Why won't external monitor set as primary?
January 30, 2008 7:50 PM   Subscribe

I can't set my external monitor as the primary monitor on my Dell Laptop in Windows XP, what is wrong?

This worked before with a Compaq laptop. I am following these instructions: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307873
I have it plugged in and everything, and I can extend my windows desktop to it. But I want the start bar on the bottom of the large external monitor. When I choose "Use this device as the primary monitor" the external monitor turns off, and the settings display shows it is no longer being used, and I have to extend the desktop onto it again.

I googled it and found someone with the same problem but they never got an answer :/ http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/53220-3-make-external-monitor-primary-display

Any ideas what is wrong?
posted by jesirose to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had kind of a similar issue with a dual monitor setup. I couldn't really set which was "primary." But I eventually figured out I could just drag the whole Start bar to the other monitor.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:03 PM on January 30, 2008

Did you notice this text at the bottom of the KB article you linked?

"On many portable computers and some desktop computers (those with two video ports on one video card), you can expand your display to a second monitor by using Dualview. Dualview is very similar to the multiple monitor feature, with the exception that you cannot select the primary display. On a portable computer, the primary monitor is always the LCD display screen."
posted by flabdablet at 8:40 PM on January 30, 2008

I have this same problem with my Alienware laptop. I just gave up and dragged the taskbar over to the external screen. It does cause a few issues in that some error messages and such will only appear on the primary screen, but it's not that big of a deal really.

One other problem I had was with the backgrounds--I wanted a different one for each screen and couldn't find a way to do that. I found a free program on Google called DisplayFusion that does this perfectly. If you're going with a dual monitor setup with a laptop, you may want to consider it.
posted by DMan at 8:48 PM on January 30, 2008

I had the same problem when I was about to give a powerpoint presentation on my ol' HP laptop. The trick I found was there was a stupid hp (or compaq possibly) video application installed, designed to make switching monitors "easier". It had a setting that disabled the video output. I can't be sure what the program was exactly because my laptop is no longer functional, but just looking through pre-installed videoesque programs in the start menu might be the key.
posted by JimmyJames at 12:00 AM on January 31, 2008

i had a similar problem, which never got resolved. instead i just use the workaround drjimmy11 suggested, and dragged my start bar to where i wanted it. you just have to remember to check your laptop monitor when opening applications and some other misc. tasks, b/c windows can pop up over there when you're not looking.
posted by kidsleepy at 6:29 AM on January 31, 2008

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