Multiple Monitors with Windows Vista

*-* Update *-* I’ve posted about this again here

I’m a big fan of multiple monitors. Even since i first tried it in Windows 2000 i haven’t looked back.

I struggle when going back to a single screen as it’s so convenient to be able to view more than one window at a time.

For example, If im on a support call i can remotely control a server and view a knowledge base article at the same time

Even now while i’m writing this i have someone elses blog post for me to refer to.

Anyway the point of this post is something i saw on Download Squad talking about support for multiple cards in Vista

After reading the post i was a little concerned as couldn’t bear to “downgrade”. The worry is about using cards from different manufacturers as the full Aero interface requires that they have the same drivers. The post says that the Aero interface wont be available. I don’t think this is the case. From what i can gather one of the graphics cards will actually be disabled. You’ll still get your Aero interface….only on one screen though

The original post that Download Squad links to has a link to an article on the Microsoft site that tries to explain the situation. It’s not immediately clear what the situation is but my take on it is:

Dual View – One graphics adapter, multiple screens

The article quite rightly points out most modern graphics cards have multiple outputs so their wont be an issue.

This is the setup i have. My PC has a standard VGA output and a DVI output which runs my two screens. This wouldn’t cause any issues in Vista as it’s only a single driver.

Homogeneous Multi-adapter – Multiple adapters, one graphics driver.

This is where you have two cards that use the same driver. The cards don’t have to be identical. As long as they are running the same driver.So you could use for example:for example,  NVIDIA GeForce 7600 NVIDIA GeForce 6600 with no issues. Slot types are not important either

Heterogeneous Multi-adapter – Multiple adapters, multiple drivers.

This is where you use two cards from different companies. An NVIDIA and an ATI card for example. In this situation you would be forced to use the driver model for which ever card was the “POST” adapter (generally VGA)

In Conclusion 

I only think this is going to give a problem to people who use LOTS of screens (i.e 4+). As detailed above you can use a single adapter for two screens so the issue doesn’t arise. The cards DONT have to be identical. Just the drivers. So the situation isn’t as restrictive as i first thought!

Also if you were building/buying a new system then you would just need to think a little more carefully about what your using to drive the screens.

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Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. Formerly, coordinator of AMITPRO and Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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28 thoughts on “Multiple Monitors with Windows Vista

  • Just thought I would chime in here as I have been involved in this issue from the Docking station side. Vista is creating a big issue for my company in their decision to lock down the WDDM driver. My dock has an integrated GPU which in XP allows the user to extend the desktop from the Notebook to an external screen. With Vista, obviously we cannot do this anymore which makes it a bit difficult for us to sell a Dock with GPU.

  • This is something i hadn’t thought about..

    With my understanding of the issue you would have to force Vista to use the XP drivers. This would give multi-display functions but you would lose the Aero interface…not good!

  • No Not good at all. This affect my company’s product as well as our competitors. All those USB VGA dongles, docks, PCI-E docks.. will be hosed!

  • How do you set up 4 monitors with vista.

    I have 2
    XFX GeForce 7300 GT 350MHZ 256MB DDR2 PCI-E Dual DVI-I TV Out Video Card

    My Mobo
    ASUS M2N-E SLI ATX AM2 DDR2 Nforce 500 SLI 2PCI-E16 2PCI-E1 2PCI SATA2 Sound GBLAN 1394 Motherboard

  • For what it’s worth, I have just purchased a laptop loaded with Vista Premium, and the Aero interface does disable itself when you connect a second screen – Vista displays a message to the effect of “Windows Vista Basic settings are now in effect”. I am spoiled already by Aero and this makes me reluctant to reload my desktop, with 3 screens, too early.

  • Thanks for the comment David

    I’m surprised to hear you got the basic interface on the laptop when you added a second screen

    I’m running Vista on my desktop at the moment. Single video card. Two screens. Full Aero interface
    Might be worth checking to see if the drivers for the video adapter are WDDM compatible?

  • Hey Andy,

    You know I revisited the Basic on second monitor deal, and got it working.

    Basically when adding the second screen, a message did appear in the system tray along with going to Basic interface, which I was able to click on and set to Aero anyway just by changing the Windows theme back to Aero.

    After that it’s been full Aero all the way. Must have been some initial setting with the laptop.

    Second screen is 1280×1024 and I love it – now
    the only thing keeping me from loading Vista on the home machine are potential VPN issues…

  • Hi David

    Glad you managed to get it working. Still surprised it did that at all. One for the notes eh?!

    What specific VPN issues are you worried about?

    It’s difficult for me to comment at the moment though….i mainly use SBS Remote Web Workplace in place of VPN
    I do have some VPN software on my laptop but that’s still XP and i don’t use the built in client anyway

  • I know I am being as dumb as a bag of hammers, but….

    All I want to do is use my laptop screen and an external monitor as an extended desktop. Dell D610, Windows Vista — no matter what I try, it just treats the external monitor as a copy of the laptop screen…

    Can anyone help?
    skype: michaelmcgrath or email mmcgrath (@t)

  • I am having troubles with my laptop now that i have vista. The laptop has the standard vga out as well as s-video out. i was using vga for external monitor and s-video for tv. But now that i upgraded to vista it wont allow me to use both the ext monitor and the tv at the same time, but it will independently. I updated the video drivers to the newest ones i could find(had to use forceware).
    Any help is much appreciated.

  • sorry to hear your having problems crackerjacks

    I’m going to struggle to offer any advice without knowing more about your hardware

    First thing i would do though is make sure the driver you loaded is WDDM compatible?

  • Here is the issue I’ve been having with vista. running 4 monitors with 2 dual head cards. I is a quadro 285 (pci exp), and the other is a geforce 5200 (pci). The problem is I need to run the same driver on both cards obviously, but when I run the latest and greatest from nvidia the performance of the 2nd card (5200) is abysmal (noticeable lag when dragging windows). Right now I’m back to the microsoft/nvidia drivers which work OK, but not great. Anyone else get around this issue?

  • hello ppl i have a nvidia fx5200 agp card it had a div out vga out an a svideo out i want to utlize them all i want dual moniters btween the dvi and vga
    and a tv on svideo i had it setup so that i could play on the tv but now with the dual moniters i cant is there a mod out there that can fix this for me if so could u email me at
    thank you

  • My wife is an accountant who has been running two screens on an XP system. She relies on the nVidia desktop manager to be able to right click- and designate where each program/ window should open. PC crashed- now she is on a Vista system- The GeForce 7 series card installed fine, drivers fine, but NO desktop manager (?!)

    Any solutions? Different card? Should I run one monitor off the permanent video output in the PC and one off the card? Thanks in advance


  • Hey guys im having serious issues.

    Ive got 3 monitors on a 2 card setup

    1st card : nvidia geforce FX5200 AGP
    2nd card : Ati radeon 700se PCI-E

    Basically whatever card i have set as the primary in bios is the only 1 that works. I dual boot xp and vista and there is no issue on in xp and never has been so it is software for sure.

    Help please?

  • i have 3 graphics cards that are useless to me because my new pc runs on vista, i installed xp and it worked fine but i ended up back on vista because its visually better, hopefully windows will get rid of the lockdown when the next service pack is released

  • Hi Karl

    I would’t hold your breath for service pack one to fix your problems

    The main issue most people have is the new driver model implementation which helps system stability but places restrictions on what you can do

    I wouldn’t expect them to overhaul the driver model in service pack 1

  • Wow, I have 2 8800GT Nvidia graphics cards and 1 ATI Radeon x1600. I have my two 8800GT SLI together. I want to run 3 monitors, but stupid Windows Vista refuses to recognize my ATI. So I’m stuck with taking off SLI (TOTAL WASTE) or go back to XP.

  • I agree with you totally Randy. I am completely upset that I can’t run an my 2 nVidia 8600GTs in SLI Mode and my ATI card for the second monitor.

    Check out the SLIZone forums for detailed updates. They seem to be pretty knowledgeable.

  • Randy, RougueJD

    In theory there is no reason for you not to be able to do multiple monitors in Vista with different video cards

    What you wont be able to do use the full Aero interface…..

  • This seems like a good place to get my noobish questions answered.

    I have a new Vista machine & need to get 3 displays running at 1600×1200 (actually 1one display will do 1920×1200, but I’ll settle for 1600×1200, w/e). I currently have 2 running off the NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT in my single PCI-e slot.

    After scouring around the net, & per a suggestion somewhere, I purchased a NVIDIA Geforce FX 5200 to go in one of the PCI slots. But that wouldn’t allow me to use both vid cards at the same time….grrrr

    If I purchase another GeForce 5200 PCI and have two identical of those running in 2 of the PCI slots, while throwing away the original PCI-e card, will that be able to run 3 displays in Vista? I dont care if it costs more; I just need the 3 displays up & running…it’s not for gaming or anything graphics intensive; I just need some screen real estate.

    Someone said they didnt think that would work and may not allow Aero to be used if it does work at all.

    Any thoughts/knowledge on this?

    {Related: What about switching out the motherboard for one with 2 PCI-e slots?]

    Thanks for any help/pointers?


  • hi. I have a dell d820 running vista pro. I am extending my monitor to be above the laptop. When the machine goes to sleep it always resets to side by side AND sets the monitor to be my primary rather than the laptop. ANy help is most appreciated.

  • Hey I was trying to get 3 monitors working. I have been using dual montiors for around 4 years now. I have a Vista Home 32bt OS, I have 1 Gefoce 7300LE(PCI Express), and I wanted to add a Geforce4 MX 420(PCI), for some reason Windows is disabling the drivers for the additional PCI card from running? Is it becaouse of the display drivers not being compatible with each model? Or perhaps I was thinking it could be a vista issue? Anyone have any solutions for this? Your help would be greatly greatly appreciated..

  • Hey Brad..

    The problem your experiencing is due to the fact that pc’s are not F$%ING supercomputers.. are you shocked that two disperate grafix cards dont work together? hell if you stick a Ford Carb in a GM machine it should work? right…. nahh.. your still on the roadside bro..

    dude… if you want your requirements, get some hot HD, the same GFX vendor, and a nice nvidia MB.. frys should help you out if you’re confused, he he..


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