Using multiple monitors

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. I recently purchased a 19-inch flat-screen monitor, but I still have a clunky, old 19-inch CRT, which works fine. I work with Excel spreadsheets all day and I’ve heard that if I have two monitors connected, that I can drag items from one spreadsheet to another. Is that true, and if so, is it possible for a computer novice like me to do that? What would I need to do or what do you recommend?

A. Yes, what you describe is possible, though you may want to retain the services of a reputable computer repair person or service to set this up for you. It can be rather technical and require some tweaking and troubleshooting to get everything working properly.

Before moving to a dual-monitor setup, however, there are a few things to consider: Do you have a free AC outlet to plug in the additional monitor? Do you have room for a second monitor on your desk? As far as your computer, you will need a dual-monitor capable graphics card, or you will need an available AGP (accelerated graphics port) or PCI (peripheral component interface) slot on your system’s motherboard to insert a graphics card that will support the dual-monitor setup.

Be aware that many graphics cards require a higher-capacity power supply, typically 350W, so you will need to inquire what the card needs -- which is another reason I’d suggest letting a professional set this up for you.

When considering video cards, Matrox has a good reputation for multiple monitor configuration, as does ATI Radeon or nVidia. There are many types of video cards, so the selection process can quickly become overwhelming. Not to pummel a necrotic equine, but that’s another reason you would be well advised to retain a professional to review your system, assess your port situation, discuss video-card options, pricing, and configure your dual-monitor setup for you.

For additional information, read Microsoft's, “Expand Your Workspace with Multiple Monitors” article at http://tinyurl.com/29g9l3, and “Get the Most Out of Multiple Monitors,” at http://tinyurl.com/2okk5.

An alternative to a multiple-monitor setup is a super-size monitor. For example, I replaced a three-monitor setup with a Samsung 28-inch monitor, which provides enough screen surface to simultaneously display several documents, websites and email.

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Mr. Modem publishes "Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks, and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit www.MrModem.com.