How to change multiple display settings (primary display selection) without external monitor hooked up?!!


Jul 28, 2014
This seems REALLY stupid to me, but here goes:

I have an HP x360 Spectre laptop with 4k monitor. I recently got an HP ultrawide monitor. I connected the ultrawide monitor to my Spectre using the HDMI ports. Then it was not working right. The ultrawide was not displaying properly, but I still had my laptop screen, right?

So going into display settings, I saw the settings for multiple displays, and I decide maybe there was some conflict trying to run both displays, so I switched it to only one display, and using the external ultrawide as primary, thinking that if that was the only thing the computer was trying to display on, it might get it sorted out right.

No luck. The ultrawide display remained useless. HOWEVER, as soon as I made these changes, my laptop display went black. NOW I HAVE NO DISPLAY AT ALL!!!!

Okay, so I obviously want to undo this setting change, right? While I have no display at all, if I unplug the external ultrawide, my laptop display comes back on. Great, right? Not so fast... Apparently, the settings that let you choose what to do with multiple monitors ONLY APPEAR WHEN YOU HAVE AN EXTERNAL MONITOR CONNECTED! So those drop down menus are simply not there until and unless I plug in the external monitor. But as soon as I plus in the external monitor, based on those "multi-display" settings, my laptop screen goes dark because I have selected to use only the external.

So basically, it appears literally IMPOSSIBLE to change this setting back because in order to have this setting selection appear, I lose any active display. And when I have my laptop display working (unplugging external monitor) I cannot get this selection option to appear to make changes.

If this is truly as it appears, that means any time you have trouble getting your laptop to display on an external monitor, and you make the questionable move to see if selecting that display as your primary and sole display might fix the problem, you have just made it IMPOSSIBLE to undo that selection. Why the hell would they design it that way??

The bottom line is that, sure, I can keep using my laptop by unplugging the external monitor and giving up on using it. What I have lost, and why this is really annoying, is the ability to do any sort of trouble-shooting on this display problem. Heck, I could have continued tweaking resolutions or tried other stuff... But now that I have no display when I attached the external monitor, I cannot do squat to try to resolve this problem.

Is there a way to restore my display settings to "factory default" or whatever, which would presumably undo my selection of what to do when an external monitor is attached? Or another fix?



Apr 29, 2006
Laptops have an Fn button. There should also be a button that changes the monitor settings. This varies by the laptop but it tends to look like two rectangles side by side. Here is an example.

With the external monitor attached, try pressing these buttons. I'm also not sure HDMI has the power to run a widescreen high res monitor. You might need DVI or DP depending on the HDMI level in that laptop.
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