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How to Use a Laptop as a Monitor With HDMI

As an owner of a laptop, I know how frustrating it can be when you need an additional monitor but don’t have one. I have done some research and testing to discover the best solutions for using my laptop as a monitor with HDMI. Today I’m here to share with you my experience and how I solved this issue, as well as some other solutions that I have discovered.

If you have a spare laptop collecting dust somewhere in the house, you can certainly use it as a secondary display using HDMI. This is a practical alternative to an ultrawide screen or a dual monitor setup for an extra boost to your productivity. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to use a laptop as a monitor with HDMI.  

Items You Need to Use a Laptop as a Secondary Monitor

Using your laptop as an extension of your display isn’t as straightforward as you might think. We hate to break it to you, but hooking your laptop into your primary computer using an HDMI cable won’t cut it on its own. Here’s why:

Your laptop has an HDMI output port only. This means that your laptop can only send audio/video signals to another device, like a TV or another monitor. It’s not meant to accept signals from them. It’s not the HDMI cable’s job to traffic those signals.  

However, we’re not saying it’s impossible. If you have $20 to spare, you can head on to Amazon right now and buy yourself an HDMI video capture card. Once you have this key component, you’ll just breeze through the whole process.

To sum up, here’s a checklist of requirements:

  • A primary computer (a desktop or a laptop)
  • A secondary laptop
  • An HDMI cable
  • An HDMI video capture card

What’s an HDMI Video Capture Card?

Basically, a video capture card is a peripheral device that you plug into your computer so you can read audio/video signals from an external source. It’s widely used in video streaming. 

This nifty piece of hardware looks like a chunky flash drive with a USB connector on one end and an HDMI input port on the other. 

The HDMI input port receives the video signal from your primary computer. Meanwhile, the USB end goes into your secondary laptop to feed the video onto the screen.

Steps on How to Use a Laptop as a Monitor With HDMI 

As promised, using a laptop as a monitor couldn’t be easier with an HDMI video capture card. The following steps explain the entire process in more detail!

Step 1: Establish a Connection

Plug your HDMI cable into your primary computer. If you’re using a laptop without an HDMI port as a primary computer, you’ll need an adapter to connect to the DisplayPort or USB-C port. 

Next, connect your HDMI cable to the output port of the HDMI video capture card. Afterward, plug the HDMI video capture card into your secondary laptop. If your laptop only has a USB-C port, you’ll also need an adapter for that.

Now that you’re past the hardest part, you might need to hide the taskbar on your secondary screen to avoid confusion. To do this, right-click on the taskbar and go to Taskbar Settings.

Turn on the Automatically hide the taskbar in desktop mode option.

Step 2: Detect Your Displays

On your primary computer, open the Settings menu, then select System. This will open up the default Display settings. 

On the Display window, you’ll find that multiple displays are detected and you can now manage your screens. You should see a pair of rectangles numbered 1 and 2, representing your two screens.

If you’re not seeing any of these, then your primary monitor isn’t detecting a second display. It sometimes happens with older displays. 

Below the Multiple displays section, click the Detect button. This will force your computer to detect your second screen. 

Step 3: Arrange Your Screens

If you’re unsure which numbered screen is your physical display, click the Identify button. The number will appear on the corresponding display, depending on the highlighted rectangle on the window.  

If your two physical monitors don’t follow the arrangement of the numbered rectangles, you can drag one rectangle to the correct position.

Make sure that the Manage displays option is set to Extend these displays. You can adjust the resolution of your screen as needed.

Step 4: Set Up the Camera

On the secondary laptop, open the built-in camera app. Type Camera on the search field next to your Windows button to easily locate this app. 

The Camera app will appear, displaying output from the default front cam. To read output from your HDMI video capture card, click the Change camera button on the top-right corner of the app.

Go back to your primary computer and test if everything is working. Drag your cursor over to the second screen. You should see how seamlessly you can move your cursor from one screen to another.

Piece of cake, ain’t it? You can now improve your workflow by having two screens!  

Wrapping Up

Now that you know how to use a laptop as a monitor with HDMI, you’ll have a dedicated screen for displaying output. The second screen can be used to display a Word doc, a YouTube video, or a PowerPoint presenter view. 

It’s all up to you! Just remember to purchase an HDMI video capture card to make this video magic a reality.