In recent years, we’ve seen PC hardware make huge leaps, both in terms of performance and efficiency. That’s great for the average user, but the increase in performance has a negative effect on both heat development and power consumption.
So if you’re the kind of person who likes to monitor your system’s vitals, then we’ve got a tutorial for you. It tells you how to add a second display to your PC to monitor temperature, power consumption and the frequency at which the hardware is running. Note that this may require modifying your hardware, so proceed at your own risk. Let’s see what hardware you need to complete the setup.
Right off the bat, you need a screen to view the various data points. For this we recommend using one of the displays for Raspberry Pi as they are relatively cheap and come with the basic features you need. Make sure you buy a display that also supports PC output. Some displays only support Raspberry Pi and this will not help you as we will be connecting the display directly to the GPU.
Unfortunately, there is no good recommendation for displays, as these vary greatly depending on the region and manufacturer. You can visit the Raspberry Pi website or Amazon to find the best display for your needs. As for size, make sure you get one that will fit in your suitcase, but I found five to seven inches to be the ideal size. Anything larger is just wasted space in your case.
Moving on you will also need a screwdriver and some spacers, but the latter is optional as some displays come with their own mounting hardware including spacers. If you don’t have standoffs available, you can use the extra ones that came with your motherboard. Alternatively, you could also mount the display outside of the case if you don’t have enough space inside or if you have a case with a tinted side panel like me.
Check the back of the screen before mounting, as some displays come with a physical power button that can be difficult to reach when mounting the display to your case.
After assembly, you need to run two cables – the HDMI input and the USB power cable. Since my monitor has a USB pass-through, I connected the display to the monitor to reduce cable clutter. However, you can connect the cable to a USB port on your motherboard. Next, connect the HDMI cable from the display to your GPU. Make sure you connect the cable to your GPU and not your motherboard (unless you’re using integrated graphics instead of a discrete GPU).
Once setup is complete, your display should turn on. Before setting up monitoring, some settings on Windows must be changed. First go to Settings > System > Display and set the “Display Resolution” and “Display Orientation” as you like. When doing this, make sure you have selected “Expand these ads” in the top-right drop-down list.
Next go to Personalization > Taskbar and uncheck “Show my taskbar on all displays” under Taskbar behavior. This will hide the taskbar on the second screen.
Once done, you can move on to the next part and configure hardware monitoring. Make sure you download AIDA64 before proceeding as we will use it to set up monitoring on the second display.
After downloading AIDA64, open the app and navigate to File > Settings > Sensor Range. Now activate ‘Show Sensor Panel’ and define the resolution in the sensor panel size. You should match the resolution with the resolution of your display and orientation for the correct panel size. You can also set the background color here, but by default it’s set to blue. When finished, click Apply to save the settings and close the dialog box.
Now you can right click on the panel and select Sensor Panel Manager. This will open another window where you can configure all the settings and add different widgets. By default, AIDA64 offers a few widgets, but you can either delete them or customize them to suit your needs. To add a new widget, right-click on an empty space in the sensor field and select “New”.
This will open another window and here in the item type you can choose what kind of widget you want to add. Some options you can use are Chart, Gauge, and Static Text. Once selected, you can select the sensor on the General tab. This includes system sensors like CPU usage, GPU usage, clock speeds, and more. Below you’ll also get options to view power consumption, fans, power output, and temperature.
If you have selected the Sensor item above, you have various options for specifying the unit of measure and the bar graph format.
To move an existing widget you need to right click on the widget and select move and place it where you want to display it. AIDA64 has decent customization options when it comes to graphics and displays, so you can personalize it to your liking.
One thing to note here is that while AIDA64 has an option to add FPS, it relies on RTSS to display FPS data. So if you plan to use FPS on the panel, download RTSS and make sure it opens along with AIDA64 on startup.
Coming to the performance penalties of setting up monitoring on your system, AIDA64 and RTSS together consume on average 100MB of RAM and less than 1% of my CPU. To be honest I didn’t notice any issues when I had both running in the background or both started at startup. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m running a Ryzen 5900x paired with 32GB RAM and RTX 3080Ti, so your mileage may vary. That being said, I tried running both on my old laptop with 1060 GPU and 8GB RAM and couldn’t see any noticeable difference in performance. You can always uninstall both programs if you notice a difference in performance.
AIDA64 has many options to choose from, so you can customize it to your liking. However, I have uploaded my design so you can import it if you want to use it. To import a design, open the Sensor Panel Manager and select “Import” in the top right corner of the screen.