How to Use an External Monitor With a Closed Laptop

Updated on November 8, 2019
TurtleDog profile image

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. | Source

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.

Do I Need an HDMI Cable?

In most cases, if you are hooking up your laptop to an external monitor, you will need an HDMI cable. Make sure the cable is long enough to reach to your 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." | Source

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

How do You Like Using Your Laptop With an External Keyboard and Monitor?

See results

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

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    • profile image

      MaryJo 

      5 weeks ago

      Very helpful thanks.

    • profile image

      Jayson 

      8 months ago

      You're a BEAST!!! tnx

    • profile image

      sree 

      8 months ago

      Thank you!

    • profile image

      Vaishu 

      10 months ago

      Thank you

    • profile image

      Le 

      13 months ago

      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!!

    • profile image

      Vaibhav 

      13 months ago

      Thank you so much

    • profile image

      Dave 

      15 months ago

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

    • profile image

      James 

      16 months ago

      thanks that worked great

    • profile image

      DL 

      16 months ago

      Thank you, the information is very useful.

    • profile image

      Chris ottey 

      16 months ago

      Youve made an old man very happy

    • profile image

      saiedov 

      17 months ago

      Thanks for your information; it is helpful

    • profile image

      Me 

      18 months ago

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

    • profile image

      bob 

      21 months ago

      good instructions

    • profile image

      Jolio 

      22 months ago

      That did the trick!

    • profile image

      mike 

      22 months ago

      hahaha and what to do when you have win10?

    • profile image

      Solano 

      22 months ago

      best help ever!

    • profile image

      Satish Mc 

      23 months ago

      Thanks a lot, This helped.

    • profile image

      Jessi 

      23 months ago

      Thanks this was very helpful!!!!

    • profile image

      dan 

      23 months ago

      thanks lifesaver

    • profile image

      Ern 

      2 years ago

      Finally!! I am crying now!

    • profile image

      Aida 

      2 years ago

      Thank you sooooo much for this!!!

    • profile image

      Me 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Anonymous 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Manny 

      2 years ago

      Great! Thanks for the information.

    • profile image

      Computer User 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      ML 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Tom 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Kayla 

      2 years ago

      This article was very helpful and simple!

      The steps were very easy to follow and understand

    • profile image

      Tom 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Dee 

      2 years ago

      Perfect! Thank you.

    • profile image

      Lisa 

      2 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Jess 

      2 years ago

      Thank you sooo much I was going crazy! lol

    • profile image

      Ryk Mchoraji 

      2 years ago

      Thanks

    • profile image

      Rob 

      2 years ago

      Thanks you very much! You certainly made it easy!

    • profile image

      Mehboob Alam 

      2 years ago

      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 ?

    • profile image

      Mike Corry 

      2 years ago

      Thank You!

    • profile image

      Vinay 

      2 years ago

      Very nice information. Thanks

    • profile image

      Ruslan 

      2 years ago

      Thank you very much!

    • profile image

      Mark46 

      2 years ago

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

    • Canuck57 profile image

      Canuck57 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      reg 

      2 years ago

      This is was very helpful.

      Thanks

    • profile image

      aditya pallewar 

      2 years ago

      thank you for your help

    • profile image

      Frenchy55 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Mandy 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Antonio 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Erik B 

      2 years ago

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

      /Erik

    • profile image

      vedansh kumar 

      2 years ago

      thankyou for help

    • profile image

      philip 

      2 years ago

      Thank you very much :)

    • profile image

      Chay 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Rio 

      2 years ago

      Thanks!!!

    • profile image

      Hassaan 

      3 years ago

      Thanks man! This helped a lot!

    • profile image

      MDK 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      malthoff 

      3 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Ram 

      3 years ago

      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 profile image

      Aryeh Taub 

      3 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Juan 

      4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      LLB 

      4 years ago

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

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      5 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Travis 

      5 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      Jaci 

      5 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Irais 

      5 years ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      tampapalmsgirl 

      5 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Tish 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      John Schneider 

      5 years ago

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

    • Tolovaj profile image

      Tolovaj 

      5 years ago

      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!

    • toptengamer profile image

      Brandon Hart 

      6 years ago from The Game

      Easy enough to do. Thanks for the quick tip.

    • mayank147 profile image

      Mayank Agrawal 

      6 years ago from Bangalore

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      6 years ago

      Thank you so muchy Altrego8

    • profile image

      Altrego8 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Junkyard 

      6 years ago

      Thanks. Helped a bunch

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Candie 

      6 years ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      6 years ago

      Glad to hear this functions on windows 8 for you!

    • profile image

      iammobilechris 

      6 years ago

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

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      shaz 

      6 years ago

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

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      6 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      skully1666 

      6 years ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      6 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      lori 

      6 years ago

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

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Darren 

      6 years ago

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

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Wochnick 

      7 years ago

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

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      JakeB 

      7 years ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      jordan 

      7 years ago

      does the screen remain on when closed after doing all this

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Lalbabu 

      7 years ago

      Thanks TurtleDog! it helps me a lot..

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Janet 

      7 years ago

      Thank you! Just the information I needed.

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Marcos 

      7 years ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      bootlegstan 

      7 years ago

      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!

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

      I did! Thanks for visiting my post. I hope it helped to keep your PC up and running with the top down. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      Really? 

      7 years ago

      You took a photo of your monitor...?

      You do know of the printscreen function right?

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR

      TurtleDog 

      7 years ago

      Thank Ayeni! I really appreciate the friendly comment. Glad you are running aOK now with screen shut.

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