Mobility is a very practical feature that we all want to have to be able to work, entertain, and communicate through our devices at any time and any place, without limitations. This is perfectly reflected in the enormous popularity of laptop computers around the world, with numbers already exceeding desktop PC sales for years.
However, in many cases, mobility is something that can limit, to some extent, the power and versatility of a device.
When it comes to working, nothing beats the power and versatility of a desktop PC, and it’s for this reason that manufacturers have been developing devices that allow us to adapt our laptops, to enjoy the full range of possibilities that a desktop PC can offers us.
One of these devices is the docking station and today, you’ll learn what it is, what are its possibilities and HOW TO HOOK UP A DOCKING STATION TO YOUR LAPTOP COMPUTER. Let’s get started.
What are docking stations and why we use them?
A docking station is a peripheral device that serves to transform your laptop PC into a desktop PC. This device usually always remains on the desktop with the rest of the peripherals that normally accompany a desktop PC and can offer the full range of connections and functions of these computers. Its basic objective is to allow the permanent connection of certain peripherals and devices such as monitor, mouse, keyboard, power cable, etc.
What advantages do we get from a docking station?
The number of people who work with their laptops without having to go to an office has increased notably in recent years.
Still, and ironically, the performance of today’s laptops doesn’t keep up with the demands of modern remote work; laptops are more and more powerful, but have fewer and fewer communication ports to take full advantage of this power.
In this sense, if you’re a scientist and need to be able to view several statistical analyzes at the same time, you may find that your laptop does not have enough ports to connect two or more monitors to the device.
And if you are a professional writer? There is nothing better to increase productivity than being able to type on a huge keyboard and quickly navigate between screens with a vertical mouse.
The same happens if you are a professional videogames player who needs to have as much visual field as possible, so that you don’t miss your shots, for example.
A docking station can provide the best of both worlds: the portability of a powerful modern laptop and the versatility and convenience of a desktop PC:
- One, two or more external monitors
- Ethernet for a quicker and reliable connection
- More USB ports for connecting external storage devices
- A full-sized keyboard and mouse
Just to name a few options.
It’s a small technological revolution that, although it isn’t a new idea, has been significantly enhanced thanks to the introduction of modern USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports.
What to look for in a good docking station?
Mouse and keyboard
A portable docking station can include a full-size keyboard and mouse, which is convenient if you must use your laptop for long periods of time. Keep in mind that scrolling using a touch screen and a small keyboard can cause errors and fatigue, which can cause you problems over time.
A portable docking station includes more ports than your conventional laptop, allowing you to use multiple peripherals at the same time, such as printers, speakers or USB cables. Some stations also include special ports for more specific functions, such as connecting digital cameras or cell phones.
Connecting a mouse, keyboard, and other peripheral devices to your laptop individually is time-consuming and often a hassle. Docking stations are designed to stay on the desk with all peripherals already connected, so you just need to add your laptop to get started.
Rest your vision
Many docking stations typically include a VGA port for connecting a larger desktop monitor. This is ideal when you need to write and view documents for a long period of time.
In summary, a good docking station might include:
- Full port replication, including USB 2.0/3.0 ports
- Direct Ethernet and modem outputs
- PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse
- Serial and parallel connectors
- Ports S-Video, VGA, DVI, Display Port, HDMI
- Audio input and output
- SD card readers
- A smart AC adapter
What is the difference between a docking station and a USB hub?
Today, there are many options for connecting portable devices to monitors and other peripherals, so it can be confusing at times to choose the best option for everyone. Both USB hubs and docking stations are excellent tools to integrate with current technology and although they essentially offer the same function, each one has a unique and personalized use.
These are devices that allow other devices to be connected to each other, starting from a specific port. Or easier, a hub allows you to expand the number of USB ports on your laptop, either USB-A or USB-C.
Hubs are small devices that are typically powered by laptop power and are typically very small, making them easy to transport.
There are hubs that include USB 2.0 connectivity 40 times faster than USB 1.1 and without using any cables. Some come with 4 or 8 ports and are compatible with Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, and other operating systems.
Hubs are a good solution when you want to expand the power and range of existing ports, both in laptop and desktop computers, in addition to ensuring that there is always a port available to connect and/or charge another peripheral.
The main function of a docking station is to turn the laptop into a desktop computer, expanding the former’s functionality, transforming it into a replacement for the desktop computer.
These peripherals are typically connected via Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, or USB-A ports and can be plugged into a conventional electrical outlet to provide power to the entire workstation.
Most docking stations include four to eight USB-A ports and two to four fast-charging USB-C ports. Each of these ports is independently powered by the same port, instead of consuming power from your laptop.
These devices typically come with a standard video output, usually compatible with one or more monitors, and the supported video ports can include DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, or VGA, with 4K resolutions at 60Hz. Additionally, some models can be placed on the back of a monitor, saving you some desk space.
How to hook up a computer docking station
If you want to use a docking station with a laptop
The process of connecting and using a docking station with a laptop is something that can vary depending on the type of laptop you own. If you have a modern laptop, the procedure as a general rule is very simple, but things change a bit if your laptop is a little older.
If you have a modern laptop:
- Verify that your laptop has USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Find the cable that came with the docking station
- Connect one end of the cable to the USB-C input of the station
- Connect the other end of the cable to your laptop’s USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 port
- Connect the peripherals you want to the rest of the ports of the station as necessary
NOTE: Make sure to connect the cable to the input port of the station and not to another type of port
In case your laptop is somewhat older and doesn’t include USB-C ports, you will have to buy an adapter separately that allows you to make the respective connections.
Note that if your laptop has regular USB-A ports, you’ll most likely need to install some special software to allow communication between devices, and this could make your laptop work more slowly.
If you want to use a docking station with a desktop
Connecting and using a docking station with a desktop computer is basically the same as doing it with a laptop. The procedure is very similar, but the main difference is that, normally, connecting a docking station to a desktop means that it won’t be necessary to connect and disconnect the devices as often.
The most important thing, in this case, would be to find a good place to put the devices. Also take into account that a good desktop computer usually includes a sufficient number of ports to connect all the peripherals you may need.
How to hook up a docking station with two monitors
Check the capacity of your laptop
It’s important that before you start, and even before going to buy a pair of new monitors to connect to your laptop, you find out what is the number of monitors that you can connect to it, in addition to the type of ports available.
Make a test
As a general rule, laptops usually come with at least one port of the HDMI or VGA type to connect an external monitor. If you have one available, plug it in and check that everything works fine. If so, you already have your first monitor working.
Connect the docking station
If you need to connect another monitor, then you’ll need to use the docking station. Before purchasing it, you should have verified that your laptop’s ports are compatible with those of the docking station.
Install the necessary software
A few years ago, the normal thing was that when acquiring a new peripheral, it included a driver installation CD so that the device would work correctly. Nowadays, you’ll most likely need to download the software for your docking station from the manufacturer’s website.
Connect the station to your laptop
When connecting the device, you should hear a sound indicating that the operating system has detected a peripheral connection. After this, you can connect another monitor to the station.
Set up monitors
Locate the monitor setup menu. Keep in mind that this varies depending on the operating system you use, but in general, you just have to right click on the OS desktop.
Find the configuration option for multiple displays and activate the option to spread the image across multiple monitors.
Click the “Identify” button to ensure that each monitor is in the correct place. Finally, close the settings menu.
After following these steps, you should already have your two monitors configured working without problems with your laptop and your docking station. Note that these steps may vary slightly depending on the OS you are using.
How to connect a docking station to a Dell computer?
The steps for using a docking station with a Dell laptop, including the Dell Latitude or Dell Precision E-series models, are very similar to those already described in this article in the corresponding section.
The main difference is that Dell laptops include an additional special port called Dell E-port that you can use to connect compatible docking stations for higher performance.
How to use a docking station when laptop is closed
Go to “Control panel” and search for “Hardware options.”
Find and select the “Choose what closing the lid does” option. You’ll see the following options:
- When I press the power button:
- When I press the sleep button:
- When I close the lid:
To the right of this section, you’ll see the following options:
- On battery
- Plugged in
Just below, you’ll find drop-down option boxes where you’ll have to change the option “sleep” for the option “Do nothing.” Save the changes.
How to connect and set up a docking station with an HP Laptop
If you own an HP Notebook or tablet, follow these steps:
- Connect the docking station to the power outlet and turn it on
- Connect the external monitor to the docking station through the corresponding port, either HDMI, VGA or USB-C
- Pair the docking station with the HP Notebook or tablet using the previously activated WiGig connection
- Select the docking station ID from the displayed list – last 4 digits of your docking station MAC address (see label).
- Wait for the devices to pair
- Set up the external monitor by following the rest of the directions in the appropriate section of this guide