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How to Use A Laptop as A Monitor (for Extending Displays, as A Primary Displays, & for Gaming)

How to Use A Laptop As A MonitorWant to use your laptop as a monitor? Need help setting it up? This guide will show you how to use your laptop as a monitor.

If you’re looking to extend your desktop’s display and use your laptop as a second or third monitor for your PC, in this guide, we’re going to show you how to do so. While it might seem like a simple process where all you have to do is connect your laptop to your desktop with an HDMI cable (or other video input cable), the reality is that it doesn’t work like that. The HDMI port (or VGA, or DVI, or DisplayPort) that comes on your laptop will only work for outputting its display and it will not work as a video input for another device.

That means that if you want to display your laptop’s screen on a larger display (TV, monitor, projector, etc.) or connect it to another display to extend your laptop’s display, you can do so by simply connecting the additional display to your laptop. However, you cannot connect your laptop to your PC with a cable to get your laptop to display what your PC is outputting.

So, in order to get your laptop’s display to function as a monitor for another device, you must either use built-in features on Windows or use third-party software in order to get the two devices working together correctly. And, in this guide, we’ll show you the different options you have for setting up your laptop as either a second display for your PC or as its primary display.

How to Use A Laptop As A Second Monitor to Extend the Display of Your PC

1. Using Miracast on Windows Systems

The first option is to use the Miracast feature that can be found on Windows devices. To set this up you need to do the following.

On the Laptop You Wish to Use As A Secondary Display

  1. Click on the start menu and go into settings (the gear icon)
  2. From there, click on the System Icon
  3. Then click on “Projecting to this PC” option in the menu to the left
  4. Make sure you change the first drop-down menu to Available (you have two different options)
  5. Configure the other settings to your desires
  6. Once this is done, go back to the main PC that you want to set up your laptop as a secondary display for

*NOTE: If you’re getting a red error message that reads “Projecting to this PC. We are still trying to determine the feature capabilities” check out this thread on the Microsoft Help forums for a possible fix. I had to go into my Device Manager and uninstall and reinstall the Microsoft Wi-Fi Direct Virtual Adapter in order to get this error message to go away and give me the option to set up “Projecting to this PC”

On the Main PC That You Want to Use Your Laptop’s Display as Secondary Display For

  1. Click on the Notifications/Action center icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the taskbar
  2. Click on Connect on the menu on the bottom of the Notifications slide-out menu
  3. When the laptop you want to connect to appears, select it
  4. Then go back to your laptop and accept the connection
  5. Finally, on your main PC, right-click on your desktop and select ‘Display Settings’
  6. From the Display menu, make sure that under the ‘Multiple displays’ section, you have chosen to ‘Extend desktop to this display’
  7. Then, rearrange your desktop and laptop’s displays in the appropriate manner by dragging and dropping the display icons at the top of the ‘Display Settings’ screen

Some Compatibility Issues With Miracast

Not everyone will be able to use Miracast. I had trouble getting my laptop to connect using Miracast because it requires the use of Intel HD graphics and since my system has a dedicated graphics card in it, I couldn’t get it to work.

Your desktop PC will also need to utilize a wireless connection to connect to the laptop. Since I use an ethernet connection and don’t have onboard Wi-Fi, I would have to use a wireless adapter in order to utilize my laptop as an additional display.

2. Using A Third-Party Program Like Space Desk

A much better option that isn’t restricted by some of the compatibility issues that plagues Miracast is to use a third-party program like Space Desk.

In order to use Space Desk, you just need to download the Space Desk Drive program on your main system and the Space Desk Viewer program on the laptop that you wish to use as an extended display for your main system.

Rather than give you a step-by-step list of how to set Space Desk up, you can watch this video on how to do so from YouTube channel Pear Crew:

Using Space Desk I was able to get my laptop working as an extended display much quicker and easier than trying to use Miracast.

Remotely Connecting to Your Desktop from Your Laptop

Another option you might prefer is to use your laptop’s display (and its keyboard, mouse, trackpad) to control another computer. Obviously, this is a little bit different of an option than using your laptop as a monitor, as instead, you’ll be using your laptop to have complete control over your main PC. And, if you’re looking for a way to use your more mobile laptop to gain access to your main desktop system, this is the way to go.

TeamViewer
TeamViewer is a third-party application that makes controlling your desktop from your laptop (or controlling any system from another device) incredibly simple.

Connecting remotely to your desktop from your laptop is a pretty simple process that can be accomplished with a variety of third-party programs. I use TeamViewer as it is a fairly straight-forward process:

How to Use Your Laptop to Remotely Control Your Desktop PC

  • Go to teamviewer.us and download TeamViewer on both your laptop and your desktop
  • Once you have TeamViewer downloaded, install it on both of your systems
  • Grab the TeamViewer ID for your desktop computer
  • Open TeamViewer on your laptop
  • On your laptop, type in the ID of your desktop computer into the Partner ID field and click Connect
  • It will ask you for your desktop’s password, enter it and hit Log On
  • You’ll now be able to control your desktop from your laptop

Streaming Games to Your Laptop from Your Desktop Using Steam In-Home Streaming

For gaming-specific purposes, you can also use your laptop to play Steam games from your desktop using Steam’s In-Home Streaming option. I use this feature quite a bit if I want to play games in my bed, or somewhere other than my office (where my desktop is located.)

This is also advantageous because if your laptop isn’t strong enough to play more demanding games and your desktop is, you can still play those more demanding games on your laptop by streaming them from your gaming desktop. So, for instance, I have a ~5-year old laptop with a pretty weak GPU in it and I can still play games like The Witcher 3 on it if I stream it from my desktop.

Steam In-House Streaming
I use Steam’s In-House Streaming feature to either give me more flexibility on where I can play my games (stream to my smart TV), or to stream more-demanding games (that my laptop can’t normally run) to my laptop.

The downsides are that you can see a drop in latency in your games, which can make playing competitive games through In-Home Streaming much more difficult.

But, if you want to try out In-Home Streaming from your desktop to your laptop, here’s how you set it up…

  • Open Steam on both your desktop and your laptop and log in using the same account
  • From your laptop, click on the game in your library that you want to play
  • Instead of hitting ‘Play’, hit the drop-down menu arrow next to ‘Play’ and select “Stream from…”
  • Then hit ‘Stream’

Your laptop will now start streaming the game from your desktop and you can use a controller our your laptop’s keyboard and a mouse to play the game.

Hey, I’m Brent. I’ve been building computers and writing about building computers for a long time. I’m an avid gamer and tech enthusiast, too. On YouTube, I build PCs, review laptops, components, and peripherals, and hold giveaways.

33 thoughts on “How to Use A Laptop as A Monitor (for Extending Displays, as A Primary Displays, & for Gaming)”

  1. Hey so I’m on a roadtrip right and I brought my laptop and my gaming console.. is there like any way I can play my console using the laptops screen as a monitor.

    Reply
  2. Hi, I have completly different problem, it is about connecting PC to TV over HDMI cable, cable is ok, ports on TV are good and before I got PC I checked and it worked with other test TV from friend perfectly, any solution to that as I cant access my PC now as I dont have any other screens or monitors.

    Reply
    • Hi,
      Check if your Display driver is up to date.

      Connect HDMI on PC/Laptop and connect HDMI on tv.

      Click Windows+ P for projection setting. Select appropriate Duplicate or extend.

      Reply

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