Whether you’re working from home, have a large project, or want the convenience, dual monitors are useful.
You may not have two of the same monitors, though, and they can have different video inputs.
This is worrying because different inputs often mean incompatibility.
But is this the case for HDMI and VGA inputs?
Here we’ll look at HDMI and VGA cables, how they connect to a display, and if they can be used together.
- HDMI and VGA
- How to Use HDMI and VGA for Dual Monitors?
- Using an HDMI and a VGA Input Simultaneously
HDMI and VGA
The most common forms of video input for all types of displays are HDMI and VGA.
HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. As the name suggests, this kind of cable can be used for much more than video.
VGA stands for Video Graphics Array. It’s less versatile than HDMI and is specifically meant for transmitting video data.
Furthermore, VGA cables are limited to transmitting analog data. HDMI is capable of carrying versatile digital signals and gives a higher-quality video output.
It seems like HDMI is always the best choice, but sometimes it’s not an option.
Using Older Monitor Models
When setting up dual monitors, it’s cheaper to use older monitors. It can also be more practical because you likely have an old monitor lying around.
Using an old monitor can be a challenge, though. If it’s old enough, it likely won’t have an HDMI port.
Instead, most older monitors have one or more VGA ports on them.
To use them in a dual monitor setup means having to use VGA and HDMI cables.
This makes you wonder: is it possible to mix HDMI and VGA outputs?
Using HDMI and VGA at the Same Time
The short answer to this question is: yes, you can!
The full answer is more complicated. There is a limitation to when you can mix the two.
The limitation may surprise you! It comes from the source of the signals and not the cables.
To use a VGA and HDMI signal at the same time, your computer needs to have both ports.
It’s very common for computers to have both ports, but not a guarantee. This makes it important to check for the ports before using a dual monitor setup.
Checking for VGA and HDMI Ports
The easiest way to check for each port is to look for their unique details.
VGA cables and ports will always be blue in some way.
The cable will likely have a blue casing around each end.
The port itself will be blue on the inside, making it easy to spot.
HDMI ports are harder to find quickly, but they can still be identified.
All HDMI ports and cables will be labeled with the letters “HDMI” on them.
The shape of HDMI ports is also distinct. It has a flat, rectangular bottom with a trapezoidal top.
Now that you’ve identified both ports, you can begin the process of using them for dual monitors.
How to Use HDMI and VGA for Dual Monitors?
If you have one monitor that accepts HDMI and one that needs VGA, you’ll have to use both cable types.
When using two monitors, you’ll want to have them connected digitally as well. This will let you share applications and files between each screen.
To do this, you’ll need to have both monitors connected to the same computer.
Connecting an HDMI Cable Your Computer
Connecting an HDMI cable is the easiest to do once you’ve identified the correct port.
First, ensure that the HDMI cable you’re using is double-ended. You can continue if it has an HDMI connector on each end.
Connect one end of the cable to the computer’s HDMI port.
The computer may have multiple HDMI ports. If it does, it’s best to connect the cable to the “HDMI 1” port.
Then, connect the other end of the cable to the monitor that has an HDMI port.
Depending on how the monitor is set up, you may have to configure the display settings to use the HDMI input. Otherwise, the HDMI signal will automatically display on the monitor.
Connecting a VGA Cable to Your Computer
If you have a secondary monitor which doesn’t accept HDMI, it likely accepts VGA. In this case, you’ll need a VGA cable to have a dual monitor setup.
Your VGA cable must be double-ended. Checking for this is simple: check if both ends have a VGA connector.
If your cable is double-ended, you can move on to the next step.
Connect one end of the cable to your computer’s VGA port.
Your computer will likely only have one VGA port. If it has multiple ports, connect the cable to the first one or the one that’s labeled “VGA 1”
Next, connect the other end of the cable to the monitor with the VGA port. You may have to configure the display, but this is unlikely.
The VGA cable will transmit the video data from your computer to the monitor.
Using an HDMI and a VGA Input Simultaneously
There is only one more step to use the cables for a dual monitor setup. You need to configure your computer to connect both of the displays digitally.
How the connection is made will depend on your computer’s OS and the OS version.
We’ll briefly go over the three main operating systems here: Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Setting Up Dual Monitors on Windows
Windows has a streamlined method of setting up dual monitors. This makes it easy for anyone to use two monitors in no time.
- Navigate to the computer’s System Settings.
- Select Display. Windows should automatically begin detecting your connected monitors.
- Select the settings for each display. This will include the resolution, orientation, and which side the monitor is on.
- Select Keep Changes.
When you’ve followed these steps, you’ll have a dual monitor setup!
Setting Up Dual Monitors on Mac
Not all Macintosh computers support dual monitors.
The ones that do will have an HDMI port on them. Mac computers with a Thunderbolt 3 port can also be used with a secondary monitor.
Connect the HDMI or Thunderbolt cable to each display, and it should automatically set up dual displays. The Mac computer will automatically be set up as the second display.
Setting Up Dual Monitors on Linux
If your computer is running on Linux, you’re likely already familiar with its intricacy.
There are different methods to set up dual monitors on Linux, and each of them requires much more detail than can be covered here.
If you need to use two or more monitors with a Linux system, you should find an online tutorial like this one that suits your needs.
This FAQ section will serve as a quick reference to come back to.
1. Should I Connect Both HDMI and VGA?
When creating a dual monitor setup, it’s often beneficial and economic to use an old monitor with your current one.
Old monitors often don’t have an HDMI port and only have a VGA port for video input.
Because of this, it’s best to connect both an HDMI and a VGA cable to your computer.
2. Can I Use VGA, DVI, and HDMI at the same time?
When you’re mixing different types of monitors, you’ll need to use a mix of cables too.
Which cables you use will depend on what your monitors and computer accept.
Because each monitor is independent, you can use any mix of VGA, DVI, and HDMI cables simultaneously.
There are plenty of reasons to want to use a dual monitor setup. Working from home, simultaneously viewing multiple applications, and convenience are some of them.
If you’re using a dual monitor setup, it’s often cheaper to use at least one older monitor model.
Older models all take VGA inputs, but may not use an HDMI input.
Because of this, you may have to use a mix of VGA and HDMI cables for the setup.
Using VGA and HDMI at the same time is both possible and very easy to do.
Vance is a dad, former software engineer, and tech lover. Knowing how a computer works becomes handy when he builds Pointer Clicker. His quest is to make tech more accessible for non-techie users. When not working with his team, you can find him caring for his son and gaming.