How to fix a second monitor not detected error in Windows 10 and Windows 11

A person editing video on a computer.
Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you work at a computer, you may struggle to find space for all of your apps and windows – unless you attach a second screen and double your desktop real estate.

Deploy two displays and you’ll have loads more space for your software, and so it’ll make your working days easier and more productive – you won’t spend as much time switching between apps and trying to find space.

A second screen is a particular boon if you work on a laptop. An extra panel doesn’t just make your workday easier, either: you can use a second screen for media and comms tools while gaming, or spread out creative tools to edit photos or videos.

If you add a second screen you’ll wonder how you coped before, and it’s usually pretty easy to set up. But computers can be fickle and frustrating, and you may find that your second display isn’t detected.

Thankfully, this issue is often easy to fix with the same methods on Windows 10 and Windows 11, and we’ve explained exactly how to solve the problem. There’s more computing help on Techradar, too: click here for top tips on password security, or take a look at the best monitor stands for 2023 to further improve your working environment. 

Reader offer: 55% off for Techradar users

Reader offer: 55% off for Techradar users
Update your system with the latest Windows drivers with DriverFix. Safe & Easy. Supports all PC devices! For Windows 7/8/10 and even XP. Fixes Crashes, Prevents Errors, Boosts PC Performance. Money Back Guarantee. Fixes PC Problems Fast. 24/7 Support. Now with 55% off for TechRadar users, as low as $3.60/user/year. 

Preferred partner (What does this mean?

Basic physical checks

It’s tempting to assume that any computer issue will be difficult to fix, but if your second screen won’t display then it might be alarmingly easy.

Before you head into the Control Panel or display driver, do some basic physical checks of your equipment.

Make sure that your display cables that run between your display and your PC or laptop are connected properly. If you can, use different cables in different ports, and test with a different display if you’ve got one available. Try all of this and you’ll quickly determine if you’ve got a dodgy display, cable or graphics card – and if any of those components need replacing.

Check that the monitor and its plug are both switched on. And if it does boot up, head into the monitor’s menu and check that it’s using the right display input – it’s no good connecting an HDMI cable if the screen thinks it’s hunting for a DisplayPort connection.

If you’ve done these checks and everything seems fine, reboot your PC or laptop. It’s amazing how often that will fix a computer issue.

Look through a window

If everything seems fine physically, it’s probably a software problem. Before you get too technical it’s worth investigating the Windows control panel. The methods here are virtually unchanged between Windows 10 and Windows 11, so you’ll find most things in the same place on both operating systems.

Attempt some initial checks. Press the Windows key, type “settings” in the search box, and open the Settings app. Once that’s loaded, head into the System section, then click Display.

Scroll down to the Multiple Displays section. Click the Detect button and you’ll find out if your PC can find the second screen. If it does, a graphic showing two screens will appear at the top of the main Display window. If not, Windows will tell you it couldn’t find another display.

If you can see the graphic with two screens but still can’t get any input from your second panel, there are a couple of tricks to try.

Click on each monitor at the top of the Display window and make sure it’s set at the right resolution – if that’s wrong, it can sometimes trip up a screen and it won’t render anything. Make sure it’s scaling at 100% and not any other figure.

Click the Advanced Display Settings button in Windows 10 or the Advanced Display button in Windows 11 and also check the refresh rate. This figure represents how often your computer will send a new image to the display, and if it’s too high then the monitor won’t handle it – and may not display anything at all.

If you look up your monitor’s model number you can find its supported refresh rate on the manufacturer’s website. Make sure you select that rate in the Advanced Display menus.

Open the menu beneath the Multiple Displays section and ensure that your PC is set to Extend These Displays. Choose that option and your desktop will stretch across the two panels.

Driving you crazy 

If the Display menu isn’t showing two screens then you should reinstall or update your display driver.

A driver is a piece of software that helps Windows communicate with your PC or laptop’s hardware, so it’s pretty fundamental. The display driver handles the connection between your screens and your PC’s graphics core – the part that does all of the visual stuff.

If you’re unsure about what graphics core you have, press the Windows key and type in “device manager”. Open the Device Manager and double-click the Display Adapters section.

You’ll almost certainly have graphics hardware made by Nvidia, AMD or Intel. If you have Nvidia or AMD devices, head to their websites to get the latest software. If you’ve got Nvidia hardware, download the Nvidia GeForce Experience app – it’s a tool to manage and update your drivers.

If your PC uses AMD you can use the AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition app to detect and update drivers automatically. This method is applicable for AMD Radeon graphics cards and AMD processors with integrated Radeon chips.

Use those tools to install the latest drivers, reboot your PC, and see if your second screen works.

This method will update your drivers to the latest versions. If you’re already running the latest drivers but you’d like to reinstall the software, you can head to AMD’s website to download the latest versions manually or use the reinstall option within Nvidia GeForce Experience.

If you want to be really thorough, you should uninstall old drivers before reinstalling any software or installing a newer version. To do that properly, visit and download their Display Driver Uninstaller tool. It’s a complex app, but it will wipe all of your Nvidia or AMD drivers so you can install again with a clean slate.

If you’re having second screen issues and you suspect graphics drivers are to blame, doing a complete uninstall first is the most comprehensive approach.

Intel inside?

If your PC or laptop uses Intel graphics then updating the driver is a little different. The easiest method is to press the Windows key, type “check for updates” and open the Windows Update app.

Click the “Check for updates” button and wait to see if anything pops up. If you’ve got an outdated Intel graphics driver, Windows will probably pick it up and install the newer version. We’d also recommend installing everything else here, too – keeping Windows updated is a good idea.

Windows Update doesn’t always detect everything, though. If you want to double-check that you have the latest software, open Device Manager and double-click the Display Adapters section. Right-click the Intel hardware and choose the Update Driver option. This automatically scans the web for updates and installs them, too.

Many PC and laptop manufacturers also make driver updates available on their websites. If you want to be certain about having the latest Intel driver, right-click the Intel hardware in Device Manager, click Properties and then click Driver in the window that opens. This will tell you which driver version is installed.

Head to your laptop, PC or motherboard manufacturer’s website, look up your hardware, and see what software updates are available. You can compare the Intel driver installed on your PC with the version made available by the manufacturer. If it’s newer, download and install.

There’s one more bit of driver-based magic to try that’s applicable for anyone using Nvidia, AMD or Intel graphics – rolling back the software.

While we’d usually recommend using latest versions, they can sometimes introduce unexpected errors. To roll back to an older version, open Device Manager, then Display Adapters, and right-click on your graphics core. Open the Properties menu, then the Driver tab, and click the Roll Back Driver option.

Rolling back may not get your second screen working, but if you’ve tried a clean install of the latest driver alongside all of the other tips we’ve outlined here then it’s certainly worth a try.

Indeed, if you follow the instructions here then you’ll likely get your second screen working – between checking the hardware, ensuring that your Display settings are appropriate and installing the latest graphics driver you should cover the main pitfalls when it comes to dual displays.

All that’s left then is to position the panels properly and rearrange your windows – and start to benefit from the added space that a dual monitor setup can provide.

We've listed the best monitors for home working.

Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.