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How to Use an External Monitor With a Closed Laptop

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I like my laptop, but I do find the screen to be too small. Here is what I did to run my laptop on an external monitor with the lid closed.

Learn how to hook up your laptop to an external monitor while keeping the laptop lid closed.

Learn how to hook up your laptop to an external monitor while keeping the laptop lid closed.

Put Your Laptop in Clamshell Mode While Using a Monitor

So you've got yourself a cool Windows laptop or MacBook to use while on the road. When you are home though, you have a much bigger and better computer monitor. You also have a wireless keyboard and mouse. When you are at home, you want to continue using your laptop software and memory, but you also want to set your laptop aside and not use the laptop screen. Closing the lid of your laptop and using an external screen is also known as clamshell mode.

The article will show you how to keep running your laptop while the lid is closed while connected to an external monitor. You will still use all the great resources of the laptop, but you'll have it shut and set to the side while your external monitor, keyboard, and mouse do all the work.

This article is best suited for Windows 7 laptops and beyond as well as the latest version of Mac OS on a MacBook. Macs are a bit easier to hook up to the monitor.

How to Use Your Windows Laptop With a Monitor and the Lid Closed

Step 1

The first step to running your laptop with the lid closed is to click on the "Start" button. For those of you new to Windows, this is the circular Microsoft button on the lower left side of your screen.

Step 2

Then go ahead and select "Control Panel" in the window that appears to the side.

Step 3

Go to the section titled "Hardware and Sound." It is located about the middle left section of the control panel window. Click directly on the words "Hardware and Sound"

Step 3: From the control panel, click on "hardware and sound."

Step 3: From the control panel, click on "hardware and sound."

Step 4

In the "Hardware and Sound" window, look for the "Power Options" section. This is located about halfway down the window.

In the power options section, click on "Change What the Power Buttons Do."

Step 4: Make sure that you click on "change what the power buttons do."

Step 4: Make sure that you click on "change what the power buttons do."

Step 5

In the window that opens, look for the section titled "When I Close the Lid"
Next to this title, you'll see two drop-down menus that by default will be set to "Sleep."

Change the "On Battery" and "Plugged In" drop-down menus to "Do Nothing." Depending on which power source you want to use while using an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Step 5: Open the drop-down menu under "on battery" and select "do nothing."

Step 5: Open the drop-down menu under "on battery" and select "do nothing."

Step 5: Open the drop-down menu under "plugged in" and select "do nothing."

Step 5: Open the drop-down menu under "plugged in" and select "do nothing."

Step 6

Then finish by clicking the "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the window.
That should do it. Now when you close the lid, your laptop won't do anything when you close it. It will continue to run. Now you'll be able to use all the resources of the laptop (via your external keyboard, monitor, and mouse) while it is shut.

Step 7

Another screen might appear, asking you what power plan you want to use. I just close this screen by hitting the close "X" block. I haven't messed with this and so far haven't found a need to.

Also, when you close your laptop lid, your external monitor might go black for a second. Don't panic, as it will come back on. It only does this temporarily.

Changing the Display and Audio Options

  1. Once you have changed the power settings, you have to make sure that the display settings and the audio settings are what you want. Using a large monitor will change the resolution of the image on the screen.
  2. Open up the project menu by hitting the Windows key + P
  3. You will see a few options for how you want to display your laptop to the monitor but choose 2nd screen only. That way, your screen will only appear on the external monitor.
  4. Go to settings and click on display options to make sure that the resolution is set correctly. Keep in mind that older laptops will not be able to have the same resolution as newer ones and that there may be a discrepancy from your laptop's resolution and the resolution of your monitor.
  5. Depending on the resolution of your laptop and monitor, you will have to change those settings.
  6. You may also have to change the audio settings to use your monitor's speakers. This can also be accessed from the hardware and audio section of the control panel.
Click on Windows button + the P key to bring up this menu.

Click on Windows button + the P key to bring up this menu.

Instructions for a Windows Laptop

How to Use Your MacBook With a Monitor and the Lid Closed

MacBooks are a bit easier to configure as they will automatically match the resolution of the monitor, though the cable you have to use may be different. Make sure you have an HDMI cable if your MacBook has that port. Newer MacBooks will have a USB-C port, so you will need to purchase a special adapter. If you have a newer monitor, it may work with a USB-C port, so make sure to check the ports on your monitor.

Connect your MacBook to the cable and adjust the screen settings as needed.

Once you close the screen, the monitor will go black for a few seconds, and then the display will be normal.

Instructions for a MacBook

Screen Mirroring

If you have the option and the right WiFi setup, you can mirror your screen to an external monitor wirelessly. Make sure you look at your laptop and monitor to see if they can support that. Newer Windows laptops and MacBooks will have the option for you to connect wirelessly. On Mac OS, it is known as AirPlay, which allows you to mirror your screen to an HDTV through an AppleTV accessory.

Quick Poll

Final Thoughts

Thanks so much for reading this article. This will really come in handy when you want to utilize all the benefits of desktop accessories such as external keyboards, a mouse, and a large external monitor screen. You'll also save some space since you are using your laptop rather than some big old tower or bulky desktop.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2011 TurtleDog

Comments

Bala T on August 09, 2020:

Very useful tip, worked perfectly for me.

Jennifer Capps on April 11, 2020:

Please somebody help me and tell me how to reverse this using with lid closed and what to do after to get it back to not screen if lid open

Greyarcher on March 01, 2020:

hi very informative thank you. will the closed laptop overheat during use.

MaryJo on November 06, 2019:

Very helpful thanks.

Jayson on March 31, 2019:

You're a BEAST!!! tnx

sree on March 21, 2019:

Thank you!

Vaishu on January 20, 2019:

Thank you

Le on November 10, 2018:

Thank you so much for having this posted! My laptop from work was working one day and the next it didn't after some IT updates. So glad I was able to fix the problem just by looking it up!!

Vaibhav on November 01, 2018:

Thank you so much

Dave on September 09, 2018:

Glad to see a page from 2016 is still very helpful in 2018! Thanks!

James on August 19, 2018:

thanks that worked great

DL on August 12, 2018:

Thank you, the information is very useful.

Chris ottey on August 10, 2018:

Youve made an old man very happy

saiedov on July 10, 2018:

Thanks for your information; it is helpful

Me on May 24, 2018:

You are awesome...thank you for sharing and making it so simple!!!

bob on February 23, 2018:

good instructions

Jolio on February 20, 2018:

That did the trick!

mike on February 05, 2018:

hahaha and what to do when you have win10?

Solano on January 23, 2018:

best help ever!

Satish Mc on January 20, 2018:

Thanks a lot, This helped.

Jessi on January 01, 2018:

Thanks this was very helpful!!!!

dan on January 01, 2018:

thanks lifesaver

Ern on December 13, 2017:

Finally!! I am crying now!

Aida on December 11, 2017:

Thank you sooooo much for this!!!

Me on December 04, 2017:

Great direction, got right to it and worked the first time. Thank you!

Anonymous on November 27, 2017:

Thank you. This saved my afternoon of me crying on my pillow and crying myself to sleep.

Manny on November 20, 2017:

Great! Thanks for the information.

Computer User on October 21, 2017:

I did this. I have my computer on 24hrs a day as I listen to relaxing music to sleep. I believe the heat from the laptop damaged my laptop computer screen over time.

ML on October 18, 2017:

Great article! My IT folks couldn't do it (well only one). Thanks

Tom on October 12, 2017:

Works on Windows 10 as well as Windows 7, both of their Control Panels are similar to each other.

Kayla on September 26, 2017:

This article was very helpful and simple!

The steps were very easy to follow and understand

Tom on September 15, 2017:

thanx for the help. needed the help for my big 27' monitor for when I use it for my laptop.

Dee on September 12, 2017:

Perfect! Thank you.

Lisa on August 28, 2017:

Everything works for me with the lid closed except my mouse. It is a wired mouse plugged into the docking station and it works fine when lid is open. Is there any way to fix this?

Jess on August 23, 2017:

Thank you sooo much I was going crazy! lol

Ryk Mchoraji on August 23, 2017:

Thanks

Rob on August 18, 2017:

Thanks you very much! You certainly made it easy!

Mehboob Alam on August 03, 2017:

Great Explanation I was searching last 2 years, this is nice way of explaining it.

One Last Question, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 on both this method applicable ?

Mike Corry on June 17, 2017:

Thank You!

Vinay on May 31, 2017:

Very nice information. Thanks

Ruslan on May 16, 2017:

Thank you very much!

Mark46 on May 07, 2017:

Can i do this with ordinary (not wireless) keyboard and mouse as well?

Canuck57 on April 17, 2017:

Good information, and it does work. My only problem is that since I purchased a new computer I now need to keep the lid open until after the computer has booted. If not it simply shuts off after it starts. With my old computer I could close the lid as soon as I turned the power on and everything was fine. However, once my new computer is booted up it will work properly with the lid closed.

reg on April 01, 2017:

This is was very helpful.

Thanks

aditya pallewar on March 13, 2017:

thank you for your help

Frenchy55 on March 07, 2017:

You are great!. Thank you for the explanation!!!!

Mandy on March 05, 2017:

I went searching for an article to setup my laptop as a desktop and this was the best article. Right to the point. Everyone keeps trying to get you to get a docking station but your article not only gives a fantastic lesson but saves some bucks. Thank you so much for the wonderful information.

Antonio on March 02, 2017:

Nice, but I loose wifi connection when I close the lid. Even when set to "do nothing". I called HP support and they couldn't fix it.

Erik B on February 27, 2017:

Thanks a lot. This was a really good tips. Easy and well explaibed - even though I'm running Win 10.

/Erik

vedansh kumar on January 15, 2017:

thankyou for help

philip on January 14, 2017:

Thank you very much :)

Chay on December 29, 2016:

This confirms what I had in mind! My monitor is a problen, but I have the TV now as my monitor, Thought I could use my laptop as my CPU, and buy an external keyboard. You answered the question on my head!

Thank you so much.

Rio on December 14, 2016:

Thanks!!!

Hassaan on November 06, 2016:

Thanks man! This helped a lot!

MDK on October 04, 2016:

Since the last windows update all that was posted does not work

malthoff on September 17, 2016:

Thank you, knew it had to be something simple. Using this on a Window 8.1 machine. Nice to know MS at least left some consistencies in the OS.

Ram on August 31, 2016:

Hi there,

I am using windows 10. Though the options explained in the post are different on windows 10, I managed to find "when I close the lid option" and chose "do nothing" in the drop down.

Now when close the lid of my laptop, I can still use it on an external screen. However, now the issue I am facing is that as soon as I close the lid of my laptop, the font size on the external screen - autocratically - becomes smaller, as if someone zoomed out the screen. Could you please help me with this?

Thanks a ton!

Aryeh Taub on July 13, 2016:

Hi!

Thanks for the nice and detailed guide.

After shutting the lid, the PC thinks the laptop monitor is still running, so sometimes windows open there, and the mouse is lost a bit.

I'm using extended monitors function.

How can I tweak the system so that when I close the lid, I switch to External Monitor output only?

Juan on April 23, 2015:

How do you get sound out when it's in clamshell mode?

LLB on April 21, 2015:

This work perfectly on my Windows 8 operating system. Thank you very much.

TurtleDog (author) on November 16, 2014:

Hi Sorry Travis and Jaci . Sounds like you've checked and tried everything so maybe this differes on your respective computers. Best of luck!

Irais ... Thanks so much and glad this worked for you!

Travis on November 16, 2014:

Hi yeah i tried all this but the do nothing part doesn't come up on my sony vaio have you any ideas please i outta ideas

Jaci on October 21, 2014:

Mine still shuts the external monitor off. I've tried it like a million times. I have a keyboard, it isn't wireless but my mouse is. This is a huge problem, I don't have a whole lot of desk space and really need to be able to close my laptop. Any ideas? Maybe I have the monitor options set up wrong? I got it to just use the external monitor and double it up or make it use dual monitors. I don't understand why this wont work!? Any suggestions?

Irais on June 24, 2014:

Thank you for your help, now I am happily using only my external monitor and able to close the lid of my lapton, thank you so much for your help.

TurtleDog (author) on May 11, 2014:

Hi Tami (Tampalmsgirl) .... I am not familiar with the product product so I can't answer but thanks so much for stopping by

tampapalmsgirl on May 10, 2014:

I haven't purchased my laptop yet, but plan on purchasing a Toshiba Satellite 17.3" today. I am looking at setting up two external monitors as a desktop configuration. My question is this: I see that I can either purchase Targus USB 3.0 Dual Video Adapter to split the monitors OR the more expensive dock Targus USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station (ACP70USZ). I tried this at work with my aging HP laptop and whatever splitter someone pulled from a backroom, but the result was that I could not display as dual screens. The system only allowed me to Stretch the display across the three screens. My only other option was to leave the laptop open (which I hated) and use a single other external screen which is an awful solution since the screens are 'different' in terms of height and viewing angle.

My question is, using your method and the Targus USB 3.0 Dual Video Adapter (the cheaper option) am I going to be able to close my laptop, use the dual monitors and a Wireless or USB keyboard running Windows 8?

Also, second question-- is the video adapter going to impact the quality of the output on the monitors and if so, anything I should consider when buying a high end monitor?

Tish on May 04, 2014:

Fantastic advice. So glad I could shut my laptop while working with an external monitor. Thanks!

John Schneider on April 06, 2014:

Hey TurtleDog thanks for the help. Are you any relation to TurtleMan? lol

Tolovaj on February 12, 2014:

Very good step by step tutorial. I love the portability of laptops but a big screen is still 'a must' in certain situations. Thanks for the useful info!

Brandon Hart from The Game on August 23, 2013:

Easy enough to do. Thanks for the quick tip.

Mayank Agrawal from Bangalore on August 08, 2013:

Very good article and gives step by step process with lots of step by step pictures hope we will read such a great hub:)

TurtleDog (author) on June 20, 2013:

Thank you so muchy Altrego8

Altrego8 on June 20, 2013:

This solved my problem with the laptop going to sleep if I closed it, and the display too. I followed the instructions and it helped a bunch.

Junkyard on June 01, 2013:

Thanks. Helped a bunch

TurtleDog (author) on April 16, 2013:

Yes, it sounds like you might be using a computer that your employer issued you for work? You might not have the same rights as if you owned the computer. Contact your IT department.

If you do own the computer, and just guessing here, but maybe you need to log in somehow with a password to have those rights to the drop down, settings controls? I remember years back I had a PC where I set up a log in. I was able to access most of the features if I by passed the log in but I seem to remember (and keep in mind I'm kinda reaching on this one) that certain functions weren't allowed unless I logged in.

It definitely sounds like something (password, person) has authority over you, over your PC.

Candie on April 15, 2013:

I followed your steps however it will not allow me to bring up the drop down menus. It says that I don't have access to these options. Do you have any tips on what I should do?

TurtleDog (author) on March 25, 2013:

Glad to hear this functions on windows 8 for you!

iammobilechris on March 25, 2013:

I use this setup currently with my Windows 8 laptop with a external monitor in clamshell mode :)

TurtleDog (author) on March 05, 2013:

You are very welcome shaz! Glad this helped you to connect to your external screen! Thanks

shaz on March 04, 2013:

Thanks mate . Just cracked my laptop screen and need to connect ro external screen.. saved me.. thanks mate

TurtleDog (author) on February 17, 2013:

Hi Skully1666! Thank you for reading my post. It sounds like you did it right. The computer is supposed to powered up and not go black even when it is closed. This is because you've correctly put the settings to "Do Nothing" (ie don't sleep, don't shut down, etc with screen shut)

Thanks again!

skully1666 on February 17, 2013:

helpful indeed! but quick question i followed you steps correctly but my did doesn't seem to do anything it stays on isint it suppose to go black or something

TurtleDog (author) on February 05, 2013:

Keep trying Lori! It works at least if you are a Windows 7 user (and likely Vista too as Darren mentions in his comment) Be sure you have both the "plugged in" and "battery" set to "Do Nothing" when changing the settings on "When I Close The Lid". That way no matter how you have your lap top powered, it will continue to run. Keep trying. Thanks!

lori on February 05, 2013:

I tried doing it but when it closes it still turns off

TurtleDog (author) on January 14, 2013:

Darren! Thanks buddy for letting us know that this tip also works for Window Vista as well as Windows 7

Darren on January 14, 2013:

Thanks for that great info, it works on windows vista if anyone wants to know...

TurtleDog (author) on November 02, 2012:

Glad this helped you to keep the PC running with everything shut Wochnick! Glad you stopped by

Wochnick on November 01, 2012:

Thanks just got a new laptop at work... and the above insturctions worked perfect!!

TurtleDog (author) on September 23, 2012:

Good question JakeB. I'm not sure if you will need to do so or not. I doubt if you have already been using the 50 with the desktop. If you have an issue with the desktop not 'finding' the 50, it might help to check out the post I linked within my article above in the paragraph (just below step 6) titled "If you want to combine your Laptop Screen With Another Monitor"

Thanks for checking out my post!

JakeB on September 23, 2012:

Right on, wanted to find a way to rock my new gaming rig to my 50 without having to leave it open - Thanks!

Side question: is there anything I need to do with regards to configuring the 50 inch before use with the laptop?

TurtleDog (author) on July 15, 2012:

Hi Jordan! When you close your laptop lid while on "do nothing" it does in fact turn off. The external monitor will turn off as well but in about 5 seconds the external monitor will go back on but the laptop screen will remain in sleep (not on) mode. Great question.

jordan on July 13, 2012:

does the screen remain on when closed after doing all this

TurtleDog (author) on April 10, 2012:

You're welcome Lalbabu! Glad you got that computer to stay on while the lid is down.

Lalbabu on April 09, 2012:

Thanks TurtleDog! it helps me a lot..

TurtleDog (author) on April 02, 2012:

Thanks Janet! Glad this fix worked for you! Appreciate it.

Janet on April 01, 2012:

Thank you! Just the information I needed.

TurtleDog (author) on March 25, 2012:

Glad you stopped by and letting us know this helps you computer stay on with the top hatch shut :-) Thanks for reading!

Marcos on March 24, 2012:

Thx TurtleDog great job.. now i know how to keep my laptop lid closed whenever i am using a wireless keyboard with big screen tv !!

TurtleDog (author) on March 09, 2012:

Thanks Bottlegstan for stopping by! Appreciate it. Glad it will help

bootlegstan on March 08, 2012:

Thanks a lot! My wife was given a new work laptop so I want to use her old one to surf the web on our tv. Now I can just slip it in among the components and let it run to use it whenever we need it!