Multiple Monitors Are Not That Common

Multiple Monitors Are Not That Common

People with more than one monitor love how it improves their productivity and cringe at the thought of working on a single screen. While support for using multiple monitors has steadily improved in mainstream operating systems, it turns out it’s not a very common choice.

Picture by Jose C Silva

In a blog post discussing the new multiple monitor options in Windows 8 (the post has, for some unknown reason, since been pulled), Microsoft discloses data from its in-built Windows Feedback Program telemetry systems on how people use multiple monitors. The big picture? Just 14 per cent of desktop users use more than one monitor, and less than 5 per cent of laptop users, and a much smaller percentage use more than two. Here are the full figures:

Microsoft notes that “this particular opt-in data set is enthusiast-leaning so represents the high end of usage”, which means if anything the real-world numbers might be lower. Those figures obviously don’t include Mac or Linux users, but they’re still drawn from a very large pool of data. For all the developers and designers who find multiple monitors essential, it’s clear that most people are happy enough with their single screen.

I’ve always resisted a multiple monitor setup because I travel so frequently. Having a workflow that’s the same wherever I am is more important to me than having multiple apps visible simultaneously (the fact I prefer to work in full-screen apps anyway undoubtedly makes that easier for me). I also figure I’m using a lot less power that way. But I’m not about to browbeat others into making the same choice; needs differ. Feel free to share your own rationale for multiple monitors (or for staying single-screen) in the comments.


  • It amazes me the number of people at work who just use their desktop monitor as a mirror of their laptop monitor..
    What amazes me even further is that my “dual monitor” (laptop and Monitor) rig hasn’t elicited any queries to duplicate my setup from anyone visiting me at my desk!

  • my work requires me to continually look at multiple data sets, compare documents and look at multiple inputs. I currently have 3 monitors, but my laptop can only support 2….:(

    i would LOVE 4 24inch monitors OR a 4k screen (at least 2×32 inch screens) so i can look at everything that i need to.

    my current setup of 3840*1080 is not good enough, it needs to be at least 3840*2160

  • But note that they also expect that % to increase as (1) monitors get cheaper and (2) more people start docking their laptop/ultrabook/tablet to a monitor.

    • wow this software is an awesome tip – i havent really cared much to go dual monitor before but with the ability to run a couple of different machines this seamlessly i’m absolutely getting on board!

  • Have 2 at work as does half our office, and also 2 at home – permantly converted – could not go back to a one screen. I’d be open to trying a 3rd, but would start getting squishy on the desk so would need to look at getting it mounted above the other two screens or something.

    • On my workstation, a 17″ MacBook Pro, I have 4 external monitors, 1920×1080 (x2), 1080×1920 (x1) and 1280×1024 (x1). They’re connected via Mini-Display Port (x1) and USB (3xUSB DVI) adapter.

      I regularly run out of space and to make things worse, I’m getting older and blinder – so things are beginning to get too small.

      Working is both excellent and painful at the same time. Regularly the up-click of a mouse-click doesn’t work and one monitor has a delay issue where a double-click hardly ever registers.

      I cannot imagine working without a laptop- but my quest for a better solution continues.

      [In case you’re wondering, the three 1080p monitors are identical, one is rotated into portrait and was by far my largest productivity gain.]

    • On my work rig I run 2 x 30″, 2 x 22″ in landscape on the sides, and 3 x USB 8″ touchscreens underneath.
      I feel claustrophobic going back to 2 x (<=1080p) monitors whenever I work from remote sites…

    • I run 5 at work too, not counting the lappy or iPad, Admitedly.theyre hooked up to 3 machines but synergy takes care. of that 😉 at home may gamin rig has 3 and my music rig four makes everything super productive and can help streamline any workflow!

  • I am similar to wsDK_II but I also bought a Kensington USB adapter that is capable of 1920×1200 and it works a treat to give me a third monitor on my laptop (can add a few more with more of the same adapters, up to 6 with some!). There are a number of USB video adapters out there but don’t expect them to be good for gaming or medium to high end graphics requirements Multiple monitors rule!

  • I can see why Angus doesn’t use multiple monitors; it is frustrating to get things done on one laptop screen when you’re used to being able to flick one window over to the second monitor to give you space to work on another one without losing sight of the first.

    BTW, Precise Pangolin Ubuntu handles dual monitors much, much better than earlier versions!

  • 4 monitors here too. Having one of the monitors vertical next to my main centre monitor makes viewing webpages and monitoring my inbox super efficient. Running Windows 7 is a must with more than on monitor. Being able to snap windows to a individual screen to view its contents is far more. productive than having one really large screen.

  • I use a laptop ~17″ screen along with an external 24″ at work, and find it far more productive than *just* the laptop.

    At home, I have three 24″ monitors, although I must admit it’s probably more about the e-peen than anything else. If they’re all in landscape, the simple act of having to move your head from side to side becomes a chore. Far better off to stack them 2×2 if you’re going with that many screens.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love my three screens, though I could certainly do with just two of them, no worries. The idea of only one screen feels a little claustrophobic these days, as I’m sure many will agree.

    Different strokes though, right?

  • I use multiple monitors wherever I can. Having documents side-by-side on a widescreen is good, but having those as well as having my reference materials and file browser open at the same time is ideal. And Aero Snap is awesome for dual-monitor setups.

  • I find multiple monitors extremely distracting. In our office all desktops recentlu got upgraded to 2 monitor setup. I struggled for several weeks trying to figure out how to use the second monitor. Then realised that I am much more productive on single monitor. Start one app, maximise it full screen and focus on your task. I switched second monitor off and never use it. Seriously considering replacing my 24″ monitor with a 17″ one as one app maximised full screen on 24″ monitor looks just stupid.

  • Given the opt-in nature of the data I’d suspect it of being on the low side – from what I’ve seen, a more tech-savvy user is less likely to share user data.

    The vast majority of computer users are consumers who take what they’ve got and rarely give thought to having it work better or doing upgrades/add-ons/expansions.

  • Only rocking 2 at the moment, and they are different sizes :(, saving up for better ones though. Although gamers are a minority among total computer users, it wouldn’t surprise me if triple monitor setups have increased since technology like eyefinity has become available.

    And since the multi monitor system is so useful, those that use it won’t be able to go back, On top of that there’s a chance that all these businesses using multi-monitors will convert individual users, so i definitely see it as something that will catch on more over time. There’s just so much to do, and not enough space.

    • don’t worry about similarity between the 2, just having more than 1 helps doesn’t matter if its different size color or what ever still does the job :)… btw I have 3 screens 19″w on the left, 24″w in the middle and 19″sq on the right, does the trick xD

  • I have a laptop plus external monitor setup (Mac).

    The external monitor is my main workspace: it’s larger and, even more important, it has a matte screen. (I can’t stand glossy displays.) The laptop display is for ad hoc use, displaying reference apps like Dictionary and a simple calendar or communication apps like Skype, and other occasional windows.

    I’m not bothered by the shift to a single monitor when I take my laptop out and about. Perhaps that’s because the kind of work I do when out and about is sufficiently different to the kind of work I do at my desk.

  • 3 at work, 3 at home, very handy for research and coding jobs, as well as permently having Outlook open so I can at a glance see my calendar/inbox. Just mixed monitors at the moment, 1920X1080 and 2 1440X900 at work, and a 1920X1200 and 2 1280X1024 at home. Saving for 3 1920X1200 IPS panels at the moment….

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