Connect a Second Monitor to Linux Mint with a USB to HDMI Adapter

Having a second or even a third monitor attached to your PC gives a helpful increase in screen space. Being able to have more windows and applications visible at once improves productivity and can reduce the stress of computer usage.

Generally, the number of screens is limited by the number of PC interfaces. Especially for laptops, which often have fewer ports than desktop/tower systems. Fortunately, the number of monitor ports can be increased by the addition of a simple adapter. For Windows users it’s easy. For Linux users, well it is quite easy too, as this article explains.

USB to HDMI Adapter

An adapter can “change” a spare USB port into HDMI port. I bought this Cable Matters USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter from Amazon for £51. Although it is entitled “…for Windows“, it operates fine with Linux. I got it working as detailed below. By the way, I am using Linux Mint 21.1 MATE on a laptop made by MSI, model cx61.

The adapter model number is 103046.

Physical Installation

Start by physically installing the adapter. Disconnect your monitor from the HDMI port, if connected, and reconnected it to a USB 3 port, via the interface adapter.

Download the DisplayLink Driver

Download the Displaylink (who make the adapter’s chipset) driver from here:
https://www.synaptics.com/products/displaylink-graphics/downloads/ubuntu. Under “Latest Official Driver“, click the “Download” button, then “Accept” to accept the license agreement and save the file, which will be saved as “‘DisplayLink USB Graphics Software for Ubuntu5.6.1-EXE.zip‘” or similar. Note: By the time you read this article, which was last updated January 2023, the version and name of the file might have changed slightly, as might the download URL. If so, it should be quite easy to find it with a Google search of “Linux driver for Displaylink HDMI adapter”.

Driver Installation

Unpack the zip file to reveal a single runnable file. Run it. Example commands:

# unzip "DisplayLink USB Graphics Software for Ubuntu5.3.1-EXE.zip"
# ./displaylink-driver-5.3.1.34.run
Verifying archive integrity… 100% All good.
Uncompressing DisplayLink Linux Driver 5.3.1.34 100%
DisplayLink Linux Software 5.3.1.34 install script called:
Distribution discovered: Linux Mint 20.1
...

Enter “y” in answer to the question “Do you want to continue? [Y/n]”

Much more stuff is printed at this point. Packages are installed from standard repositories, including dkms and libdrm-dev. A kernel module is built (evdi.ko). Finally a message appears:

Installation complete!

Reboot your system to make sure the driver is properly picked up.

Troubleshooting

If errors happen with the installation, please make sure you downloaded the latest version of the driver. For example, I initially tried to install driver version 5.3.1 which failed with various compilation errors on Mint 21.1 (based on Ubuntu 22.04), although it had worked perfectly on Mint 20 (Ubuntu 20.04). Downloading the latest version fixed the problem.

Configure Monitors

If you have more than one monitor connected, it will probably be necessary to configure the layout. I am running Linux 21.1 “MATE” version. So I used the “Monitors” graphical application to arrange my monitors and desktop as desired. If you are using Mint Cinnamon, or even another distribution altogether, there will be an equivalent app, but I am not sure what it is called.

Performance Testing

An HP Pavillion 23 XI monitor was connected over the adapter, at a resolution of 1920×1080. There was no noticeable decline in performance versus a direct HDMI connection. I’m not a gamer and use the monitor for normal desktop work, such as web surfing and business applications.

Little CPU load was imposed by the adapter. For example, watching an HD video on the relevant screen, or just moving a window backwards and forwards (fully rendered), brought a “DisplayLinkManager” application to use 140% of CPU. On my powerful but ageing laptop (CPU: i7-4702 MQ, a fourth generation i7 with 4 cores/8 threads), that is engaging less than 1.5 out of 8 available cores. In fact watching the HD video usually imposed about 60% of one CPU.

I then switched the adapter to a new Dell U2719D 27″ Widescreen monitor, at a resolution of 2560 x 1440. That’s 2K, and the maximum resolution of the USB adapter. Again, there was no noticeable degradation in performance in normal “office” use. And watching this test 2K video stressed the CPU to, again, about 140% of one thread or less.

Not sure what difference it makes, but the laptop graphics card is an Nvidia GeForce GT 740M.

Performance should therefore not be an issue, except perhaps in base model PCs with 2 threads or less.

New Kernels

It might be expected that the driver would need to be rebuilt with every new kernel installed on the PC. This appeared not to be the case. A kernel install did not appear to trigger a rebuild.

Other Linux Variants

This DisaplayLink driver is likely to work on other Debian based distros, for example Ubuntu. Red Hat/Fedora based systems might need a slightly different approach.

Sound Issue

After installing the driver on Linux Mint 20 (and 21) MATE, there was an issue with no sound being produced from Youtube videos and applications like VLC.

Under MATE sound preferences -> “Output” tab, a new output had appeared, “USB3.0 to HDMI Adapter Digital Stereo (IEC958)”. It was activated, presumably directing all sound output to an imaginary audio device provided, somehow, by the adapter. Perhaps intended for monitors with built in speakers.

I clicked the radio button for “Built-in Analogue Stereo” instead. Sound started. Problem fixed. However, it reverted after a reboot. A permanent fix was to disable the “ghost” USB adapter sound device: Sound Preferences -> Hardware tab -> scroll down to “USB3.0 to HDMI Adapter”, highlight it, then click “Profile” followed by “Off”. Fixed.

Conclusion

Being able to connect a monitor via USB obviously increases the number of monitors you can have, and provides a useful upgrade path where existing ports are limited. By adding a USB 3 hub, and more adapters, it should be possible to connect many screens to a single laptop.

I didn’t use a hub, but had three monitors connected and running fine: one via the USB to HDMI adapter, another directly to the laptop’s HDMI port, and third, older monitor to the VGA port. All were different resolutions, and it all worked.

Disclaimer

This article is simply a record of a procedure carried out on my laptop. No guarantee or assurance of any kind is provided that the same procedure will work for you.

17 thoughts on “Connect a Second Monitor to Linux Mint with a USB to HDMI Adapter

    • Hi Cyberbob, it works for me on Linux Mint, which is based on Ubuntu. Not sure what the issue might be there.

      Sorry for the late reply!

      Jim

  1. After finding your tutorial/report (thank you!) I bought this baby (4K model 202048 at amazon ~45GBP) for my 3rd monitor. Installation was flawless. Monitor worked right away. Driver version 5.3.1 in Ubuntu 18.04.6.
    CPU usage:
    YT from firefox full screen up to ~70%
    Firefox scrolling page full screen ~30%
    top in Terminal fullscreen or idle ~5%
    To sum up good (and the only?) choice for coding monitor, but will handle movies too.

    • Hi Charly, I just had a chance to test this. Yes it works over USB 2.0. Eg. playing an HD video off Youtube, and displaying full screen on the USB 2 connected display, worked fine. (Display was 1920×1080).

  2. Hi,
    I tried your method; got this message:
    «
    Installing

    [ Installing EVDI ]
    [[ Installing EVDI DKMS module ]]
    Creating symlink /var/lib/dkms/evdi/1.7.0/source -> /usr/src/evdi-1.7.0

    Kernel preparation unnecessary for this kernel. Skipping…

    Building module:
    cleaning build area…
    make -j16 KERNELRELEASE=5.15.0-52-generic all INCLUDEDIR=/lib/modules/5.15.0-52-generic/build/include KVERSION=5.15.0-52-generic DKMS_BUILD=1…(bad exit status: 2)
    ERROR (dkms apport): binary package for evdi: 1.7.0 not found
    Error! Bad return status for module build on kernel: 5.15.0-52-generic (x86_64)
    Consult /var/lib/dkms/evdi/1.7.0/build/make.log for more information.
    ERROR: Failed to install evdi/5.3.1.34 to the kernel tree.
    »

    Any idea what I could do to solve this?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Triskael, you encountered an when running the “./displaylink-driver-5.3.1.34.run” command. It is difficult to say what caused it, particularly as I don’t know about your PC setup, what else is installed or even what OS is running.

      Did you consult the file /var/lib/dkms/evdi/1.7.0/build/make.log, as suggested in the error message?

      Jim

  3. Hi , it worked for me like a charm! Thanks a lot!

    Just a few notes here if it would help anyone!

    I was using Pop_os latest version (JAN 2023) and it does not work with display link driver! (i cant install).
    Then i decided to change my system to ubuntu 22.0.4 (latest version) and i worked!!!

    As I study, display link not working well with popos because it has some issue with kernel 6.0. And it work with ubuntu because ubuntu using kernel 5.17!

    so may be you guys should switch to ubuntu!

    • Cheers nsnl, glad to hear you got it working. I’ve just updated the article to reflect the latest driver version, and Ubuntu 22/Linux Mint 21. Cheers, Jim.

  4. First, thank you for sharing this solution!

    Unfortunately, I’ve followed every step in this guide, but when I get to ./displaylink-driver-5.7.0-61.129.run I get a permission denied error. Any idea? Even with sudo su, it doesn’t work.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Lou,

      Are you sure you executed the command as root user? You have to execute it as root user.

      Also, please post the output of this command:

      ls -l displaylink-driver-5.7.0-61.129.run

      Jim

      • Sorry for the late reply, and thank you for getting back to me.

        I’m 100% sure I did execute the command as root user. However, for some reason beyond my current understanding (I’m still learning Linux on my own and I love it), disabling secure boot did the trick.

        Now, I finally have my tri-screen fully working on my laptop using the Cable Matters USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter you recommended.

        Thanks again for your support. Wish you all the best!

        Cheers!

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