Here are some steps and limitations for running (two) extra USB monitors on a laptop where you’ll be closing the lid and perhaps sliding the laptop away into a desk (as Jim is doing), docking the laptop and treating it like a desktop PC.
- Set the laptop lid close event to not put the computer asleep (Jim’s already doing this): http://www.mydigitallife.info/2008/06…
- Plug in your two USB-attached displays with the laptop open (so you can work with all 3 screens until it’s configured)
- Open Up Display Properties, click on the USB display that you’d like to be your new primary display, and check “This is my main monitor” and “extend the desktop onto this monitor” but don’t click ok or apply *yet*
- Now, while Display Properties is still up, click back to your laptop monitor display, and uncheck “extend the desktop onto this monitor”. Now you can click “ok” to have the changes for steps 3&4 take effect. Unless you do 3&4 in one step, the change of primary display won’t take.
Your laptop screen is now off – feel free to close the lid – and you’re using the two USB monitors in your “docked” mode. Now unplug the primary USB display, and your laptop goes back to “undocked” mode - your laptop screen comes back as you’d expect. USB screen attached again - back to “docked” mode.
Just the behavior you’d like for what Jim has described.
Now, what are the limitations?
- USB displays have fundamental performance limitations vs. your hardware GPU and their connection to the monitor. For people doing video playback or gaming, they’ll likely prefer keeping their main monitor connection. But for normal application/web use, the convenience of docking with just one cable (as Jim is looking to do) can make USB worth it.
- Only Windows knows how to talk with your USB display. Your system’s BIOS does not. So when your laptop is first booting up, and right at the end when it is stopping, the computer will switch the USB displays off and use the laptop’s main screen (even if the lid is closed). Normally, this doesn’t matter - you’re booting right into Windows and all’s well. But if something goes wrong, keep in mind that you may need to pull out the laptop to see what messages might be displayed there.
Note that things are even easier with Win 7, which has some improvements in how multiple displays are configured through the control panel (which in Win 7 has gotten an unfortunate rename to “Screen Resolution”).
Hope this helps. Let us know if anything is unanswered.
Thanks again for your question, Jim!