Alt-tab is asking too much! Help me help my computer!
December 15, 2006 10:47 PM   Subscribe

DualMonitorFilter: What am I missing? Two-cards, two monitors to get an extended Windows desktop.

What I want: My main monitor plugged into my newest PCIe card showing my main desktop and games, and my other monitor plugged into another gfx card that will always show an extended windows desktop for browsing, iTunes, etc.

What I have:

Windows XP Pro
GeForce 7950GT (PCIe) -- main card
Radeon 9250 (plain PCI)
HP f2105 -- main monitor
Viewsonic VX710

All fitting into this computer (tigerdirect barebones kit links to motherboard)

I've looked up other AskMeFi posts, visited the wiki entry, read the online help, visited the nVidia and ATI sites, but I can't quite get the hang of it (and I was so impressed with myself putting together the kit, too..). My main gfx card has two heads and can display on both the monitors fine, but I want a two-card setup so that my games run at the max resolution of the main card -- 2 monitors on that one card limits it in the games since it's splitting processing power between the two.

I don't know much about the PCI and PCIe architecture, but I gather from just looking at the mobo that I can't have more than one PCIe card in my computer at once -- the smaller PCIe slots that are labeled on the link must just be for SLI or something (I have another newish nVidia PCIe card if that's wrong and I can use those little slots).

So, I'll have to use the plain PCI card to run the second monitor. When I install the PCI card in one of the plain PCI slots, connect the monitor, and boot -- neither displays anything but the PC (apparantly) continues to keep booting with no display. I installed the secondary monitor drivers as well. I went into the BIOS and changed the PCIe card to the Primary Display Driver (instead of setting it to "Auto"), but the same thing happens -- neither monitor shows anything.

Are the nVidia and ATI cards incompatable for this purpose? I assume it's not a software issue since neither of them are displaying. Is the older ATI card not multi-monitor capable? Do I need to find a nVidia plain PCI card that will play nice with my 7950? Is there something else I'm missing completely?
posted by cowbellemoo to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What you say? Just run them both off your 7950GT. The game will only use one display, leaving the other for Windows. I promise you simple 2D GDI drawing takes no resources on the video card. You might see a 1FPS drop with both monitors enabled on one card. Probably similar to using two seperate video cards.

There is no benefit to using two cards.
posted by SirStan at 11:27 PM on December 15, 2006

Best answer: I've been running multi-monitor (DualView) off 4 different generations of single GeForce cards for years; games run fine. No idea why your two cards don't want to show anything, but it's really not something I would invest effort into working out -- I'm driving 2 1600*1200 panels from a single 7950GT and my benchmarks are perfectly on par with single monitor setups.

The smaller PCIe slots aren't for SLI; that wants another 16x slot. They're 1x slot for use with modest addon cards like disk controllers, network cards, and simple graphics cards -- basically the next generation of bog-standard PCI slot.
posted by Freaky at 2:22 AM on December 16, 2006

Best answer: In World of Warcraft, when I set up my extended desktop on one card, my maximum resolution allowed by the game was 12xx by 900 whereas with only one monitor hooked up to it I have 16xx by 10xx resolution.

Maybe that's a problem I can get around, though. I'll give it another try. There's nothing about a two-monitor-one-card setup that would limit resolution then, right?

Hmm perhaps I should RTFM.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:18 AM on December 16, 2006

It should "just work". I have pretty much the exact same setup as you. A newish PCI-e graphics card and then an older PCI card. (I am running three monitors though). Windows should show up on at least one of your monitors. Then you can right click the desktop, hit properties and then configure multiple monitors from there.

If you're not getting any picture whatsoever, I don't know what to tell you. Are you getting any weird beeps on setup? How do you get into the bios without video (or are you doing that with just the PCI-e card and then putting the PCI card in after?)?
posted by ODiV at 1:35 PM on December 16, 2006

Response by poster: Got it to work on just the new card. There was a setting for hardware acceleration that allowed me to set it for primary display mode instead of multiple monitors. That (I think) allowed my game to recognize the maximum resolution of the card/monitor.

Now I just need to find a way to get my mouse off the screen while in a game without using "windowed mode" (20% fps drop). I'll explore the nView keybinds.

posted by cowbellemoo at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2006

Odd; I've never needed to change out of MultiMonitor Performance Mode, or whatever it's called. You are using DualView, yes? I can see Horizontal Span being more hairy, since the display's configured as one big one spread across two monitors, rather than two semi-independent displays.

MouseJail is invaluable for those games nobody bothered to test using multi-monitor, btw.
posted by Freaky at 8:35 PM on December 16, 2006

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