With time, monitors have grown wider and wider to give us more space and more resolution for videos and gaming. Setting up your screen horizontally may come naturally to you—that’s how it’s shown on the box anyway—but it might not be the most efficient option when you’re working.
Changing to a vertical monitor setup is easy to do and can make more efficient use of every single inch of your screen. When you’re using programs like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or looking at traditional scroll-down webpages, there’s only so much a wider screen can do for you. It’ll come to a point when having more room only means more space between columns or a larger grey area between the document you’re working on and the scroll bar on the right.
A vertical monitor will display more condensed versions of your browser, but it’ll allow you to fully fit two windows on your screen instead of one more comfortably. This means that if you use a monitor as your laptop’s second display, you’ll have immediate control over three applications or tabs at the same time.
How to set up a vertical monitor
There are two sets of steps you’ll have to go through to set up a vertical monitor—one involving hardware, and the other involving software.
Let’s start with the first one. If you’re using your monitor with a stand, physically changing the screen orientation into a vertical position should be easy. The exact process will depend on the manufacturer, but some Dell monitors, for example, can be easily rotated into portrait mode, or have some sort of a lock on the back you can press to rotate your screen. Desk mounts are easy too, and even basic ones let you change your display orientation however you want.
[Related: The best vertical monitors of this year]
Once that’s sorted, you’ll have to deal with the software setup. First, make sure your monitor is properly connected and set up to work with your computer. If you don’t know how to do that, PopSci has all the instructions you need. No matter the make of your computer, the monitor you connect will be in a landscape or horizontal position by default—you’ll need to change that.
Set up a vertical monitor with Windows
On PCs running Windows 11, go to the Start menu and click Settings (the cog icon). The menu will automatically open the System options, where you’ll click on the first item on the list: Display. If your monitor is already connected to your machine, you’ll immediately see the Multiple displays menu, where you can configure where the screen is relative to your laptop or other monitors you may be using. If you don’t see this, scroll down to find the Multiple displays menu and click on Detect.
Once your computer recognizes the secondary screen, scroll down to Display orientation and click the drop-down menu on the right to change the default option from Landscape to either Portrait or Portrait (flipped). Choose the second one if you rotated your display counterclockwise. Don’t sweat it if you get it wrong—Windows will give you 15 seconds to undo your changes via a pop-up notification. Just click on Revert and things will immediately go back to normal.
If you’re still using Windows 10, the steps are substantially similar: Start > Settings (cog icon) > System > Display > Orientation.
Set up a vertical monitor with macOS
On Macs, go to the Apple menu, choose System Settings, and then on the sidebar choose Displays. Unlike Windows, there’s no manual way to push a Mac to detect a second screen. This happens automatically, so if you don’t see your monitor in the Displays menu, it’s not connected. Once you see your monitor, select it and at the bottom of the window you’ll find Rotation. Click the drop-down menu to the right and change the default Standard to either 90° or 270°, depending on whether you flipped your display clockwise or counterclockwise.
When not to choose a vertical monitor setup
If you work in a very compartmentalized way and use separate windows for different jobs or accounts, a vertical monitor will be comfortable and help you keep everything just a glance away.
But if you prefer to keep a long row of endless tabs on your browser or need to focus on one thing at a time, a vertical monitor setup may be too stimulating for you. Still, if this is your case, it’s always a good idea to keep your primary screen (be it another monitor or your laptop’s built-in display) locked to a landscape view. That way, whenever you need to concentrate, you can turn off your vertical monitor and pour all of your attention into the task at hand. When you’re finished, you can easily go back to that comfortable bird’s-eye view.
This story has been updated. It was originally published on September 14, 2021.