How to Daisy Chain Monitors?

How to Daisy Chain Monitors?

Whether you’re a gamer, a programmer, an equities trader, a financial analyst, or a creative, you know that multiple monitors can make you more efficient and better at what you do.

Acquiring the right additional monitors is only one part of the equation. Once you have them, your next task is to get them to work together so you get one seamless work area that incorporates your laptop’s display while offering you more room to do your magic.

The answer is to daisy chain your monitors. Here’s what you need to know and how to do it.

What Is a Daisy Chain?

Daisy chaining, also known as multi-stream transport (MST), is an efficient way to connect multiple monitors in a row. Traditionally, you would have to connect each device to your computer’s video ports which can limit the number of monitors you plug in while creating a labyrinth of cables on your desk. By daisy chaining, you use short cables to connect one monitor to the other.

This handy alternative increases screen real estate while reducing clutter. In addition, it eliminates the risk of accidentally unplugging the wrong device.

Equipment Checklist

Creating a daisy chain monitor setup can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time to do it but don’t worry because the results are worth it. Here’s what you’ll need:

Compatible Monitors

Make sure your PC and connecting monitors support one of these two connecting technologies: DisplayPort (v1.2) or Thunderbolt (version 3 or higher). For example, macOS facilitates daisy chaining via Thunderbolt while DisplayPort MST is typically used for daisy chaining Windows and Linux computers.

Remember:

  • The main computer should have an output port.
  • “Middle of the chain” monitors should have input and output ports.
  • The last monitor in the chain should have an input port.

That’s the secret sauce to creating a highly functional multi-monitor setup.

High-End Graphic Cards

Look at the graphic cards (GPUs) of your computers before you begin. Specifically, check if they’re capable of simultaneously supporting multiple computers.

Only GPUs with the DisplayPort 1.2 MST will work. If your GPU doesn’t support MST, you can download a driver online.

Check Your Cables and Ports

HDMI and other USB ports aren’t useful for daisy chaining. Instead, use version 3 or higher of Thunderbolt as it supports greater bandwidth. You can also use other high-quality, feature-rich cables that support Multi-Stream Transport, such as DisplayPort (versions 1.2 or higher) and Mini-DisplayPort.

You can also use USB-C with DisplayPort Alt Mode in a pinch. This port is capable of transferring DisplayPort video output signals across external devices while allowing devices to charge and transfer data.

How to Daisy Chain Monitors

Planning Your Setup

Here are some things you need to know before daisy chaining monitors:

Layout Matters

Here’s an under-appreciated benefit of daisy chains: you don’t have to worry about juicing up your monitors. As long as your monitors are securely plugged into a power source, they’ll remain active in the chain—even if they’re nowhere near your laptop.

This way, you can adjust your monitors’ orientations for different tasks. For example, you can keep one in portrait mode to read code and another in landscape orientation to view videos.

Go for the Max, But Never Max Out

The number of monitors you can daisy chain will depend on the GPU of your computer. Most can support up to three monitors. The AMD W Series, 400 Series, and Pro Wx Series can support up to 4 DisplayPort 1.2 MSTs. Some can also connect up to 6!

Understand How Resolution Affects Your Chain

Different connecting technologies support different bandwidths. The GPU of your computer can only produce so many pixels. For every display you add to the chain, the resolution will fall, creating a poorer viewing experience.

Here’s how many monitors you can add for specific resolutions:

Display resolution (60Hz refresh rate)

Number of monitors supported in the chain

4096 x 2160 (4K x 2K)

1

3840 x 2160 (Ultra HD, 4K)

1

2560 x 1440

2

1920 x 1200 (WUXGA)

4

1920 x 1080 (Full HD)

4

1680 x 1050

5

How To Daisy Chain Monitors: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Daisy Chain Monitors: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a 3-step guide to daisy chaining monitors with DisplayPort and Thunderbolt:

Step 1: Connect Your Primary Monitor

Is your PC compatible with MST? Enable the settings if necessary. Now, you can move to the next step.

Plug all your monitors into a power source, then use a DisplayPort or Thunderbolt cable to connect your PC to the DisplayPort or Thunderbolt input on Monitor 1.

Next, turn on the devices, go to “display settings” to ensure the operating system detects both monitors, and set the primary monitor as the main display.

Step 2: Adding Subsequent Monitors

Use a DisplayPort Thunderbolt cable to connect DisplayPort or Thunderbolt Out to Monitor 1 (which you plugged into the primary screen). Connect the first monitor to the second with a suitable cable. Repeat the process to connect subsequent monitors in the chain.

Once they’re all connected, power them on to check whether or not they duplicate the main screen.

Step 3: Configuring Display Settings

You probably won’t need your monitors to mirror one screen. So, here’s how to use your additional monitors as display extensions:

  1. Go to Display Settings:
  2. On Windows: Start > Settings > System > Display.
  3. On macOS: Apple menu > System Settings > Displays (from the sidebar)
  4. On Linux: Go to Settings, then click on Display.
  5. Arrange the monitors in the correct order, using your main monitor as your primary display. Drag and drop the other monitors in your preferred order.
  6. Tweak the resolutions. Your monitor’s resolution tends to suffer with each monitor you add. So, if you want a pleasant work experience:
    • Run your primary monitor, where you do visual work like streaming, graphic designing, and rendering, on its highest supported resolution.
    • Keep the second, where you reference documents, on medium resolution.
    • Set the spare, where you chat or take notes, on a lower resolution.

Then, test the functionality. Are the monitors working properly based on your configurations? Are the monitors appearing in your preferred arrangement?

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Here’s how to solve common issues that may arise when you daisy chain your monitors:

Mismatched Resolutions?

There are limits to how many displays you can attach to the monitor.

First things first, avoid going over the limit. If you’re still facing performance issues, go to the Display Settings of each monitor and select your preferred resolution.

Seeing “No Signal?”

Check your cables to ensure they’re not loose. Unplug and plug them in again to ensure a secure connection. If that doesn’t work, change the cable.

You might also want to update your drivers as old versions don’t support MST.

Issues With Arrangement?

Sometimes, your operating system may not immediately recognize your daisy-chained monitors, but that can easily be solved by clicking the “detect” button.

It could also place your displays in the wrong arrangement. If that happens, go to Settings > System > Display > Multiple Displays > Extend these Displays > Select and Rearrange Displays. You can drag and drop them in the right order.

Best Practices and Tips

Make your daisy chaining experience effortless with these genius tips:

  • Use Thunderbolt (3 or 4 certified cables) wherever possible. It has a higher bandwidth than DisplayPort, which offers better support for multi-monitors.
  • Keep the displays on mirror or extend mode based on your preferences.
  • Use the right monitors. Choose models with ergonomic features like adjustability, adaptive picture, blue light filter, and adjustable viewing angles. They reduce the strain on your back and neck while relieving eye strain and fatigue.

If you want a shortcut to daisy chaining, you can use a Thunderbolt docking station to extend your laptop’s capabilities. It’s great for initiating high-speed transfers and better power delivery. The only drawback is it can create clutter but you can easily solve that with some top-tier cable management tricks.

Final Thoughts

Daisy chaining is a great way to expand your screen real estate while ensuring that you get crisp, clear, and detailed visuals. Give yourself more room to operate and transform the way you work and play with the from Mobile Pixels.  

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