortcut
  3. So right now I have my external monitor enabled, and my laptop screen is off:
    Vista External Monitor
  4. Now I open up the Windows Display Settings, click on the box with the number 2 in it, and choose the “Extend the desktop onto this monitor.” In this case the secondary monitor is your laptop and should be the one disabled:
    Vista External Monitor
  5. Now enjoy the bliss of having the Start Menu in front of you instead of off to the side:
    Vista External Monitor

Note: You can also reverse this process to have the Start menu show up on the laptop’s monitor instead of on the external monitor.

The cool thing is that Windows will remember this setting so that every time after setting this up, it will properly designate the primary monitor. As soon as you unplug the external monitor, Windows will then move the Start Menu back to the Laptop just like you would expect it to.

Hopefully this will help someone out there because I spent hours searching the Internet trying to figure it out before finally sitting down and trying to come up with a solution myself.

There Are 424 Comments

  1. I came across this problem a few weeks ago. That function didn’t work for me. What did work was going to “advanced” and then “displays” and changing the monitor to “1″ and the laptop to “2″.

  2. That is essentially what this trick does, but I don’t have an option in my advanced settings to choose which monitor is 1 and which is 2.

    • I know this is 5 yrs later but THANK YOU!! I have a flip switch for 2 laptops also which worked fine until recently. I have not been able to get laptop # 2 to show up on the monitor for a couple of weeks, yet my mouse and keyboard, also attached to the flip switch, switched back and forth just fin. I have had a crick in my neck from leaning to see the laptop screen! I hope when I reboot later that it all works as it did before, how that my external monitor IS showing the laptop #2 screen, this is a good start!

    • You’re welcome! It’s pretty amazing that after all this time the post is still helping a large number of users.

    • Also just used this trick! Thanks and greetings from Prague.

  3. Thanks, an excellent, much appreciated tip!

  4. I also tried several times in the past with no luck. Thanks! :D

  5. I’m glad to see that this is helping some people! It’s always nice to know when things work out for our visitors, so thanks for letting us know.

  6. Thank you so much. This helps me SOOOOOO are great.

  7. No problem Aidan…I’m glad it was able to help you!

  8. Thanks a lot dude; you solved my weeks old problem. I have had this annoyance at two different instances. A post on microsoft site completely denied that it’s possible to change primary monitor on laptop. I have an old laptop that I connected to my flat screen tv using VGA cable so as to browse internet on tv using wireless keyboard and air mouse. But the damn primary monitor issue forced me to have laptop screen open all the time sitting next to my big tv. Now I can conveniently slide the laptop with other set top boxes and use all features using keyboard only. Thanks again.

  9. No problem…I actually knew that it must be possible because at some point Windows automatically did the switch for me. I still have no idea why, and it kinda pissed me off that Windows didn’t let me just check the darn box to pick the primary monitor.

  10. This trick does not seem to work for me.

    As soon as I click the box with a 2 that *should* be my laptop display, and click “extend my desktop…”, my computer simply defaults back to the way it was, with my external monitor as #2 and the laptop as #1…


    • Mine does the same! It’s positively infuriating! I try to change it so the main monitor is the bigger monitor but nothing happens! I can’t change the laptop settings because they are still grayed out and the most I’ve gotten to happen is have my desktop background on the bigger screen!

    • Right click on desktop. Go to graphics option> then output to > monitor.

    • Same problem Tk i have not clue what your talking about

  11. That’s weird Steve! I’ve used this on several different laptops now and the results are always the same.

  12. You’re wonderful. Thank you.

    This has been driving me NUTS this morning (wrong monitor being the primary) and Windows help is useless!

    Thank you.

    - David

  13. You rock man, Thanks!! I was having this problem and your described fix worked perfectly.

  14. No problem David and Dave!

  15. Thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed solution, worked perfectly and fixed the problem for me.

  16. Steve wrote:
    This trick does not seem to work for me.

    As soon as I click the box with a 2 that *should* be my laptop display, and click “extend my desktop…”, my computer simply defaults back to the way it was, with my external monitor as #2 and the laptop as #1…


    I have the same problem. Did you get it to work at all. BTW, I use a Toshiba Satellite.

    • Here is the Toshiba Satellite fix. Right click on desktop. Go to graphics option> then output to > monitor.

  17. Thanks Ryan, this is a lot of help. One note on my experince is that my Compaq nc6400 uses the F4 key instead of the F8 key as you describe in your instructions. No worries though, it worked like a charm!

  18. Jamie wrote:
    Thanks Ryan, this is a lot of help. One note on my experince is that my Compaq nc6400 uses the F4 key instead of the F8 key as you describe in your instructions. No worries though, it worked like a charm!

    Glad you got it to work. A lot of laptops have different keys assigned to the monitor switching operation, but I figured people would catch on. :)

  19. cool , I was trying this for good 2 hours and then I thought let me look on the web.Wow ,your solution works fine and when you disconnect the laptop from docking station , it just goes back to original setting..Thanks a lot , and Yes Damn MS for not guiding properly

  20. MS User wrote:
    cool , I was trying this for good 2 hours and then I thought let me look on the web.Wow ,your solution works fine and when you disconnect the laptop from docking station , it just goes back to original setting..Thanks a lot , and Yes Damn MS for not guiding properly

    It is great how Windows automatically switches between the two configurations properly. When you plug the computer back in to the monitor you should also see that it goes back to how you had configured it.

  21. Hi, nice guide, worked on my old laptop.
    Now I have bought an Acer Aspire 5100 series, and there doesn’t seem to be a CRT/LCD button, any ideas?

  22. Alex wrote:
    Hi, nice guide, worked on my old laptop.
    Now I have bought an Acer Aspire 5100 series, and there doesn’t seem to be a CRT/LCD button, any ideas?

    Hmm, you’ll have to look online to figure out how to switch between monitors. There has to be an easy way to do it for when you give presentations and such.

  23. this work like a charm thanks for the help

  24. I don’t seem to be able to utlilize the whole screen on the laptop when I use it as the secondary. The resolution on the monitors didn’t change but i get a “square” that I can use in the middle of the laptop that is usable. The outer edge is black????

  25. Anonymous wrote:
    I don’t seem to be able to utlilize the whole screen on the laptop when I use it as the secondary. The resolution on the monitors didn’t change but i get a “square” that I can use in the middle of the laptop that is usable. The outer edge is black????

    You should be able to go into your display properties and adjust the resolution of the secondary monitor.

  26. Hi Ryan,
    I have a similar problem. I use a docking station and an external monitor for my laptop. I removed the computer to travel and now that I came back it’s wierd. When I boot up, the monitor works fine for most of the process but then shuts off and I can’t get it back on. Any Ideas?

  27. wow, i struggled for almost 2 days with this and i can’t believe it was this easy…. thanks for the help man you just made my day!!!
    thanks!! 5 Stars

  28. Craig wrote:
    Hi Ryan,
    I have a similar problem. I use a docking station and an external monitor for my laptop. I removed the computer to travel and now that I came back it’s wierd. When I boot up, the monitor works fine for most of the process but then shuts off and I can’t get it back on. Any Ideas?

    Pressing the key combination a few more times should get it to turn back on. If not then there must be a compatibility problem with your graphics card.

    Eddie wrote:
    wow, i struggled for almost 2 days with this and i can’t believe it was this easy…. thanks for the help man you just made my day!!!
    thanks!! 5 Stars

    No problem!

  29. Thanks a lot!! Half way through the instructions I got a hang of how the whole thing works.

  30. My Tech guys couldn’t work it out – but thanks to you problem solved quite eaisly!!! :D

  31. Thanks for this tip and taking the trouble to document so nicely! Works like a charm

  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Somehow this morning my second monitor became the primary and my laptop monitor went blank. Thanks for the FN F8 tip. :)

  33. Your welcome, your welcome, your welcome! Glad we’re still continuing to help people with this simple trick.

  34. Thanks a bunch!

  35. For me, it simply showed a duplicate of my laptop screen on the external monitor after hitting the button. From here, I was unable to get the laptop monitor’s screen to be a secondary monitor.

    However, if I start off by hitting the CRT/LCD button twice, and then continue with your steps, it works as advertised. Very useful, this should really be more publicized!

    • Ha! Take that computer! I couldn’t get it to work before but then I tried this and it swapped over! I noticed that when you press the Function button and the F8, CRT/LCD , or the F5 button (Which it was for me) a little box comes up with a whole range of monitors and by pressing the button again it selects the next one which is the bigger monitor! Brilliant!

  36. Thanks a lot- you da MAN~

  37. This article is truly a public service. Recently, its helped me greatly because I’ve been hooking up to projectors. Once you know how it’s so simple, but if you don’t know, you just face endless frustration in the display settings window. Why this isn’t all around the net is a mystery. It’s like we’re supposed to born with knowledge of that magical key.

  38. netster007x wrote:
    This article is truly a public service. Recently, its helped me greatly because I’ve been hooking up to projectors. Once you know how it’s so simple, but if you don’t know, you just face endless frustration in the display settings window. Why this isn’t all around the net is a mystery. It’s like we’re supposed to born with knowledge of that magical key.

    It’s actually my favorite article on the site, because it was something that frustrated me for a long time. I actually discovered this trick on accident when doing a presentation, and it thoroughly confused me at the time.

  39. Thank you

    Been waiting for this for a long time.
    My problem was slightly different but your idea solved it.


  40. Wow, thanks allot! I tried a good deal of sites and thanks to you i finally fixed it! :)

  41. i have the problem that i can get the desktop onto my monitor/tv but with no icons or taskbar just the desktop image. when i right click it sends the window back to the laptop.

  42. netster007x wrote:
    For me, it simply showed a duplicate of my laptop screen on the external monitor after hitting the button. From here, I was unable to get the laptop monitor’s screen to be a secondary monitor.

    However, if I start off by hitting the CRT/LCD button twice, and then continue with your steps, it works as advertised. Very useful, this should really be more publicized!

    This worked for me also. Mine is Fn+F5 (Toshiba Satellite A200-TH7, brand new back last October). Had to hit it twice. Thanks Ryan, and thanks netster007x. I’d probably have never bothered hitting it twice..

  43. Thankgoodforforums

    I have a problem with my Laptop screen. It has thick horizontal lines that will not let me see what’s there before. I think they are called “dead pixels” times a billion. I’ve been looking for a way to use an lcd monitor automatically when I turn my laptop power on. Thanks so much! I think this will do. :)

  44. Thankgoodforforums wrote:
    I have a problem with my Laptop screen. It has thick horizontal lines that will not let me see what’s there before. I think they are called “dead pixels” times a billion. I’ve been looking for a way to use an lcd monitor automatically when I turn my laptop power on. Thanks so much! I think this will do. :)

    Yeah, sounds like your screen would need to be replaced on your laptop. Glad this worked out for you though.

  45. Awesome. It works. I figured out how to move the task bar to the external monitor before, but everytime i opened something, it would be on the laptop monitor. now its perfect. thanks.

  46. I get the whole function F* depending on your laptop to get the right screen as the primary. I extend the desktop to my laptop monitor as well. All this works fine.

    What doesn’t work is when I unplug the monitor, my laptop is still the extended desktop. No taskbar, start menu, or anything. I am intelligent enough to quickly change the settings but this laptop is for one of our sales people. The least amount of work possible for switching between dual monitors and just one when they take the laptop home.

    We are running Windows XP Pro. Thanks in advance.

  47. Adam wrote:
    I get the whole function F* depending on your laptop to get the right screen as the primary. I extend the desktop to my laptop monitor as well. All this works fine.

    What doesn’t work is when I unplug the monitor, my laptop is still the extended desktop. No taskbar, start menu, or anything. I am intelligent enough to quickly change the settings but this laptop is for one of our sales people. The least amount of work possible for switching between dual monitors and just one when they take the laptop home.

    We are running Windows XP Pro. Thanks in advance.

    That must just be how Windows XP handles it. I know with Vista it switches everything back over when you unplug the monitor. Sorry, wish I could have helped.

  48. Just curious, how big’s that monitor? I’ll guess 22in.

  49. Close… it’s a 24″ that we got an incredible deal on back in 2005.

  50. Thanks. It works perfectly.

  51. Excellent, worked first time, annoyed me for 4 weeks.

  52. Wow, that did the trick! Thanks a lot :)

  53. Complete non-issue under nVidia. ATI drivers blow.

  54. This is awesome. I’ve been looking for EXACTLY this for some time now. You rule.

  55. Thanks a lot for this Fix Really Worked. :) :)

  56. Very useful. I got it working for me. Thanks!

  57. Thank you!!! This was driving me nuts!!

  58. it is really nice..

  59. Thank you so much …. I did search for 3 hours just trying to figure this out … It was like a thorn in my foot, you know , some things are so simple that it is frustrating when you are not able to figure them out … tahts were I was . Thanks again .

  60. I’ve been using a dual monitor setup in Linux Mint (an Ubuntu-based distro) successfully, with the external monitor being my primary. I have to use windows for flash development, and struggled with Vista for over an hour trying to set it up. After striking out onto the net for a solution I found your article and now have my preferred setup up and running.

    As a side note, when I extended the desktop to my laptop monitor, I had to change the resolution, which was set to something like 640×480 8O.

    • Sean, can you tell me how you did this in Linux Mint? I have an external monitor (Compaq FP7317 (17″)) and a laptop (HP Pavilion DV8000) with an ATI radeon graphics card. I have them both running and working, but I would like to make the external monitor the primary monitor so that the panels go over there. How did you do it?

  61. Thank you thank you thank you!! Worked great!!

  62. This doesn’t actually change your primary at all, all it essentially does is move your task bar and any associated programs into the window you selected (which you could have simply done by right clicking the task bar, unchecking lock the task bar, dragging it across to your other monitor and then moving the programs across). It doesn’t change your primary monitor for any programs that require being full-screened. The reason for this is that the primary monitor setting in a laptop is hardware related. No software changes, operating system changes, or drivers will affect this. All the RAM is dedicated to your laptop monitor. THe only way you can make a secondary display your primary display is to disable the laptop monitor completely, but then you wouldn’t have dualies.

  63. Hey, I have an Aspire 5620, Windows Media Editon and I cant seem to get my Fn + F5 to work (The key with the to monitors I think).All my other Fn buttons work and before for somereason windows decided to let me change over for no reson,I tryed to edit something and now I cant get it back. Any Ideas??

  64. How to I do the same on a PC? I have exactly the same problem but on a PC not a laptop.


  65. Awsome thanks!!!! :D

  66. This issue has been frustrating me for the last 2 hours! In my case, however, the external monitor was the primary by default and I wanted my laptop to be the primary. Unfortunately, your fix didn’t work for me but I found out how to do it (using IBM Thinkpad with Windows XP Pro). Here it is, so simple: in the display dialog box, simply drag the little box with either the number 1 or 2 in it to the other side of the the other little box with the other number in it. Voila! I had no idea you could even drag those little @%$#@$# around!


  68. Oh man I’ve been looking for this for the longest time THANK YOU SO MUCH.

  69. Nice one, thanks for this tip and well described too!

  70. Pure genius, Thanks a million

  71. Thank-you sooooo much!!! I’ve been living like this for about 6 months!!!! thanks again

  72. Thank you, thank you, thank you…what a great service and very easy to use…even for me!

  73. What a great article. This is exactly what we were looking for. And this was after i self-proclaimed myself as ‘King Of The Monitor’ here at work and then made myself feel like a fool when i could not figure this out with my peer group when we all got new monitors. i took a abuse for about 2 days.

  74. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Search for a day and then found your incredibly accurate and useful help. Bless you for taking the time and making it clear.

  75. I have looked for days for a solution to this!!!!! Thank you!

  76. I have a dead laptop lcd and manage to connect the video out to a CRT successfully using this article.

    Problem is that I tinkled with the settings and now the CRT displays the extended desktop!

    Anyone can tell me how i can get the CRT to be the main display again? I can no longer right-click and see the display properties window as my primary laptop screen is dead!

  77. Help simple and very appreciated! thanks! :idea:

  78. What a great tip! My remote desktop experience is 100% better now that it is full sized on my second monitor. Thanks so much!

  79. Ok, I need help. the screen on my wife’s laptop went out,not just the backlight but the whole thing, and I talked her into just trashing it and getting a new one. Well it sat up in my closet for a few months until I had the bright idea to totally remove the screen and hook it up to a monitor and use it as a spare (render computer or download computer). Well, all was going good until the windows log-in screen came up. The monitor screen went black after that. I restarted the computer a few times and the same thing happened over and over again. I started the computer up in safe-mode and the monitor worked find, but when I tried it in normal-mode the screen went black again.

    What can I do to make the computer forget about the screen I removed? How can I make the computer only see the external monitor I have it plugged into it.

  80. Thank you SO much – I have played around trying to do this for weeks and finally it worked. If anyone is having trouble doing this and is a stupid as me, make sure you use the Fn and F8 key on the laptop keyboard! I was using the USB adapted keyboard :)
    Thanks again!

  81. Thanks Ryan,

    You are my hero. Works perfectly. I love how it seems so simple after all the attempts. I can finally play my games on my sweet new flat screen.

  82. Alex wrote:
    Hi, nice guide, worked on my old laptop.Now I have bought an Acer Aspire 5100 series, and there doesn’t seem to be a CRT/LCD button, any ideas?

    hey on my computer it doesent have it either butit does have LCD in a squear then slash with a screen with an arow that must be it i thought then it was :)

  83. Excellent, You’ve stop brain from hurting. Thank you very much.

  84. Thank you! You helped me a lot!

  85. You da man! I spent hours trying to figure this carp out!!!!! MANY THANK YOUs!!!!!!

  86. this worked great. Thanks for the help, I spent too much of my time googling this and finally found the solution that worked! Again, thanks a lot!

  87. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH! I don’t think we would have ever figured that out on our own.

  88. A BIG thanks for this. I just cannot believe I have just spent 3 hours fiddling around and now this has fixed it straight away. The strange thing is, when I first set up my monitor it all seemed OK as primary without this fix, so of course today when it all screwed up I had no idea what to do….until I found your article. You even put photos and diagrams up! People like you are the salt of the earth, thank you!

  89. Nice job – works like a charm!

  90. you’re the best!! Easy to follow and to the point. Thanks so much.

  91. Thanks a lot for this post. It helped me with a similar problem. I have a laptop with two external LCD monitors, and the laptop’s docking station only has one digital and one analog output port. I wanted the monitor on the digital port to be “my main monitor” but somehow the other monitor took over when I extended the desktop to it, and the option to set “this is my main monitor” was grayed out (in other words, I couldn’t switch it via the Display Settings dialog, much like your problem).

    I managed to fix it by powering off the monitor I didn’t want as primary, and using the laptop’s monitor switching ability to make the desired monitor primary again. I also removed the USB cable from the “undesired” monitor (not sure if this was important or not). Then I powered on the “undesired” monitor, extended the desktop to it, and everything is finally the way I want it.

    Thanks again,

  92. Just another thank you for the tip. Bliss indeed. I had my laptop for over 6 months and gave up after failing to get the display the way I wanted. However, as I move the laptop between office and home attaching another monitor to it at both locations, one of the days recently it just happened that everything was in the place I craved them to be! So I decided to give it another shot today. Glad I didn’t stop at the top Google result from Microsoft telling me it couldn’t be done. Cheers, :)

    PS. On a different matter, I had script debugging turned on in my IE and this page caused so many debug messages that I could have missed this great tip.

  93. Well I’m not going to fiddle it any more myself but although the tip worked for changing the primary display to the external monitor, I had my laptop to the left of it and Windows XP kept switching the laptop LCD to be on the right every time after the screensaver had been on. This is very annoying too.

  94. Awesome. This is exactly what I needed. Thanks.

  95. You always take a chance f**king up your computer when the net is your tech advisor…not in this case – given, I was attracted to this sight by the organized and easy to read graphics; however, I am aware that unscrupulous members of the community on the net are setting traps that look like genuine credit service, bank and microsoft home pages that solicit your private information(phishing I believe it is called). NOT IN THIS CASE! You spelled “relief” for me…I am back in my computer cave after struggling for two days on my own (call in the violins)and trying to find an answer on my computer’s (Toshiba)website and microsoft’s WORTHLESS! help pages – neither had a simple to understand solution. I wanted my laptop to be my primary monitor – because I take it with me on busines trips and had to reset it everytime it was unplugged from my external monitor(flat screen). Cheers! I will visit your site again should I encounter more snafu’s with my equipment.

  96. Awesome! I just got my monitor and came across this problem. This was the first link i found off Google so im glad it was one that was well written and correct. Thank you.

  97. Thank you so much!

  98. I have spent two years not being able to figure this out. Thanks for clearly documenting the steps. It worked like a charm!

  99. Brilliant – my laptop disabled ‘This is my main monitor’ a few weeks ago, I found your article and it worked again.

    I docked my laptop this morning and the option was disabled again. I’ve now bookmarked your article!


  100. oh thank goodness i found this! saw so many threads with so much useless information – thankyou thankyou thankyou!!

  101. Thank you!
    I had mine set up the same way, but while booting this morning, I had the external connected to a server on my workbench via a KVM switch. This confused Windows and reversed my “primary” monitor back to my laptop display and I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to switch it back. This did the trick.

  102. Hi, unusual question. Thought I would just check to see if you happen to know. We are using a Mac laptop but running Windows. Keyboard is different. Trying to figure out your workaround but not having any luck. Ideas?

  103. Ok, fixed it in a Mac forum here (in case anyone finds this post before the Mac one and would like the link): []

  104. Thank you so much. This helped me big time. I was so frustrated. :)

  105. I did just that and the task bar is on my external monitor like I wanted but now I can’t use the laptop monitor for some reason…what did I do wrong and how do I get to work with both monitors?

  106. I must say you’ve saved me from selling my perfectly working laptop because before this I had computer “pros” (a company that fixes computers where i’m from) they told me it was junk. I think they should be arrested for false advertisement b/c clearly they’re no pros, u should hold that title! thanks for saving my laptop!! :mrgreen:

  107. Thanks! Been irritating me for a while now, nice simple fix!

  108. You rock. You saved me a ton of time and pain. Thank You So much.

  109. Great. I spent whole afternoon to find the answer. Yours is the best. Thanks a lot!!!

  110. Wonderful trick !. Solved lot of my R & D time. Many Thanks

  111. Thank you very much!!!!

  112. hey thanks man!!!! much appreciated!!

  113. Thanks ryan…If you hit fn+f8 twice then both your labtop and external monitor will show the same thing.

  114. Thanks I was having the opposite problem for some reason. I wanted my laptop to be my primary and the monitor to be the secondary but it automatically put it the other way. This helped me though. I just did it in reverse of your indstruction. Thanks for the help. Now I can take over the world. HA hah HA :twisted: smile! :twisted:

  115. Just what I was looking for…. Thanks.

  116. Blissful indeed

  117. thx heaps for that. Laptop monitor had failed and needed to use the secondary monitor. Couldnt get the Fn F8 to work so just closed the lid on the laptop while booting and it went to the secondary as primary automatically. Great short term fix!!! thanks again.

  118. nice work helped me at work!

  119. Hi – Can’t thank you enough for these instructions. Was struggling and giving up and then trying again. I was going nuts!

    Super of you to take the time to share – clearly from the comments you have helped a ton of folks.

    Thanks again!

  120. You’re a saint. I have been cussing this computer all morning. You’re article helped me get the monitors straighten out in no time. Thanks

  121. What a top man you are, been searching for two hours trying to sort this out. ;-) Cheers buddy. Have a good weekend!

  122. Thanks a lot dude! ;) I owe you one! :)

  123. Thanks a lot, worked a treat :)

  124. thanks so much…. just spent most of the morning tearing my hear out – all sorted

  125. Thank you for this article and the pictures showing each step. My husband had both our laptops hooked up to larger monitors and something happened to his and would NOT let him fix it. We went through these steps which were different from what he did the first time, but which WORKED! If only we had saved ourselves an hour of frustration and googled the problem earlier. Thanks again.

  126. This was soooo helpful. Thanks! I’ve been trying to figure this out since yesterday. So greatful that you’re article was able to fix it for me…Thanks again!

  127. I found this informaiton very helpful.

    Widnows is supposed to be userfriedly. Obviously Miscrosoft has stopped testing properly what they produce.


  128. I have a dell laptop hooked up to a docking station. I want my non laptop monitor to stay on when the laptop is closed. right now i have to have my laptop open to view second monitor. As soon as I close it I loose the monitor! Please help!

  129. Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!

  130. Thank you. Brilliant. This was exactly my problem and now it’s solved.

  131. Thank you! My work colleague has had this issue for ages. I’m now her hero.

  132. I too have bookmarked this page. You’d think Microsoft would take the time to document this, but noooooo….

  133. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This was a sanity saver.

  134. I am another that suffered with misplaced screens for a long time – thank you!!

  135. Thank you so much, you finally helped me to fix my problem.

  136. Super! Lost my nerws, but kept searching the other day, and the third day … and then there was this article!

    Unbelievable how good it feels to find a solution for a thing like this with help of someone capable write as clearly as here.


  137. Thank you so much~ I usually depend on my computer genius husband for this type of thing but this time I didn’t and it feels AMAZING!!! Plus, it worked! Thank you for the help!

  138. thanks dude.. that was the most helpful 3 minute read ever!!!!!!!!

  139. OMG, thank you sooooooo much!! I like love you, dude!! *LOL* I seriously just wasted like 2 hours of my time trying to figure this out on my own, and then I go online, see your article, and my problem’s solved just like that! *thumbs up* :)

  140. Many thanx! A variation of what you provided has enabled me to load a software program onto my Acer AspireOne netbook using the display settings from my Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop.

    Apparently the built-in resolution on the Acer was insufficient for the program to load. However, with your help I DID IT!

    Unbelievable what gobbledy-gook I received from Acer and the software people regarding this. Both pretty much said NOTHING could be done.

    We KNOW better, don’t we?

    Thanx again!

  141. Not only did this help a lot, but it is beautifully documented, with the screen-shots clearly labeled. Apparently this is difficult to do, as most sites I have seen can’t seem to manage it!

  142. Thanks so much! Just what I was looking for!

  143. Hi, I’ve got a Novatech laptop and the Fn fuction on my F8 key turns the volume up. My F3 key’s Fn function has a picture of a laptop and monitor seperatesd by a “/” but it didn’t seem to do anything when i tried it. Any ideas?

  144. Thank you so much for this!! I have been trying to do this for hours now and was getting more and more frustrated… Thanks to your article I have managed to get it set up as i wanted. It was really easy thanks to the screenshots and clear explanation. Thanks!

  145. Cheers brov! Good work, many thanks.

  146. Thanks for this! Never knew it was so easy to change it!
    Cheers from The Netherlands.

  147. I have been struggling with this issue for at least 2 years now and I can’t believe how simple it really is. Thank you very much for sharing this!

  148. Wow, after hours of searching, only to find the same solutions again and again, i finally found yours, which works amazingly well. Thanks a lot :)

  149. Looks like Windows 7 helps clear the waters here. Now in the display settings window a link, “Connect to a projector” which gives options of “computer only”, “duplicate”, “extend”, and “projector only” (this one would change the primary monitor). It even provides a new uniform Window Key + P keyboard shortcut. Now it uses the word projector, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a euphemism for external display (plus it makes for a convenient keyboard shortcut).

    Windows 7 really has a lot of useful additions tucked in there. Heck, it’s driver interface is great. Plus, it’s auto installation finally works. After reformatting and doing a clean install, windows automatically installed my graphics driver and set optimal resolution, installed my network and wireless driver, installed DVD burner driver, installed wireless mouse driver… most things that have compatible drivers were installed automatically on their own.

  150. What happens if you dont have a Fn + F8 key or CTR/LCD on your external keyboard ? I dont have a laptop, and I am using my desktop computer with an LCD tv as the secondary monitor but everything automatically opens up in the LCD tv in full screen mode when I click on it in the primary monitor, I have to drag everything back into the primary monitor manually. If I had an FN + F8 key I could just do it with that?

  151. Thanks for explaining the strange configuration steps for windows xp. Wish copies this information!

  152. I was hoping this would help me but it didn’t. I have two external monitors in addition to my laptop monitor. I don’t want to use the laptop monitor (I think the video card will only handle two monitors anyway). But I want to change the primary monitor and it won’t let me. Even using your method.

    Even with the laptop closed. BLEH. I want to go home and use my MacBook. ;)

  153. Very well explained, thanks for your help.

  154. Thank you! My work laptop has a nasty habit of deciding that my external monitor is the primary one and it flips the monitors unpredictably. This time, after reading your article, I was able to restore the primary display to where _I_ wanted it to be – you have saved me lots of time and frustration!

  155. I LOVE you and want to have your cyber children. You just save me tons of time and looking like an idiot in front of clients!!

  156. You are my hero!

  157. i guess if you want everyone to love you post a simple computer fix on the internet. thanks bunches!

  158. It works for me just like you said but as soon as I extend my screen so that the laptop screen will be available the laptop monitor reverts back to being the ‘primary’. I am using windows XP with older drivers, NVidia GForce6100 nForce 430 . Anyone have any ideas?

  159. awesome. Great article.

  160. Very nice, you saved me and about a dozen co-workers some aggravation and now our corporate PC people know about this too.

    However, while this did work at the office with just one FnF4 sequence, I found that at home, I had to press FnF4 twice in a row to get the laptop screen to disable and switch over to the external. Hopefully that will help others in case this tip does not work right the first time.

    Thanks a ton, man, great workaround.

  161. Thanks much!
    Simple but brilliant. I searched a lot and found many other ways like using MultiMon Taskbar but this trick is the best.
    Something I was looking for since a long time. Just feeling bad that being a big time geek I couldnt figure it out myself. Something so simple

  162. Aw man…thank you SOOOO much. What a headache. Your solution worked PERFECTLY for me.

  163. You the man….I was dealing with this for over an hour till I found your post!!! I’ll def click on some of your ads now ;)

  164. Thanks so much! This was driving me crazy

  165. Thanks. Worked like a charm for me.

    I have:
    XP Home
    Dell Inspiron 600m laptop
    800×600 on my primary monitor (VGA) (on top)
    1024×768 on the laptop (on bottom)

  166. Thanks, I didnt think there was a way…very happy to find your article…and it makes since…so thank you.

  167. AAh excellent! Thankyou :D It’s so good to be able to play videos on the TV and be able to continue working on my laptop. I’d been trying to figure out how the hell to switch the monitors for ages.


  168. Thank you! I tried several articles -this was easy to understand and worked. Amazingly Windows Help was useless!

  169. Tried this and worked but then the computer restarted and I can now get nothing on my laptop screen or tv. What do I do?

  170. You are brilliant and so kind to take the time to post these monitor instructions…they were so clear cut and VERY helpful to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this monitor information. You saved me so much time, I would have never figured it out. With your great instructions it took me three minutes.
    Thank you,

  171. This is exactly what I was looking for. Instructions are perfect and easy to understand. Thanks

  172. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I cannot express how much you helped me. I spent hours looking to fix something which was not really even a problem, but you were there at the right moment. Thank you!

  173. Thanks a lot! For me the key combination is F4+Fn. (HP Elite Book is my laptop type.)

    It worked perferctly!

  174. Brilliant solution! Thanks a lot!

  175. Brilliant… Thank you…

  176. Bless you sir. The odd thing is that I did this exact procedure about two years ago when I had NO IDEA what I was doing and somehow blindly got it working. When I read your article I realized what I had to done through shear luck.

  177. Thank you so very much – worked perfectly on all of my laptops. Who knew? ;)

  178. I just bought an external monitor to hook up to my netbook; it was killing me to always have to refer to the small screen and drag recently opened applications to the large monitor.

    This totally worked and is a fantastic solution!

  179. This tip is sooo bloody good!


  181. doesnt work for me,my keybord isnt fnf8,and f5 and f7 dont do anything,(it looks like it should be them)some1 please help!!!

  182. it still won’t work for using vista and have a compaq presario hooked up to a 32″ westinghouse hdtv via vga. any help?

  183. Awesome! Thanks!

  184. Hi

    Thanks for this. You have just saved me from embarassement at my neices christening as I had promised the family a slide show on the projector and i was struggling to deliver!!!

  185. Thanks a lot! Used the same trick for my two external monitors where Vista kept selecting the wrong one as my primary display. Helpdesk spent three hours trying to help me with this one. Without succeeding… thanks again!

  186. I had to do step 2 twice for it to disable the laptop monitor. Tapping function key only disabled the desktop monitor. twice moved it onto disabling the laptop monitor. good stuff! :)

  187. Wow! It makes me really happy to see how many people this has been helping!

  188. Thank you!!!! My laptop screen just broke, at least now I can still use my computer until I can get it fixed!

  189. Another happy customer – thanks for this, it solved a really irritating problem!

  190. worked like a charm – can’t thank you enough!

  191. Like everyone else has noted, this alleviated tons of frustration trying to figure this out on my own.

  192. I’ve tried this but my laptop monitor won’t disable! The Fn+F8 is the correct key combo for me but for some reason the only option it brings up is “LCD only”. I can turn off the light source (which is totally not useful) but not the monitor. Can anyone help with this?


    i have an old HP laptop, so the LCD button just had a screen icon on the key

  194. you rock. been trying to figure this out for ages!!!!!

  195. Our office has been trying to crack this issue for a year now due to us not being able to project our primary monitor correctly during presentations. This fixed our issue!!! Thanks!

  196. thank you so much, im currently typing on my laptop but my 42″ tv is the primary monitor. thx again.

  197. Good work thx and keep it up!!!!

  198. WOW! You are amazing! I have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out how I could switch my primary. And when you google it, I was only able to find those that wanted me to download something or was told it wasnt possible.

    You have saved the rest of my nails and my hair :o) thanks again!

  199. thank you somuch!

  200. You, sir, are a godsend.

  201. I believe I have a unique situation. We have an all in one MPC clientpro434 desktop computer with a laptop graphics card. A Mobility Radeon x1700. Is there a way to switch LCD to CRT without a dedicated key? Our change to primary check box is gray as well and I would REALLY like to switch my primary monitor.
    Thanks for your help

  202. THANK YOU!!! This is the best tip you could’ve written about. I’ve spent so much time turning on and off my laptop to no avail, and nobody in my office knew how to fix it. This is great!

  203. I’ve been jacking around with this for a year. You are a stud!!


    This is something that MS/Windows should have made noticeably easier to do via the control panel, considering the comments posted. Heck, I’ve been trying to find how to do this for about a year and finally found this post. Easy as pie to do.


  205. Leonardo Sotocorno

    This trick really works! thanks a lot!

  206. Thanks so much. Exactly what I was looking for. Great trick!!!

  207. thank you so much!!!!!

  208. I was ready to give up on this – but you nailed it. This worked perfectly. Well done and thank you.

  209. I think MS needs to hire you for tech support that really doesnt require real tech support.

  210. Thanks you. This helped

  211. Thanks for the help!

  212. Nice explanation, however I have a problem with my laptop. This day, I moved my laptop into my room and connect the plug-n-play monitor, and somehow, my laptop thought that the new monitor is my primary. Of course, I rebooted with and without the connected PnP monitor, hoping the vCard can solve it on itself, but with no avail. I found this tut via google and hoped it would help me, but it didn’t work. My keyboard says on the F8 button LCD/(and a monitor icon) so the Fn+F8 should have worked. I dont know what I have done to cause this. I run a Asus A6000 laptop, XP pro SP3, nVidia GeForce Go 7300. If anyone had a similar problem and solved it, I’d love to know. Cheers.

    • Has anyone been able to help you with this problem yet? I have basically the same one (see my lengthy post below).

  213. Thanks Ryan Problem solved. Except now when I undock my laptop I have no display on it. No start menu, no task bar, no icons. Do I have to reverse your process every time I undock my computer?

    • I think that is something that is handled more on a per computer basis. So unfortunately your computer may not be set up by the manufacturer to automatically make the switchover. Sorry, wish I had a better answer for you.

  214. Oh, you have no idea, how thanksfull am I – have same monitor as you and had same problem :)


  215. Absolutely PERFECT !!! I got this work once accidentally when trying all possible options. I never got it to work again and didn’t know why. Once you explain it’s obvious ….. THANK YOU for taking the time to post this !!!

  216. Excellent! Spent ages trying to work this out myself w/o success so finally resorted to the internet and this solution was perfect! Thanks! Just wish I’d checked sooner now!

  217. Amazing. Congratulations as your instructions were cristal clear

  218. This works great while I use it, but as soon as I restart or bring the computer out of sleep state Windows does not remember the settings for me. My external monitor is set back to using my laptop’s native resolution and the monitors are switched again. How do I get Windows to actually remember the settings for more than one session?

  219. Thanks so much for the great demo! however, I don’t have a display option on my laptop for the external monitor only. Any advice?

  220. Many Thanks!

  221. Thanks for the tip! I also wanted to point out you can click and drag on Display 1 or 2 under the display properties window to either side of each other. It would not make much sence to have you 32″ primary display on the right and laptop on the left; and scrolling the mouse off the right hand side of the 32″ to reach the laptop on the left.

    I’m tired, but there’s my 2 cents. :)


  223. well done mate, easy as!

  224. Thanks brother, saved my day!!!

  225. Took me 2 minutes to try set monitor as my primary, fail, google this, and set it the right way. Thank you google.

  226. the ALT+F7 (F7 is my Monitor/CRT key) didn’t work for me, but I was able to get it figured out due to your instructions. I had to do the following:
    -Click on the Intel Graphics Accelerator icon on the Taskbar
    -Select “Graphic Options”, then “Output To”, then “Monitor”
    This made my external monitor primary. I then extended the display to my laptop LCD as you instructed.


  227. Thanks to you, I’ve finally figured it out! (my Compaq nw8440 has Fn F4 instead)

  228. Thanks so much! I’ve been messing around with this for hours! What a simple way to fix it!

  229. you can also just drag the start bar across to the other screen if thats an issue.
    my only problem was that when i opened up a game or something, it would only run on the primary when i switched to full screen, and windowed mode ended up in a poorer performance.
    thanks for the tips guys =D

  230. Useful! finally i can totally get rid of ccc
    thx a lot!

  231. Thank you! I am using a laptop as a desktop replacement for the first time. Every time I reboot, or even if the laptop goes to sleep, I have had to open it and choose my output option over again.
    It is a little different for Windows 7 – I had to do the change on the laptop. Oddly enough, if I went to the display settings while using the monitor, it didn’t detect the laptop as an option. When I went back to the laptop, the display options showed both 1 and 2, so I changed the default output to the monitor – all set. hopefully… i’ll have to test it out.


  232. Great tips, thanks!


  233. Nice trick, Thank you.

  234. Thanks… very helpful

  235. It took me a while to find this post but once I did, I was able to fix the issue within 30 seconds. Thanks!

  236. Hi! Please I do badly need your help guys.. To all of those techi persons, please help me… I’m having problem with my Toshiba Laptop.. Everytime I start my laptop, it actually log me in but the problem is, the only indications shows is the internet browser which is my GOOGLE CHROME and no start menu bar and even icons of my laptop which means that all is Dim and black with cursor only and google chrome..

    Please advise! Thank you so much.. =)

  237. I have almost the same problem as megalon, and I hope someone can address it. I set a Dell CRT as the primary monitor using the procedure that Ryan gave us here. However, I cannot change it back. When I press Fn+F8 with both monitors on, it does absolutely nothing. If I unclick “extend my desktop to this monitor” for my laptop’s LCD screen (now monitor 2) and then press Fn+F8, it simply re-extends the desktop to the LCD (still 2). Since we are really working with DualView here, the “set primary monitor” function is grayed out.

    If I turn off the computer, unhook the CRT screen, turn it back on, then turn it back off, hook the CRT screen up again, and reboot it, my laptop screen will be the primary again. However, as soon as I use Fn+F8 to do any toggling, the CRT again becomes the secondary monitor, and I can’t reverse it b/c Fn+F8 won’t toggle back.

    And here is one more problem: I have never, except once by accident, gotten this laptop to display the same image on two screens. You see, somehow “extend my desktop to this monitor” is the default whenever it detects a new monitor. I really want to fix this to make it easier to give PowerPoint presentations (instead of having to use only the external monitor or projector).

    This laptop has an old nVidia GForce2 Go card. It is a Dell Inspiron 2650 (yes I know, super old, but it’s what I’m stuck with for school). If anyone can give me any ideas on these problems (the CRT monitor as primary, the Fn+F8 key not toggling away from both monitors, or not being able to project the same image on both), I would very much appreciate it. Also, if the only answer is to reinstall drivers, I would appreciate it if someone could give me a link to the latest drivers, because I can’t find them.

    Oh, and one more thing–does anyone know how to make the laptop “forget” external monitors it has previously been plugged into? That could potentially solve two of these problems.

    • Hi. I don’t if this will help you. But it worked for my Windows XP. I tried what others said and I could not get my external monitor to be my pimary. But this simple thing worked. I just right clicked on the desktop and on the window that pops up I went to Graphic Options. Next click Output to -> Monitor. This will make your external monitor the primary monitor. If you want to make it dual screen: right click desktop -> Graphics options -> Output to -> Extended Desktop -> Notebook + Monitor. If you want to make your laptop back to been the primary monitor, do: right click desktop -> Graphics options -> Output to -> Notebook. This will make your laptop the primary monitor. I hope this helps :-)

    • to get the same image on both screens try plugging up both monitors than rebooting ur laptop. it should work out.

  238. Thanks a lot man. My laptop’s monitor started plying tricks on me, so I wanted to use another monitor as the primary one just in case.

    Thanks again

  239. you are wonderful

  240. Hi,

    Great idea but my keyboard does not have the stupid f8 key or any other key that performs the function that you are describing. How to do it manually from XP?



  241. Hey Thanks for your help with this. I was trying to do the opposite (make my primary monitor the laptop – somehow it got switched) and checked about 10 other posts before finally found one that worked.


  242. Thank You! This helped (I was racking my brain trying to get it to work!)…

  243. mate, you’ve just saved me hours of messing around. This was exactly the problem I was having. Big thanks, well explained!

  244. I agree, you are a godsend

  245. Thank you SOOOOO much!!

    I have been struggeling with this for hours, you are my hero!

  246. Very good and easy explantion, thx a lot !!!

  247. Thank you so very much. I was trying to figure it out myself but your post saved me a lot of time!!

  248. This was great! thank you so much:D

  249. Thanks a ton! This works perfectly and is so easy!

  250. Awesome. My LCD screen went out and I’ve been trying to figure out how to access my data to do a backup and this worked perfectly. Thanks

  251. Thanks so much, you’re a life saver.

  252. Thank you for this, my F key was F4, took me a while to work it out, but got there in the end, marvellous,


  253. Thank you for this. Been trying to figure it out on my own for weeks, and once I found your post – poof! done in seconds! Thanks again. Owen.

  254. Wow!! Thank you!! Somehow this article needs to made more available in web searches. Can more search terms be added to accomplish that? I’ve tried on and off for months a few hours here, some more there, trying to get my displays swapped. I’ve searched multiple times for help and did’t get anythign close to how helpful this “help” was. Great job in keeping it simple and avoiding tech-speak. I think I’ll poke aroudn on this site and prehaps even bookmark it. Now on to the real problems of the day. Thanks again for helping solve this distraction.

  255. thank you very much! That was a great help! All the best!

  256. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

  257. Thanks, it really helped. Though on my computer i never saw a CRT+LCD button i did find a “presentation” one which let me set my laptop as my only screen. Thanks anyways!

  258. Thank you so much I live in LA if you every in town I got a bottle of Vodka for you, been trying to figure this out for ever!!!!

  259. Here is a situation, i just bought a new Desktop PC Windows 7 OS. without monitor, and i have a Toshiba Satellite Laptop Windows XP OS. Now i want to Operate and want to know what is in the new Desktop PC, am i able to get in that Desktop PC? by just connecting the VGA cable in the both laptop and Desktop PC. and change the setting in Display.

  260. B’coz, in your situation you have two display units and two computers, and able to switch any of the Display Unit any time.. but in my situation i have two computers and one Display Unit, which is Laptop Screen.. my simple question am i able to get hooked with the Laptop system, in other words- is there any possibility that i can use my laptop screen for my New Desktop PC. If any of you could help me out here would be very kind and Appreciatabl ..

  261. Thanks for the tip. Worked like a charm.

  262. Thank You! worked great!

  263. Awesome!! thanks so much i was about to tear my hair out. Tried like 3 diff programs… nothing worked… who knew the solution was so darn simple!! Thanks mate!

  264. That is awesome.

    One quick thing. If you want a quick and dirty fix, on XP, you can pick up the task bar with your mouse and ‘drag’ it to your secondary monitor.

  265. Thanks a bunch! The easy ones are the hardest to figure out.

  266. Best help I have come across on this issue. Thank you soooo much. Also bookmarking in case I have to redo this in the future! :D

  267. after you have changed the screen so you have a double screen how do you change it back so the second screen is a copy of the first one again.

  268. It works fine for me, you save my day thanks a lot for the feedback

  269. Great set of instructions; clear, concise and accurate.

    Great job, thank you!

  270. it does that automatically on my laptop and I want to know how to reverse it so it doesn’t do that.
    Please help

  271. simply wonderful!!!

  272. Thank you sooo much…this has driven me crazy for ages :)

  273. great ….thanks a ton. that solves my problem

  274. my problem doesnt work…my problem is i tried to connect to extension monitor, but my laptop lcd never power on, i tried the said solkution but it wont work on me, so pls help me…may lcd monitor does not detect…what should i do…

  275. Thanks. Pity Microsoft are so shitty that they couldn’t have made it easy. You are a star and I’m in awe of your lateral thinking out of the box. Thought I was good at it but you put me to shame!!! Doug

  276. Excellent! Thanks so much.

  277. Thank you very much. It worked for me.

  278. I concur! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  279. Thank you, it worked like a charm.

  280. awesome bud!! I owe you a beer

  281. Thanks a ton!

  282. Good article, also don’t forget you can left click on the start menu and drag it to the other monitor

  283. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! This is exactly what I was looking for :) You are a godsend! (Sidenote: On my laptop, an HP, the shortcut was fn+f4. They symbol looks something like this: |O| except the O is a rectangle.) Hope that helps any HP user!

  284. it did not work for me and i tried 12 times, did exactly what you said and all it did was turn my external monitor on and my laptop did not turn of so if you could help me i would be a little happier.

  285. THANK YOU!! I have been trying to figure out how to fix this forever!

  286. This helped me today for my Dell Inspiron 600m with Win XP. One more thing, as per dell owner manual, Func-F8 needs to be pressed more than once. First time it sends signal to both laptop screen and external monitor, at next press only monitor (and laptop screen switches off). Also lots of thanks to the author here.

  287. WOW! Many thanks, I too spent too much time, and was about to give up on this until I stumbled on your solution!

    Works great!

  288. hello i am having an issue that i am hoping someone here can answer. my monitor on my laptop monitor is labeled as a plug and play monitor and my external “dual screen” monitor is labeled as my default monitor. the problem is that my computer thinks that my internal laptop monitor is labeled as my plug and play and not my default internal monitor as it should be. i have tried changing settings in both display properties and the graphics properties.

  289. Thank you so much !!! I was about to pull my hair out and you just saved me from having a really bad day !!

  290. Awesome post! Thank you — it works perfectly.

  291. best advise on how to fix something on coputer in long time.
    two days of frustration taken care of in 2 minutes thanks to you.
    job well done.

  292. Thank you very much!

    I use to configure/reconfigure/reboot and press a bunch of keys which may take me hours before it finally work and end up confuse as to what was the right step/action for it to work.

    Now I actually know how to make it work once!

  293. When I press the CRT/LCD it wont toggle to my disabled screen, could it be because it is connected by HDMI not VGA?

  294. Awesome. I couldn’t make my bigger monitor as primary, your advice did the trick! Thank you!

  295. Thank you for this. ive been searching for this for a week. you’re awesome! good job.

  296. I love you. Thank you.

  297. Aces… well written. Easy to follow. And thanks for doing the digging.

  298. Awesome! All I was missing was the fn part, I just wanted to use my lappy on the big screen without doubling the desktop space. Thank you very much!!!

  299. Thank you! I prefer my laptop screen as primary, but this morning the external monitor had taken the lead. Your article got me back to normal before the help desk even opened.

  300. Dude you are the bomb Saved me. Open a business I’ll buy from you

  301. Excellent tip – simple and works fine for me. Couldn’t find out how to get around this from Microsoft.

  302. GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You Have Found The Best Way Ever THANK YOU

  303. Dude, you are a freaking genius. been having this issue for a while. THANK YOU.

  304. Dude, that’s awesome sauce! Thank you for posting this fix.

  305. I love solutions. And I love you!

  306. Thank you soooooooooo much!

  307. Awesome man… Was SOOOOO simple!!!

  308. Thanks. Can’t believe it was so easy…

  309. Thanks a lot, really appreciate this tutorial. super easy to follow for a mild tech guy like myself. Appreciate the effort!!!

  310. Thanks! This had been driving me mad. Your solution worked for me.

  311. Worked for me. thanks.


  312. I had been trying to do this for a while and succeeded after referring to your recommendation. Thanks so much for sharing.

  313. Hi, I’m one of those, for whose laptop it doesn’t work. Also no software could change it. Probably some laptops really can’t switch primary monitor to some extern display.

  314. thank you so much! took the help desk at my company 3 weeks to tell me this wasn’t possible…fixed it with the help of your article myself in 3 seconds!

  315. GREAT I messed with this for 2 hours before i looked on the web. took 2 seconds to fix it. Thanks to you i got rid of my headache real fast.

  316. Just wanted to add my thanks. Thank goodness yours was the first hit on Google that I tried. I can absolutely see me spending hours trying to figure this out. I had already spent a bit of time on it in Display Settings and had given up when I thought to Google it.

    I did have an issue because when I made my laptop monitor my secondary monitor, Windows changed the color to 8-bit or something. I didn’t know what to do but figured out that when you change your resolution this problem is resolved. So apparently what happened was when I made it my secondary, it put the resolution all the way down to 800 x 600. Once I changed that to 1200 x 800 or something, the secondary monitor was fine.

  317. OMG thank you so much! I spend DAYS on this and thought I would have to settle for it the other way around which slowed down my work considerably. Thanks again.

  318. Thank you Sir! Worked like a charm on an HP 6930 with an HP L1755 external monitor.

  319. Thank you!
    My company still uses XP and I couldn’t get my monitor to become primary for the life of me!

  320. My hero!! I am so happy right now.

  321. Wow… the comments keep pouring in. I’m glad this has helped so many people!

  322. This is still helping people! Thanks!!!

  323. Thank you SO MUCH! This was driving me nuts this morning, and now, thanks to you, it’s fixed! My big monitor had been the primary one for ages, but then today, I undocked the laptop to go to a meeting. When I redocked it afterward, suddenly the settings were all screwed up. So glad to have it back to normal!!

  324. thanx a lot! My monitors had reverted after my lunch @ work I don’t know why, and it was driving me crasy I spent hours in microsoft help, in control panel and other blogs in internet and asked for help but we cold’nt get it fixed. then I tried a last desperate time to search in Google then directly I found out this article and I’m so glad

    for me it is the contrary, I prefer to have my laptop as primary. And the pics you added to your text are really helpful to understand it easily I HAD to say thank you because I see it is an old article…(for me it’s fn +f4)

  325. Thanks, worked wonderfully for me!

  326. Donna Svei aka

    You’re a God!

  327. Thanks for the tip, now I know how to do this each time.

  328. Thanks – this was annoying …you’ve helped four others at my office. Much appreciated!

  329. worked..thats what exactly i was looking for…thanks :)

  330. I have a lenovo t500 and for some reason the fn/f7 keys do not do anything!!!?!!?!?

  331. Fantastic.. everytime I take my laptop home from work I go nuts trying to set my external monitor back up like you have in the picture. Like you I prefer to have my start menu and desktop on the left with my external monitor. This will save me calls to my company’s technical area. Huge Help.

  332. Nice work and still pertinent.

  333. Thanks! Worked great for Windows Vista. Right on.

  334. Hoi Ryan,

    Zojuist gebruik gemaakt van jouw oplossing en het werkt!! Super bedankt voor jouw gedetailleerde beschrijving!

  335. Thank you!!!!

  336. You rock! Other forums on the internet are still searching for this solution, and you’ve known it for 5 years now. It saves me from looking like an incompetent in our weekly review meetings that involve my laptop and a presentation screen.

  337. Thanks, it really works! I’ll be adding this site to my reading list for more useful tips ;D

  338. you rock dude!! it worked wonderfully..Thanks much

  339. Thanks! Just FYI I googled “primary monitor switched” and it shows up as the first hit.

  340. Thanks. This is really helpful and made things a lot easier for me. Did you ever think to make it a pdf or other type document people could download?
    thanks again…. you’re my hero! :)

  341. Thanks a lot. Got it worked!

  342. There’s actually a program out there called Ultramon, google it. It allows you to change your main monitor at will with 2 clicked. The only problem is it costs money, but you can get a 30 day free trial. What I did was got the trial, then just left my second monitor as the main once it ran out.

  343. I wish I had seen these brilliant solutions an hour ago!
    In an attempt to make my Toshiba Satellite laptop monitor the SECONDARY monitor, I thought I had to disable it, then make my larger Samsung monitor the primary, and then re-enable the laptop monitor. But when I disabled the laptop monitor, the laptop told me it had to reboot. After rebooting, the laptop monitor remains black, and in Display/Settings I no longer get monitor icons 1 and 2, but only a single monitor, which is the external (Samsung) monitor.
    I’ve tried disconnecting the external monitor and rebooting. The laptop monitor then works normally, but if I connect the external monitor (VGA) again, it lights up and the laptop turns black again. I even tried rebooting with the external monitor disconnected, then being sure to select “Enable” for the laptop monitor in Display/Settings. But the external monitor alone functions again when it’s connected. Very frustrating!
    Any ideas? (Running Windows XP)

  344. Ryan,

    Wow. Seems so simple once you read thru it. I can’t believe I wasted a good 30 mins fooling around with it before finding your site.

    Thanks a lot for the great information and have a great 2012!


  345. Ryan,

    Thanks dude! I had to take my laptop out of its docking station for some field work, and I just couldn’t seem to get it back the way I’d had it before. I never remember my laptop giving me this kind of trouble. Your suggestion worked like a charm!

    Much appreciated!


    • Ha, no problem. Sometimes Microsoft makes the simplest things extremely frustrating. It took me awhile to figure this out as well.

  346. Great tip Ryan, just used your suggestion ot fix the same issue for me. Amazing how useful it proves to be even after almost 5 years since you figured it out!


  347. I had the same issue and while reading through this page, thought of “Presentation director” of my ThinkPad. It sure had one click solution for this issue. You need to choose a preset setting.

  348. Thanks so much for the tip. I had this issue for years but usually, I restarted the laptop to get the monitor as primary. This morning I did not give up and found your tip. It was so great that I could make the monitor as primary without rebooting the laptop. As the key function Fn+F? keys, I made the guess. If someone has the laptop Levono T420, the F? key is F7. After pressing Fn+F7, a menu pops up, then select Fn+F7 for more options, check the bottom one for choosing your monitor as primary key. Have a great one everyone!

  349. Thanks so much! I find it amazing that this tip is as relevant now as it was in 2007 when you originally posted it. Theres still no aditional help on the microsoft site to help. I have referred to your tip a few times before. One thing I might add is that IF your mouse cursor ends up not working as expected (ie. stopping at the left hand side of primary screen (thats positioned to the right of secondary) instead of going across to the secondary screen), simply drag and drop (swap) monitor 1 and 2 around on the settings.

  350. Several years old and this post is still very useful! Thanks so much!

  351. A thankfull stranger

    thank You!

  352. Thanks sooooooo much! This has been driving me CRAZY….admittedly that was a short trip but your post solved this problem for me!

  353. 11 stars. Thank you. Why its not more obvious is a mystery, so thank you.

  354. Injured laptop screen

    Thanks very much for this…my laptop screen has massive columns of black appearing that are slowly spreading across the screen and making it unusable. Swopping the primary monitor has been a life saver. Thanks again.

  355. Thanks for the post. I was having trouble with this issue and this solved the problem. wouldn’t have thought to look at the F8 key. Nice Work!

  356. Please help me! I attached a projector to my HP computer and switched to the other monitor. Then I detached the projector and the screen stayed the projector-mode. I have Vista and I am not able to go back to the standard screen.

  357. I nearly threw my laptop off a balcony over this problem. Anytime you’re in Barcelona, I’m buying you a beer.

  358. I was wondering for some time why the heck it XP was doing that. Perfect explanation I really appreciate it. JC

  359. Thanks! This is the only page that provides straight forward and clear explanations on how to rectify the problem. Thanx again..!

  360. Oh my goodness! Thank you so much. I was finicking with it for an hour!!! Googled dozens of pages. Nothing did it. Gosh, thank you from preventing me from pulling out all of my hair!

  361. Hey, thank you so much! You are my hero. This worked right away. And it’s funny because my laptop is the Dell Inspiron 1501 as well lol.

  362. Thanks a lot. I managed to do it once by mistake and i could not remember how i did it. you saved me a lot of fuss and a neck injury.

  363. I have a HP EliteBook 84600w and I’ve pressed all combination of FN and Functions keys and nothing happens. I’ve pressed Function keys by themselves and with the FN key but nothing happens.

    I womder if someone other has the same computer as me.


  364. Thank God I found your posting! It took *forever* for me to come up with the same solution some time ago. BUT, I just attached a *new* monitor, and couldn’t for the life of me remember what I’d done to make the *first* one work! All I needed was your reminder!

    NOTE: This information was much more CRUCIAL for me than for most people–because the reason I was trying to swap in the first place is THE LAPTOP SCREEN DIED months ago. Until I got the new monitor to work using the “f” key…I didn’t have any monitor at all!

    (So, how did I accomplish *anything* with a blank screen? I could–just barely–make out the Windows “properties” options by aiming a flashlight at the dead screen. Believe it or not!)


  365. Thanks, mate.
    I tried everything on a XP machine till saw this post.

  366. I had a similar problem but with my windowns 7 desktop and hd tv screen. I sometimes connect via my surround system, my desktop to my hd tv screen thru hdmi cable. For some reason it switched my pc monitor as nr2 and my tv screen as nr1 while my tv screen is not my primary, nor computer screen. So I needed to select projector screen to get my pc screen again.
    Everytime, after using my tv screen, I needed to unplug my hdmi cable to get my pc monitor screen back. Leaving a blank tv screen on was also possible but not what I wanted.
    Thanks to your post and one of the post about win 7 key + P, I figured it out! It worked in the past that I could just extend my desktop to my hd tv screen and back without unplugging my hdmi cable for the tv screen.
    And now I got this feature back! :)
    This is how I did it; while in (duplicated or) extended desktop mode I turned off my tv screen & surround system leaving me with a black monitor screen as a result (hdmi cable still plugged in). Then I blindly used the windows key + P in combination with the right arrow + enter key to switch thru the different screen setups and finally after my second blind key combination, I got my monitor active again without unplugging my hdmi cable.
    So like the fn key on a laptop, one can do the same on his desktop with the windows + P keys and then stepping thru the different screen by right arrow & enter.
    Repeat blindly this combination until you have you computer screen back:
    windows key + “P” followed by right arrow + enter

  367. Awesome ! Worked perfectly the first time. I had been messing with it on and off for a few days. Thanks !!!!!!!!

  368. I know this post is old but it really helped me. Well done and thanks.

  369. thanks bro! i have the same laptop as you i think 0.o a dell inspiron 1501? white border on the lid and laptop edge. well, we got this laptop back in like 2006 so, ya i think we do. hahaha. i also had the same combo and same keyboard layout as you. the combo (fn f8 worked for me) thanks man =)

  370. THANK-YOU!!!

    you saved my job, my boss has this old laptop and was like: make my monitor work. without your post i would of been a cooked goose!

  371. Thank you so much for the post :) Saved me quite a bit of time this morning :D

  372. Thanks so much for the post. I have been looking for this for quite some time. helped a lot :)

  373. thanks a lot man! it works for me

  374. that helped, after my desktop pc died at least i can make a use of the monitor and the old laptop for a while :) thanks mate

  375. You are Genius. I just used this myself and also helped one of my customer fix his setting. Thanks


  376. I see you posted this 7 years ago, but it helped me today to solve the problem … I am not surprised some of your posters are saying their IT dept told them it couldn’t be done … thanks

  377. Thanks very much, this solved my problem!

  378. I have been trying for days to fix this, thank you so much for your solution.

  379. I know this was posted years ago (you are the first result on google when searching this problem, haha), but I needed to give a big THANK YOU. My laptop’s backlight is busted and for some reason i needed to reset it every time it went to sleep mode to get it to recognize the external monitor again… Now I never have to put up with that again! :) You’re such a frustration saver!

  380. “Hopefully this will help someone out there because I spent hours searching the Internet trying to figure it out before finally sitting down and trying to come up with a solution myself.”

    YES IT DID!!!

    You are really a life saver. I tried Microsoft help but without any success. This is great!!! Thanks a lot.

  381. Thanks for this – it worked for me :0)

  382. Thank you very much, this was exactly what I was looking for. Like you said, it’s frustrating to know you should be able to do a thing but can’t find out how to do it. For the most part, I was able to slide everything over as I needed it (very time consuming), but I just downloaded RCT2 and could not get it into windowed mode but full screen could not be moved. Well now, thanks to you, I have moved my whole desktop to my other monitor (which is at eye level) and problem solved. God Bless you.

  383. i have problems with the FN+F8 part it does nothing im on windows vista please help me

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