How to Add a Monitor to a Dell OptiPlex

by David Klecha

Adding a second monitor to a desktop PC can significantly increase productivity, providing more screen real estate and, thus, offering more room to display documents side-by-side or to allow easier comparison of multimedia or management of disparate tasks. Configuring a Dell OptiPlex to use a second monitor is a relatively simple task, accessible to an amateur computer technician.


Open the computer's case and identify the video expansion port. In Dell OptiPlex models GX280 and later, this will be a PCI-Express x16 port (sometimes called PCI-X). In earlier models, the port will be an AGP port. Most video cards sold in recent years are PCI-X. AGP is largely considered obsolete.


With the computer powered off and unplugged, plug in the video card. It should snap in snugly but easily and should fit squarely with one of the openings in the rear of the case. Some video cards may require additional power from the motherboard. Connect that cable per the card manufacturer's instructions.


Unplug the existing monitor from the onboard video port and plug it into one of the ports of the new video card, then plug the second monitor into the other port. With the expansion card plugged in, the onboard video port will be disabled.


Close the case, plug in the computer and power it on. Once Windows loads, it should recognize the video card and request the driver disk. Insert the disk and follow the on-screen instructions to complete installation.


Configure the monitor settings during driver install to reflect your desired use for the dual-monitor setup. Most cards will allow for the cloning of displays--showing the same thing on both monitors--as well as monitor spanning, effectively creating one large monitor out of two.


  • check Confirm the type of video card you'll need before purchase. If necessary, take a picture of the expansion card area inside your computer and take it to your local electronics or computer hardware store.
  • check Most video cards feature at least one DVI port, and sometimes both ports are DVI. Use a converter to switch it to VGA, or check to see whether your monitors support DVI--more and more do, and it can provide a crisper video image than traditional VGA.


  • close Always ground yourself before working inside a computer. Touch a piece of metal or wear a grounding strap, otherwise a static discharge could damage or destroy delicate internal components.

Items you will need

About the Author

David Klecha is a technology writer in Grand Rapids, Mich. He has been writing in new media for more than five years, since he started blogging while deployed to Iraq. He continued as a professional blogger, writing on fitness, technology, and the environment for sites such as

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images News/Getty Images