Can I Use Laptop as Monitor?

[ad]Dear Computer Lady,

How can I hook up my lap top to my motherboard computer. I can’t afford a new monitor and I need to access my files.

Thank you for helping me with my computer, Sandi

Dear Sandi,

I don’t believe that it is possible for you to use your laptop screen as a monitor for your desktop, simply because there are no hookups for that type of setup.

In order for this to work, your laptop would need an incoming video connection, but most laptops have an outgoing video connection so that you can hook it up to a projector or other large screen device.

I am, however including your question this week because it is possible that somone else has figured out how to do this. I will let you know if anyone sends in a solution.



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…. Share your experience in the comments box below.

Elizabeth Boston is a Web designer, Social Media Consultant and managing editor of, “Ask The Computer Lady”.
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    • JudyD
    • February 15, 2014

    This is for Sandi – If she is trying to access her files on the desk top computer and use them on her laptop. I can access my desk top computer files with my laptop by using NetShare. I set up a folder on each of the desktops called NetShare, and I can put files into that folder from my desk top computer and use them on my laptop. Here’s how to set it up: On the personal computer, highlight my computer, click on properties, there should be a tab that says computer name. Write this down for the computer – on both your desk top computer and the laptop, go to Start – Run and type in: \\thenameofthecomputer. (i.e. if your computer name is Sandi’scomputer, that is what you type in the run window); from there, click on SHARE and choose send to desktop as a shortcut. You can copy files from your desk top computer to the netshare folder and then pick them out of the netshare folder on the laptop and save them. Hope this helps. JudyD

      • Rhino
      • February 18, 2014

      But, as I see it, and I could be wrong, this won’t work because Sandi cannot log in to the desktop because of non functioning monitor. Possibly not an issue “if” she is the only user profile on the desktop but, if like my PC there are 8 user profiles, well that would be tricky. Try Freecycle, or Goodwill (Probably the same as Salvation Army Family Stores in NZ)… or just ask a friend if you can loan one. Solves a lot of problems methinks.

    • Longstreet
    • February 15, 2014

    I see small flat panel displays in abundance in our local GoodWill stores, very inexpensively priced. If there are no GoodWill stores in Sandi’s area, any used merchandise store will likely have one she could use for this purpose, and then continue to use it with her desktop or re-donate it.

    • sidney
    • February 16, 2014

    Reverse of what he wants but may indicate it can be done. Best Buy Geek somehow has my desktop monitor, speakers, printer hooked up to and running off my laptop because the desktop went dead (although hard drive still good and sitting in drawer waiting for me to buy another computer but am putting off because I use Vista and don’t want to have to learn Windows 8!!!) At least not yet. If I have to restart, sometimes have to press FN together with F8 to share on both screens, other times they both start up at same time. Crazy, but it is working so far.

    • Rhino
    • February 16, 2014

    Not possible due to laptop being video out only but there is a workaround… but, firstly, see if you can borrow a 14″ to 19″ LCD monitor first because then that would solve some issues straight off… but to the workaround. If you have a TV with a VGA port then you can hook up you desktop to that, then copy files you need to work on to your laptop.

    But here in NZ, people are literally giving away 14″ to 19″ LCD monitors because they all want widescreen displays. If widescreen isn’t what you need you try asking on Freecycle for one.

    • John Brandolini
    • February 23, 2014

    Unfortunately there is no simple way to use a laptop as a stand alone monitor. There are a number of ways to approach this problem short of buying a new monitor though. The simplest is to check whatever you are using for a regular TV to see if it has a VGA/ sVideo/ DTMI/ or component (RCA connector) video input. If it is an older TV it may just have a component video input and you may need a VGA to component video adapter. Amazon has them for a couple of bucks. Or you may need a VGA to sVideo adapter. They’re also pretty cheap. Try WalMart for that. Second simplest way is to borrow a monitor from a friend or associate. If the problem is with the video card in the PC and not the monitor, you have a different can of worms to deal with. In that case the best thing to do would be remove the hard drive and install it in an external adapter. That would require that you bring the drive to someone who has the ability to access an EIDE or SATA drive. If you are worried about recovering sensitive data from the drive, hopefully you can find someone you can trust. Bottom line, once you get the files from the PC archive them on a flash drive or DVD to avoid this problem in the future.

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