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May 20 / kkrizka

External Monitor on Ubuntu

I bought a DCLCD DCL20A 20″ LCD Wide Screen monitor and I tried to use it as an external monitor for my laptop which is running Ubuntu Linux. Right after I plugged it into the VGA port (I don’t have a DVI cable yet), the image came up on the new monitor. However it’s resolution was 1200×800, which is what my laptop screen supports, and since the monitor was designed for a much greater 1680×1050 the image was very blurry. After a bit of googling I found out that my Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go video card does support it, but there were no instructions on how to set it. I tried to edit the xorg.conf manually, but that resulted in a bunch of “Out of Range” errors being displayed by the monitor. Then I realized that there might be another solution, and to my surprise it was a correct one AND I didn’t have to restart X Server for it to work. It only worked with nvidia graphics card, but if you have a ATI card you might try the following website, it’s what gave me the idea for my solution.

Steps to Change the Resolution of an External Monitor on Linux with Nvidia Video Card

  1. Make sure you are using the binary nvidia drivers. If you’re on Ubuntu, just follow this tutorial.
  2. Install the nvidia-settings package.

    apt-get install nvidia-settings

  3. Start the installed application. I did it by running the nvidia-settings from command line, but I am sure there is an entry in the Ubuntu settings menu.
  4. Select the “X Server Display Configuration” category.
  5. The settings manager should have detected your new external monitor and let you pick the resolution you want.
  6. Click the “Apply” button and you will have your resolution. If it did not work, scroll down to the troubleshooting section of this post.
  7. Click the “Save to X Configuration File” button to have your settings restored next time you start up your computer.


“Out of Range” Error on the Monitor

This happened to me when I picked “Auto” for my refresh frequency. I manually tried all the possible values, and 60Hz worked.


Leave a comment
  1. Jonatan Ramirez / May 4 2008

    Thanks a lot for your help, i just download x server config from ADD/REMOVE option and it worked like a charm! i been trying to achive external monitor as crazy and finally did it with your help… bye

  2. ethan / Feb 16 2009

    Greatly appreciate your suggestion, which works like a charm.

  3. Seth Leedy / May 2 2009

    This is perfect. Just what I was looking for!

  4. Jay / Jan 17 2010

    Well, well, well…if it isn’t Karol! Long time no see!

    So I just put Ubuntu on my laptop, and I’ve been trying to get my external monitor working. Guess how surprised I was when a Google search brought me to Karol Krizka’s blog :O. Too bad though, I’m working with an ATI card.

    Anyway, I like the blog, I hope you’re doing well; we should talk sometime (and play gun, just like old times :P).

  5. Sam / Jun 8 2011

    Thank you. I followed the tutorial you mention, and finally I get my HP ZR22w works as an external monitor of my laptop.

  6. ander / Jun 30 2011

    Yes, but what if the list of resolutions doesn’t include your external monitor’s native resolution? How can you add it?

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