Connect Surface to External Display

Connect Surface Tablet to External Display

Connect Surface to External Monitor or Projector:

One of the awesome things about the Surface is its portability; so, it makes an excellent machine for giving presentations because it’s light and powerful. Not to mention, unlike Apple or Android tablets, it can run actual PowerPoint.

So, if you are one of us unlucky folks who have to get in front of a room of people and do presentations, you’re going to need to know how to connect your Surface to an external display or projector. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to do but there are a few gotchas that might trip you up a bit if you’re not careful. With this post, we’ll cover them for both the Surface Pros and Surface RTs. Hopefully this way, you can concentrate on your presentation instead of fighting with the displays.

First Things First

Before you get up there to make your presentation, you’re going to want to make sure you have the proper display adapter to connect your Surface to the screen or projector. The Surface Pros and  Surface RTs use different adapters but you can easily find out which one you need from this post: Video Port on Surface RT vs. Surface Pro.

Also, it will be helpful if you have a keyboard and mouse. This is because the easiest way to switch between multiple display modes requires a keyboard. And the mouse just makes it easier to work on the second screen, especially because it probably isn’t touch capable like the Surface.

Both the Touch and Type covers have a track pad built into them that will meet this need adequately.

Plugging in your Display Adapter

Here is a case where the  Surface RT is easier to use than the Surface Pro. The Pro uses a Mini Displayport as it’s external video connector. Unfortunately, this means that you can accidentally plug your adapter in upside-down. It won’t work if it’s upside down.

It’s a good idea to mark your adapter so that you are sure to plug it in right-side-up on the first try. You don’t want to be in front of a board of directors or classroom fumbling around with your technology – at least not if you can help it.

The RT, however, uses a MicroHDMI connector which can’t be plugged in upside-down so you don’t have to worry about it.

Projecting to Another Screen

Now that you have your Surface plugged in to the display or projector, it’s time to “tell” Windows to use it. This is where having a keyboard is really handy. If you have one, all you have to do is hit the Windows Key+P.

If you didn’t bring a keyboard, you can still do it. Just follow the instructions below:

  1. Swipe in from the right of the screen to bring up the Charms Menu
  2. Tap the Search Charm
  3. Search for “Project”
  4. Under Settings, select Project to a second screen

Project to second screenIn either case, you should now see this popup on the right side of the screen.

From here you have the following choices:

  1. PC Screen only: This option ignores the second display.
  2. Duplicate: This option simply duplicates the screens, so that you see the same thing in both places.
  3. Extend: This simply adds a second display to the Surface and works exactly like a PC with multiple screens. It doesn’t cause the primary display to resize.
  4. Second screen only: This mode turns off the display on the Surface and uses only the external display.


Using the Duplicate option is common for a lot of folks hooking up to an external display but there’s a catch: To work in duplicate mode, both screens must be set to the resolution and the “lowest-quality” screen will determine what that is.  So, for example, if you’re using a projector with an old VGA connector, it tends to make the Surface display “squish” into a square to match a maximum resolution of 1280×1024.

For this reason, I usually don’t recommend this option unless your external display is capable of showing the same resolution as the Surface.

Useful Information: Microsoft Surface Screen Resolutions
Surface RT: 1366×768
Surface Pro: 1920×1080

(If these resolutions seem low to you, you might be interested in this post on Neowin)

The Second Screen Only mode works really well if you’ve set your Surface up as a desktop replacement. Unfortunately, it robs you of the touch screen capability so make sure you have a mouse if you go this way.

Personally, I almost always use the Extend option. This is because few screens will have exactly the same screen format as the Surface (especially the VGA connected projectors mentioned above); so you don’t have screen resolution issues because the Surface screen can stay in its native format and the 2nd screen can be in whatever format works best for it. It has the bonus of giving you a screen that only you can see. Thus, you can dig through your files or notes “privately” and only show what you want to show to your audience on the second screen.

Some software (like PowerPoint) takes advantage of the Extend functionality and displays the slides on the external screen while giving you a control panel view on your Surface that is quite handy.

I hope you find these tips helpful and as always, if you have questions or comments, let me know.



  1. Is there a guide about Extending….. I have had random issues with resolution on the extended display, it is set correctly but I am still getting scaling on apps that are on the extended display.

    • Hi Jeff,
      Unfortunately we don’t have a guide on extending displays but it’s a good idea. What do you mean that you are getting scaling on apps? Do you mean it does not scale them properly to the display?


  2. Pro2 connected via mini display port adapter to HDMI to Dell U2410. The Pro sees the Dell, but the Dell doesn’t see the Pro. Tried max Res & also 1920:1080. Tried Extend & Duplicate.
    What now??

    • Hi Tony,
      Dell U2410 monitor is compatible with Win 8.1, I checked it on Have you tried downloading the latest driver for Win 8.1 64-bit to the Surface?
      The problem can also be your adapter. I’ve seen reports of folks buying adapters that just don’t work. I always read the reviews before I buy. All things we recommend on our blog, we’ve tried ourselves but it is impossible to try them with every hardware combination. I have a ViewSonic monitor and both the Pro2 and RT work fine with it. Tim has a Dell monitor and he also has no trouble – he uses both a Mac and a StartTech adapter and they work fine with his Pro2. Does nothing display on your monitor at all?


      • Thanks for the prompt reply.
        I have latest drivers. Cables work with Surface & TV. Surface sees the Dell, but Dell doesn’t see the Surface.

        • Hi again Tony,
          So let me see if I have this right.. 1) The Surface and the same HDMI adapter work fine with a TV; 2) The Surface sees the Dell monitor in the Device Manager..? 3)The Dell monitor does not detect the Surface – by this do you mean that it doesn’t get a connection light? and nothing displays?
          Does the monitor display via HDMI on another PC?

          • Yes Joanna, you got all that right.
            The monitor is connected to my PC, as its main monitor. I then also connected it, with its own HDMI socket, to the Surface

  3. I spent another $50 & tried the VGA adaptor to the Dell monitor [had tried HDMI] – still no recognition from the Dell, so I have given up on the Dell.
    I tried with a cheap monitor & it worked, but on ‘Extend’ only, not on ‘Duplicate’.
    But Duplicate is what I want.
    Any photographers manage to connect to a quality monitor?
    I use Lightroom mostly.

    • Matt,

      Good question. I’ve never tried it.

      Thinking through it, a Surface Pro just like any other Windows 8 computer. so, If you find an external touch display that supports connection through Mini display port (or USB) it should work once you install the drivers. If you go through a display adapter, however, I would image it wouldn’t work.

      Sorry I don’t have a more definitive answer but, I don’t have something to test with.


      • I saw on another site that somebody got it working, I believe with a USB connection to handle the touch features. That would be good news and could speed up workflow considerably. Thanks for the reply.

  4. Have a Surface RT and an Epson projector. Connecting via USB cable. The Surface gives me a message that I need to look in Windows app store, but doesn’t say which app I need, nor is the store search very helpful… Any suggestions?

    • Hi Steve,
      The most likely problem is that the projector needs drivers. Surface RT does not allow you to install external drivers. This same thing happened to me with a USB docking station, can’t run it, if I can’t install the drivers. Check out Microsoft’s compatibility website to see if your projector is compatible with Windows RT.

  5. One issue that I ran into with the Surface rt was that when it was connected to a Dell projector, the projector would for the Surface to go to its lowest resolution. This would work fine on either duplicated displays or extended for a few minutes, and then it would suddenly flash and then revert from duplicate display to extended. The Surface would jump back to its native resolution and I would have to disconnect and then reconnect the projector. I’ve seen a lot of posts on various sites about this problem so I wanted to share a solution that seems to work for me. That is, from the control panel change the Surface screen resolution to its lowest setting and keep changes. Then connect the projector and set the screen to duplicate. Then start power point and your slideshow. This will buy you about 20-30 minutes before the Surface reverts back to its native resolution. I’m trying to get Microsoft to explain why it won’t stay at the lower resolution until I return it to the highest. I’ll keep everyone posted when I have an answer

  6. Hello,
    I am in need of a new laptop and I am contemplating getting a surface pro 3 instead of my usual mac-something 🙂
    One thing I would be interested in knowing about the surface pro 3: After connecting a surface pro 3 to a external projector, can one use the pen to make notes on the surface screen and have that also projected?
    What if it’s a powerpoint presentation with multiple slides? could you write on the surface for one slide, then click on the next slide and have the option of removing the writing from the previous slide?
    I hope this makes sense.
    Thanks for all your help!


    • Rocio,

      That’s more dependent of the software you’re using than the Surface but, I know PowerPoint 2013 will do pretty much everything you want.

      It is actually pretty slick on a Surface with an external display as it will give you a special presenters screen where you can make notes, simulate a laser pointer, see previews of upcoming slides, etc.

      Hope this helps,

  7. Hi,

    I was always able to connect my TV on my Surface pro, but tonight it simply didn’t work. My Surface doesn’t even recognize the cable that is pluged inside of it. And it’s not the cable’s fault, I tried it on another surface and it worked like a charm.

    I may, by accident, have deleted the monitor in the devices list in the surface settings (I am still on Windows 8.0 because iTunes wouldn’t work properly on 8.1)

    Is there something that I can do about it?

    • Have you tried manually scanning for hardware changes? Just go into device manager and under “Action” will be an option to scan for hardware changes.

      Just make sure the device is connected when you do this.

      After you do that, right click on your desktop and choose screen resolution. Make sure it see two monitors (the internal screen and the TV)

      If that works, you should be able to get the screen working from there.

      Hope this helps,

  8. I have a Pro 3, and just bought an lg portable projector, it easily uses the wireless casting function to use the projector as a second screen, but, is there any way that I can stop the audio from also being cast, all audio seems to come out of the tiny speaker on the projector, and i would like to use the bluetooth headset paired to the tablet? maybe there is a delay that makes this not possible? any help appreciated

  9. I have completed all the steps listed in your post but I cannot get the projector to actually project what is on my screen. It acts like there is nothing connected to it. Any ideas?

  10. Hi there, ‘
    I”ve got a problem with my Surface 2 and my smart TCL tv that supports Miracast.
    My surface recongnizes my tv but it will not connect.
    first pop up: read the instructions on your tv
    second pop up: there is not enough time, or “this wont work”

    What am I doing wrong?

    Please help, thank you!

  11. I purchased a monitor that had a full (not a mini) Display Port. I then got a Mini Display Port to Display Port cable, but I can’t get the Surface to recognise that it’s connected to a monitor. Seems strange that it’s expecting a DVI or HDMI at the other end.; You would have thought a Display Port would have been just as good (if not better).

    • You would think. Try going into the monitor settings and set it to the DisplayPort instead of the (usual) detect mode. It might help the Surface detect it.

      Also, see if there are any Windows 8.1 drivers for the monitor you can install. While most monitors are pretty good about it now, in the past they could be quite touchy about things like that. And, if the driver for your monitor is not included in the default Microsoft driver bundle, it could explain why it’s not being detected.


  12. Hi,

    I have a surface 3 with an external monitor set up which works well. My only problem is, I would like the ‘monitor only’ to turn off after time to look after my screen, however the only setting I can find is to put the surface to sleep and not the monitor only. Can anyone help me here?

    Thanks in advance

  13. Is there a way to switch the screens? I have my second monitor to the left of my surface, so I have to mouse stage left to arrive on the right side of my surface

    • Yep, it’s in the display settings. You can actually just drag the position of the displays around in the window to adjust their “position” relative to each other…

      Right click on the desktop
      choose Screen Resolution
      Drag the displays around in the window that pops up

  14. can i use an external monitor 4:3 ratio 1600×1200 native resolution with surface pro 1gen set to same 4:3 ratio 1400×1050 resolution with display set to : `show desktop only on 2`?

    • Sorry for the delay. This one slipped past me….

      Anyway, if you still need help; yes, you can set the resolution to a 4:3 ratio so long as you’re set to second screen only. You may need to download drivers for the monitor so Windows recognizes what resolutions it’s capable of putting out.

  15. I just purchased an HP touch screen monitor to connect my Surface Pro to so I could have a larger screen to work from. However, when I connect the Surface to it I get a great display but the touch screen on the HP monitor is not working. Any ideas on how I can get this feature to work when connected to my Surface. I am currently in duplicate display mode if that helps.

    • External touchscreens have drivers that need to be installed but, sometimes, windows doesn’t know about them.

      Check HPs website for windows drivers for your monitor. That should solve it.

  16. Hi
    I have a problem with my surface pro 4 , when I connect my surface to projector, forexample, when I want to draw a cube and when I am drawing the fifth side of cube, the first side of cube that I draw , it will clean!
    what should I do?!thanks

  17. Hello there, I have a question, hope some one could help me out.
    I connect my Surface 3 to an nice big monitor, in ‘display 2 only’ mode. Every thing seems work fine except that there is no sound! I have tried different modes including duplicate and extend with no luck. The monitor has no audio, could I keep using the surface to produce sound while projecting the video to an external monitor? Thank you in advance.


  18. My Surface 3 recconises the tv that i connect to it through the Mini Display Port, but even with this the Table will not project the screen onto the Tv to which ive connected to it. Anyone know how to fix this?

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