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How to Use Your Laptop as a Monitor (Easy Methods for Mac and PC, with Pictures)

laptop as a monitor

How to Use Your Laptop as a Monitor (Easy Methods for Mac and PC, with Pictures)

Key Points

  • You can use your laptop as a monitor without plugging in a second monitor by utilizing the functionality natively supported by Windows 10 and higher and the latest versions of macOS.
  • For Windows, you need to ensure that both devices are powered on and connected to the same wireless network, open the Settings menu, select the option for projecting to your laptop, and connect to your laptop through your desktop.
  • For Mac, you need to verify that both devices are turned on, open System Settings, select the option to add a display, select your laptop as the display, and connect the devices through the Control Center.
  • Using your laptop as a monitor is a convenient and cost-effective way to have a second screen, and you can also use this method with Android tablets or iPads.

How do you use your laptop as a monitor? While most users would add a display to their setup, you can readily use your laptop in a pinch. This gives you all the functionality of having a second screen without plugging in a second monitor. The actual methodology behind this is fairly easy.

Windows 10 and higher and the latest versions of macOS support the functionality natively. So, if you’re looking to get into the world of dual screens, you’re in the right place. Today’s guide will cover how to use your laptop as an external display for both Windows and Mac computers.

How to Use Your Laptop as a Monitor for Windows

The procedure for using your laptop as a monitor in Windows is extremely straightforward. Keep in mind both laptops will need to be running Windows 10 or higher, as previously mentioned. This method will not work with Windows 8.1 and lower. The technology wasn’t yet implemented by Microsoft.

Step 1: Make Sure Both Devices Are Powered On

Before starting in earnest, make sure both of your devices are powered on. You’ll need both to be online and fully active for the entire process to work as a whole. Thankfully, you won’t need any cabling or anything along those lines. Both devices will have to be connected through your wireless network, preferably near one another.

Step 2: Open the Settings Menu in Windows

On your laptop from the Windows Start Menu, go ahead and type in “settings” to bring up the settings menu. From there you’ll be greeted with the various system settings you no doubt are somewhat accustomed to when using a Windows computer. You might think that this option would be under Network and Internet, but you’ll be searching for the next option.

You alternatively can go through this process in your Wi-Fi settings directly from your taskbar. However, the method described in this guide is more straightforward overall.

Step 3: Select Options in Projecting This PC

laptop as a monitor
Take the time to configure your settings as you want for connecting to your desktop.

In your Settings menu, you can go ahead and type “projecting” in. This will bring up the Projecting to This PC menu selection. There are a few different options you can select from here. You’ll want to make sure the wireless display option is enabled to take full advantage of the functionality as a whole.

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to turn on the projection prompt for any wireless display needs. A PIN is heavily recommended for the pairing process. Otherwise, any Android or Windows device can hijack your laptop as an external display. The prompt to ask to project is also a good idea just as a matter of security.

Step 4: Connect to a Wireless Display Through Your Main Computer

laptop as a monitor
Pressing the Windows key and P will allow you to broadcast your screen to your laptop.

Now, you can finally move to your desktop. You don’t need any special prompts here. You can just press the Windows key and P to bring up the Project prompt. This will enable you to use your laptop as a monitor for your desktop or other computers.

You can use this option to mirror the screen, extend it, or function as a separate display. Whatever you pick is a matter of preference, but just go ahead and select an option as you need. You’ll likely be prompted for a PIN, which you entered in the previous step. The connection may also prompt you to ask for permission, so go ahead and authorize what needs to be done.

Step 5: Verify Functionality

Now, you can use your laptop as a monitor for your Windows computers. As mentioned, this isn’t a complicated process to communicate between two Windows computers. Thankfully, Microsoft has enabled this functionality starting in Windows 10. You can also use this same method to use something like an Android tablet as a secondary display.

This comes in handy if you want to access your main system without having to lug around a laptop. You lose out on some degree of responsiveness, but as a whole, it is a great amount of functionality to have packed into the operating system.

How to Use Your Laptop as a Monitor for Mac

If you thought using your Windows laptop as a monitor was easy, wait until you try the process on a Mac. This is a tremendously easy process as a whole. You will need to have both Macs on Monterey or higher. These steps can also be replicated to allow you to use an iPad as a secondary display, which is a powerful combination if you’re running a MacBook but you want a second screen while you’re working.

Step 1: Verify Both Devices Are On

As with the Windows process, you’ll want to just make sure both of your Mac computers are powered on. This should be a given, but you can’t establish a connection if only one of the devices is turned on.

Step 2: Open System Settings

laptop as a monitor
You can access System Settings anywhere on your Mac.

Go to the top bar of your Mac’s display and click the Apple logo, this will bring a drop-down menu with a few different selections. From here, you’ll want to click System Settings. This functions similarly to the Windows Settings menu and brings up a multitude of options for administering your Mac.

While you’re here, you’ll want to navigate to the Displays menu for the next step.

Step 3: Select Add Display

mac display settings
Adding a display is done by clicking the + symbol next to your primary display.

On the display menu, you’ll want to click on the Add Display option. This will bring up a few different options, like your current monitor. You’ll want to select your MacBook to use a laptop as a monitor with your Mac. The connection should be established from here, and you’re essentially done aside from one more step.

Step 4: Select Screen Mirroring From the Control Center

mac control center
Screen mirroring allows you to quickly connect to your laptop whenever you need.

You can close out System Preferences now, as you won’t need it for this step. Navigate your cursor to the top portion of your Mac’s toolbar once again and click on the Control Center option. You should have an option that reads Screen Mirroring. From here you should have your MacBook working fully as a secondary display for your Mac Mini or iMac.

You might as well take the time to configure whether you want to mirror or extend the display. Either option is handy depending on what you’re intending to do while working on your Mac.

Step 5: Verify Functionality

With the connection established and your laptop as a monitor, you can just go ahead and test that everything works. A simple test is just to drag a browser or notes window over and make sure it is functioning as intended. Make sure you’ve arranged the placement of your displays as you want, as edging over to part of the screen can result in closing screen mirroring.

Things to Keep in Mind

The steps detailed for both Mac and Windows systems are going to require you to have a laptop and desktop running the same operating system. There are ways to use your laptop as a monitor like you’re going from Mac to Windows or vice versa.

Unfortunately, it is a complicated process that also relies on the use of paid software. Meanwhile, the solutions detailed above don’t cost anything more than what you already have invested.

Closing Thoughts

Using your laptop as a monitor used to be a complicated process. The latest operating systems from Apple and Microsoft both make the entire experience painless. Hopefully, you should be well on your way to using your laptop as a secondary display. However, if you don’t have a laptop, you can also repeat these same steps with an Android tablet or an iPad, depending on your platform of choice.

How to Use Your Laptop as a Monitor Summary

Windows
1. Make sure both of your computers are turned on and connected to the same network.
2. Open your Settings menu in Windows and type in “projecting.”
3. Configure how you want to project to your laptop.
4. Connect to your laptop through your desktop.
5. Test that everything is working as intended.
Mac
1. Both Mac computers should be powered on.
2. Open System Settings from your main Mac’s toolbar.
3. Select Add Display from your Displays menu and select your laptop.
4. Select Screen Mirroring from the Control Center and connect your devices.
5. Make sure everything works as intended.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use any Windows laptop as a monitor?

Yes, just make sure it’s running Windows 10 or newer.

Why should you use a laptop as a monitor?

It gives you all the benefits of a second monitor without having to install one on your system. You might not have an additional display adapter port for connecting a second monitor.

Can I use a tablet as a second monitor?

Yes, just make sure it is Android for Windows systems or an iPad for Mac.

Is there latency when using a laptop as a monitor?

Unfortunately, that can be the case depending on your network. It isn’t a huge amount, but it is still somewhat noticeable.

Can I use a Mac laptop with a Windows desktop?

Not natively, but there are paid software solutions to bridge that gap.

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