Does it Exist: Plug n Play USB to VGA/DVI?

Tried to keep the title short, but descriptive.

I am in the need for an adapter that will allow me to add an additional monitor. I need the monitor to act as an extension of the desktop and not merely mirror one of the two monitors already installed. And, to make it more difficult, I need to do this without installing software into the computer.

The computer is a Dell Laptop running Windows 7. The current display setup is the integrated monitor and one external monitor. I would like to add a third.

Here is a USB-to-VGA adapter and here is one that will display DVI, except that these products come with driver CDs and presumably need a driver to be installed. (When you exclude installing software, are you also excluding installing a driver?)

Yes, driver as well, unfortunately. The intended purpose is to use on a work computer, which is highly restrictive as far as installing anything at all. I found one that automatically installs a driver through Windows Update, but I don’t even think that will work. It would have to be as Plug n Play as a keyboard or mouse, which I’m guessing does not exist, but I’m hoping there’s something out there.

In that case, I think you’re out of luck. If I move my Windows 7 work computer and reattach the same keyboard and mouse to different USB ports, Windows still goes through the “discovering new hardware” process. It’s as if Windows has no idea what this strange thing is that’s been attached to the computer, even if it’s a standard PC keyboard, or two-button mouse. And the annoying bit is that Windows starts by looking for the driver for the mystery device on Windows Update (rather than, say, in the OS, where the driver already exists).

Now the Startech products might just get configured via a driver found via Windows Update. I can’t be sure, though.

BTW, check the computer carefully. Some Dell notebook computers have more than one port for an external monitor (such as a VGA and an HDMI port, or VGA and mini-Displayport).

I think DisplayLink is standard enough that Windows will go and find the right driver on its own (plug-and-play). This one, for example, claims “DisplayLink 4K Plug-and-Display certified - automatic driver installation and updates.” Though I’m not 100% sure if that’s the same as plug-and-play capability built into Windows.

Yes, I have one here. It was for use on an older laptop that had very poor external graphics. It worked well enough but was very fussy about setup, order of turn-on, etc.

Highly unlikely; these aren’t really “adapters,” DisplayLink creates a “virtual” graphics card which looks to Windows like a regular hardware graphics card. then the software/driver packages the generated display data and sends it via USB to the VGA/DVI/HDMI output.

This is an important question. Carrying video is not a baseline function of USB (at least not the USB of the Windows 7 era), so there won’t be a driverless solution.

That’s the key. Any USB/video adapter is going to function as a video card (and there’s noting “virtual” about it, it’s a physical video card that happens to be external, like an external hard drive compared to an internal one).

Luckily, USB-C is slowly trickling into the industry and a USB-C cable will be able to natively support video; some newer 4K TVs come with USB-C ports built right in. So we may have a situation in the future where you can plug a monitor into any available USB-C port on a PC and your video driver will recognize it and push out video to it as another monitor without any fiddling around with driver installs, but rather it would be like plugging a monitor into a video card’s second port.