You're at your desk, motivated and ready to get to work, but you find yourself struggling to figure out how to connect your monitors.
Computer monitor ports have changed quite a bit over the years to accommodate modern-day needs and devices.
While most people may try and screen share or try an HDMI port first, a USB connection is often the easiest way to go.
Let's talk about how to utilize your USB monitor connection as effectively as possible and its full range of possibilities to maximize convenience and productivity.
Yes, it is possible to connect computer monitors with USB cables or USB C cables to transmit data.
Here’s How To Connect Monitors Using USB
Before you start, you'll want to go ahead and purchase a USB to HDMI adapter. Then, locate your USB port(s) on your computer.
Most will have a USB versions 2.0 or 3.0 Type-A port which is a thinner, rectangular-shaped port.
We recommend the 3.0 Type A instead of the 2.0 - not to mention 2.0 is on its way out in terms of relevance.
That's because USB 2.0 supports 450 megabytes per second, max, while HD video demands at least 750 megabytes per second.
Therefore, the easiest way to run video will be through the 3.0 for smooth playback.
If you are only running basic office software, USB 2.0 may be fine, but it's still wise to choose the USB 3.0. It's always a good idea to keep a USB cable or two around just in case, anyway.
It's also important to mention that if you purchase a USB 3.0 external adapter, it isn't going to have an HD display from a USB 2.0 port.
So, how do you tell the difference between the two?
The USB 3.0 has a distinctive blue color. The cable or port is also marked with “SS” or “Super Speed.”
If that doesn’t help, a surefire way to identify the port is to look inside for 5 extra contact pads. The USB 2.0 ports will have 4 contact pads, while USB 3.0 has 9.
Daisy Chaining 2 Monitors Together
If you find yourself requiring more display space or simply want to daisy chain two computer monitors together, you won't be able to use USB-C, VGA ports, or HDMI ports.
Instead, you'll only be able to use a monitor port of DisplayPort v1.2 or Thunderbolt. MacBooks only support Thunderbolt daisy chaining. 
All you need is a single cable to the first monitor and one extra cable for each additional monitor you wish to connect.
Related: Second Monitor Detected But Not Displaying Properly
- 1First, make sure all Thunderbolt ports on every one of your devices are version 3 or higher, as well as all cables.
- 2Turn on all monitors.
- 3Connect Thunderbolt-out on your computer to the Thunderbolt-in on monitor 1.
- 4Connect Thunderbolt-out on monitor 1 to Thunderbolt-in on monitor 2.
- 5Repeat the previous step for any additional monitors.
- 1First, make sure all DisplayPort on your devices are version 1.2 or higher and also support Multi-Stream Transport (MST).
- 2Turn on all monitors.
- 3Enable DisplayPort 1.2 and/or MST in the settings menu of your monitors.
- 4Connect the laptop to monitor 1 through one of the following:
- 5Connect DisplayPort out of monitor 1 to DisplayPort in on monitor 2 using a DisplayPort cable.
- 6Repeat the previous step for any additional monitors.
Connect 2 Monitors to a Laptop with USB-C
You may notice that while your graphics card can support multiple displays, your laptop doesn't have enough ports to facilitate your ideal configuration.
This is a common situation, but there are, luckily, multiple ways to fix it.
- 1Use a Switch/Display Splitter:
This is a more affordable and easier alternative to using a pluggable 4K display port. A USB-C to dual HDMI adapter converter lets you plug in two HDMI monitor cables simultaneously, and that device simply plugs into your computer's USB port.
- 2USB-C Hub Docking Station:
Docking stations operate like a central hub, come in many different sizes, and can accommodate not just 2 monitors but all kinds of peripheral devices and can even charge cell phones. Many find this to be the more user-friendly option - particularly if you want to charge devices.
Reasons Why A USB Connection Is Better Than Other Types
Put simply, a USB port is there to extend your computer’s connectivity. However, there are many more benefits to using USB ports.
Other Types Of Connections That Monitors Can Use
To maximize expansion possibilities, you’ll encounter various types of connections ideal for higher-resolution displays and different types of interfaces.
It's common for computer displays to come with various types of USB ports. Most computers will come with a Type A USB port, while others may include a USB-C port or Type B port.
Micro USB connectors only work with USB 3.0 devices and aren't compatible with USB 1.1 or 2.0 devices.
Keep in mind that while most displays will boast both analog and digital terminals, every monitor is different, and yours may have other options.
Other Devices That Connect To Monitors Via USB
While you’ll likely already have a CPU case, monitor, mouse, and keyboard, you may need to add more devices to your configuration.
As USB cables are bidirectional, you can enjoy their reversible orientation for many connections.
If your computer’s USB ports are already occupied, you can use your monitor as a convenient USB hub of technology! Here are some of the peripherals you can make connections to:
USB And Monitor Connection FAQs
What is the purpose of a USB port on a monitor?
A USB port is designed to extend the connectivity of the computer they're connected to - essentially working as a USB hub.
Can I connect a VGA monitor to a USB port?
You can connect a VGA monitor to a USB port with adapters.
Most newer laptops don't include a VGA port, so to connect it to an older monitor, you'll need a USB to VGA adapter or a cable with a built-in adapter.
Can you use USB to HDMI for a monitor?
It’s easy to confuse the two, but USB and HDMI functions are very different.
You can absolutely use a USB to HDMI connection for a monitor. You'll need a USB-HDMI adapter, and remember that most adapters will only work with USB 3.0.
Most support video resolutions of up to 1080p and 2160p.
How many monitors can a USB-C support?
They can support up to 2 monitors simultaneously.
Do all USB-C ports support monitors?
The designers certainly didn't make it very simple regarding different USB-C names.
If you see a lightning bolt next to the port, you can use it to charge/transmit video signals and connect a monitor to it.
If you see a "D" for "DisplayPort" next to the USB type C, you can also connect a monitor. If you see a battery symbol next to it, it does not support a monitor connection.
If you have a MacBook, you'll notice that it doesn't have a logo or symbol next to the USB-C port.
If you're trying to figure out what kind of USB-C port yours has, click the Apple logo at the top left-hand corner of your desktop, then "About This Mac."
Check the model/intro year your computer is and look it up.
Starting with the 12" MacBook 2015 - 2017, all support video aside from the MacBook Air 2015 - 2017 and MacBook Pro 2015.
Related: How To Clean A USB-C Port
Which port is best for monitors?
It really depends on your specific needs.
While USB-C is incredibly powerful (and only growing more so), DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, and/or VGA may be the better choice for you.
How to know if the USB port on your laptop has video output?
If there's a lightning symbol or a "D" next to the USB port, it supports video.
Is USB-C capable of transmitting video from a laptop?
Only USB ports with USB 3.1 or higher can stream video. These versions work with DP Alt Mode, which allows for video streaming.
Sometimes a single-screen display isn't enough, whether you're video editing, working on other media files, gaming, or even just personal preference.
You may wish you had two devices or want to connect a laptop to a larger monitor.
In these situations, connecting an additional display can help streamline your process and multitask more efficiently.
Not only that, but it offers smooth playback, faster speeds, and more.
Now that you're a pro at connecting them via USB-C, you'll be limitless!
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.