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Ubuntu Tips: How To Setup Dual Monitor

Question: I have purchased two monitors and connected to my desktop / laptop. How do I enable dual monitor setup in Ubuntu?

Answer: You can enable the dual monitor from the Ubuntu display preferences as explained below.

Click on System -> Preferences -> Display, which will display the following window.

Fig: Dual Monitor Setup on Ubuntu

Fig: Dual Monitor Setup on Ubuntu

Make sure following are taken care in this window:

  • If you see only one monitor, click on Detect Monitor, which should detect all the monitors connected to the Ubuntu laptop or desktop.
  • Uncheck Mirror Screens check-box as shown above. When you have this enabled, both the monitors will show the same display, which you don’t want.
  • Highlight the first monitor and click the ‘On’ radio button. The first monitor will already be in on state.
  • Highlight the second monitor and click the ‘On’ radio button.
  • Select the Show displays in panel check-box, which will display the icon to configure the display on the top right hand panel for easy access.
  • To change the display order of the monitors, simply drag the monitor to re-arrange them accordingly.
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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Arami November 12, 2009, 2:39 pm

    I have recently installed Ubuntu 9.10 on my desktop and is fairly new to linux.
    Before I had win xp and it found my Tv directly, but with ubuntu it wont.
    What do I need to do to connect a Tv as a second monitor?
    Currently its connected with scart to s-video.


  • Vytas December 10, 2009, 2:35 am

    I have two monitors to – laptop’s and additional one.
    Please tell me, how can I change default monitor – at this moment laptop’s screen is default (menu and dashboard).

    :$ lspci | grep VGA
    01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc M64-S [Mobility Radeon X2300]


  • Constantin April 3, 2010, 11:26 am

    Hey Vytas! In case you’re still wondering:

    Btw, I’m using Ubuntu 9.10 with dual VGA,DVI monitors, ATI HD4350 graphics (with open source driver radeon or radeon hd).

    It seems VGA monitors are usually regarded as “primary” – what you called “default”.

    Go to your places – home folder (with nautilus and ->View->Show Hidden Files on) then into .config/ and open the file monitors.xml with gedit or another editor, and make a backup, in case you destroy something.

    For example with log in name vvvv this is the file /home/vvvv/.config/monitors.xml

    In that file there are several configurations, look for the dual monitor one and look for the monitor you want to be default – e.g. DVI-0.

    There should be a line: primary=no which you change to: primary=yes

    Log out and log in again. Worked for me. Also have a look at http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Xorg_RandR_1.2 they tell you how to change the primary label from terminal. Didn’t work for me, though.

  • Flapshot April 15, 2010, 9:53 am

    This worked a treat, thanks for the instructions

  • ryan June 9, 2010, 7:58 pm


    I can get my dual mon to work, but one of them is “shaky”, and “blurry” (best desc I can give).

    Any idea’s?? I am using DVI on one monitor and VGA on the other….


  • Gene Hanson June 23, 2010, 10:17 am

    I have latest distro of Ubuntu installed on Toshiba laptop and 2 monitors (laptop and 2nd on Dell).

    For some reason now I also see a 3rd , “unknown monitor” in the Monitor preferences.

    How can I delete that “unknown monitor” ?


  • Brandon July 14, 2010, 8:00 pm

    I am using Ubuntu 10.04 and have successfully set up dual monitors with my Asus Eee PC and a 19 inch Dell monitor and everything works well enough (I had different wallpapers for each workspace prior to having dual monitors and that no longer works, neither does Desktop Wall, so if anyone knows a way to fix that, that would be great, but it’s not my main concern).

    One thing that is really annoying are these little colored boxes in the top left corner of each screen. On my laptop screen, in the top left corner, is a green box that says “Laptop” (without the quotes) in it. On the Dell monitor is a pink-ish box that says “Dell 19″” in it. I want these gone. They block the menus of any application that is set to full screen and make it incredibly difficult to do anything, not to mention they are just flat-out annoying to look at.

    I would think that this could be turned off since it doesn’t make sense to have them there in the first place, but if this is something that is permanent, whoever designed this portion of Ubuntu must have been in a hurry to get it done because it’s such a horrible feature of having dual monitors. So yeah, if you can tell me how to turn these off/get rid of them completely, I would be forever grateful.

    Thank you.

  • Vinh Nguyen August 4, 2010, 7:14 am

    I too would like to remove the monitor tags in the corner. Any suggestions?

  • Bob Jones August 27, 2010, 7:29 am

    Great information. I was about to give up after two days of work without results when I found your page. The information from Constantin did just what I needed and now my monitors are in proper order.
    Thanks again. Job well done.
    Bob Jones

  • Chip D. Snow September 29, 2010, 7:07 pm

    I’m running the most current version of Ubuntu, and I’m having a problem with dual monitors as well.
    I have a 17″ unknown LCD monitor, Plain Trees System, with my Dell laptop.

    The problem is this: When I open the laptop everything will flash. Both monitors. Then sometimes, the LCD monitor will be the default and the laptop off, or vice versa. And once in a while they’ll show the same image. I know how to go in and change it, but is there any way of making sure that the laptop stays the dominant monitor, and the 17″ LCD the secondary? Thanks in advance.

  • Aris November 4, 2010, 7:27 am

    Can I have desktop 1 on one monitor and desktop 2 on the other?

  • jwillar December 4, 2010, 9:19 am

    Good info, my dual monitor setup is working. However I prefer to only use the second/attached monitor and blank out the laptop. Whenever I close the laptop lid, my system gives me a blank screen and logs me off. Is there a way to close the lid ans just use the larger second one?

  • Clif Olson January 23, 2011, 9:01 pm

    Thank you for this very well written and concise instructions. I did it and it works great. Tried some other websites on this question and the answers were so convoluted I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. I’m new on Ubuntu 10 and am still learning how to use this OS.

    So again, thank you for this site!

  • Woodogg March 29, 2011, 9:25 pm

    Thank you!!! This was driving me nuts

  • rhino May 11, 2011, 9:22 pm

    thanks it helps. Great help

  • Anonymous June 2, 2011, 3:11 am

    Will this work with 3+ monitors?
    im a total novice, sorry if it is obvious.

  • Raj June 5, 2011, 11:44 am

    I have a 23″ syncmaster and sony bravia 40″ as dual monitors. By default it selects sony TV as the default, but I would like to make my LCD monitor as default. Cannot find a way to do this using ATI Catalyst Control option or anything on Ubuntu to change the default monitor. Any help will be appreciated.


  • Alexander August 2, 2011, 3:20 pm

    “Go to your places – home folder (with nautilus and ->View->Show Hidden Files on) then into .config/ and open the file monitors.xml with gedit or another editor, and make a backup, in case you destroy something.

    For example with log in name vvvv this is the file /home/vvvv/.config/monitors.xml

    In that file there are several configurations, look for the dual monitor one and look for the monitor you want to be default – e.g. DVI-0.

    There should be a line: primary=no which you change to: primary=yes”


    That was so easy / for linux / 🙂

    But it worked perfectly. I now have the DVI monitor als primary, alhtough it was not described as DVI, but HDMI!

  • Elton September 10, 2011, 7:17 pm

    Please help. Drive crashed and am now learning Xubuntu with 11.04 loaded and attempting to also run dualview on my monitors. Reading the posts, I have no “monitors.xml” file whatsoever. Is there a big difference between Unbutu and Xubuntu? Is there a solution to this challenge? Have a Dell 4600 w/2 Dell-16 VGA-1 monitors. Thanks in advance.

  • George October 22, 2011, 8:11 am

    I just recently upgraded to Ubuntu 11.10 from 11.04 and have a little problem with the default settings for dual monitors. In 11.04, there was a setting in the display settings that would make the monitor positions default for logins but that seems to be missing in 11.10. My second monitor is on the right of the main monitor but at the login screen, the system thinks its on the left. After I login, the system thinks its on the right, I assume based on my user configuration. I need to set the default to that for logins. How do you do that in 11.10?

  • pjd November 2, 2011, 12:37 pm

    I am running Ubuntu 11.10 and the displays pgm does not detect more than one monitor though I have two connected from one display card – one via VGA and the other through DVI (with a VGA adapter).
    any suggestions please?

  • Coreigh November 14, 2011, 6:49 pm

    I had problems with dual monitors in 11.10, when I un-checked the mirror screens I would get this error message “required virtual size does not fit available size: …”
    I tried numerous combinations of custom xorg.conf files and default vs. proprietary drivers (I have an ATI dual head card) nothing worked. Out of frustration I thought about reinstalling and older version of Ubuntu. That made me wonder if the problem was Unity or lightdm. I set my default display manager to gdm and the dual screen works!
    The command is: sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm
    gdm may not be installed, to install it : sudo apt-get install gdm


  • AHC November 25, 2011, 4:56 am

    Hi does anyone know if its possible to get a Startech USB2DVI-E working with Ubuntu 11.10

  • Johnny Test December 7, 2011, 9:32 am

    But i use fluxbox! How do i do this in console?

  • Matthew Lewis January 21, 2012, 9:14 am

    I have Ubuntu 11.04 and 2 Radeon 4350 video cards. Both the VGA and DVI (?) video ports work just great out of the box. I can’t get the other card (with the same plugs) to be recognized hence monitors 3 & 4 do not operate. The two cards work fine in Windows XP SP2 but only one card in Ubuntu. My ultimate plan is 3 monitors and 1 TV (the TV being run from the HDMI plug – small plug in port between the VGA and DVI ports). Any assistance on this problem would be greatly appreciated.

  • Abby January 28, 2012, 3:39 am

    Cheers for this!! this worked perfectly. I have a single tiny problem though. Everytime i open a window, whether if its an application or just a folder, it automatically pops to the other screen, which is the laptop. Is there any fix for that? SO that everything i execute opens within that monitor? Cheers by the way!

  • angelaine February 28, 2012, 8:23 pm

    Im in ubuntu 10.04 and using 2 monitors but I can’t extend my other applications to the other monitor..I’m having a problem on how to set up dual monitor when I do not have NVIDIA

  • ksanger April 28, 2013, 5:02 pm

    I too had issues with “required virtual size does not fit available size: …” running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. I had to insall ati/amd radeon hd drivers with catalyst. Then run catalyst and setup both displays. Then unchecking mirror displays worked. My xorg.conf also was then changed to set the virtual size higher.

    Now I’ld like to set a primary monitor. Currently the login screen moves around from one monitor to another. You never know where it is going to show up. Also new windows show up anywhere they want. Stupid. I’ld like new windows to show up on the monitor that the application is currently running on. And I want to set which monitor I log in on too. If one monitor went to my TV that would be a huge issue.

  • Chris May 8, 2013, 3:26 am

    I have ubuntu 12.10 and had my dual monitors working, but last week something went wrong and I had to reload UBUNTU desk top. After doing this my 2nd monitor does not work.
    Below is the contents of the monitors.xml in .config




  • mood4amelody November 2, 2015, 3:13 pm

    When I click detect displays, the second monitor doesn’t come up. When it’s on, there is a floating message that says “Input Not Supported”….. Is there anything I can do to get it working?

  • Mike Shafer January 8, 2016, 4:03 pm

    @Constantin: Thanks for the explanation on how to mod the monitors.xml file. Fixed the issue I was having getting a Dell Lat E6430 working with the docking station.


    Mike Shafer