Recently someone asked, "How can I use my laptop's monitor as my PC's monitor?" (I'll refer to this as question 1)

This question was closed as a duplicate of "Can I use my laptop as a second monitor for my desk computer?" (let's call this question 2)

At first glance, the two questions do seem very similar. However, they are actually so different that solutions which are valid for one question would be unacceptable for the other.

Question 1:

  • Specifically requires a Linux solution
  • Requires the laptop as the only monitor for the PC

Question 2:

  • The question did not specify OS, but two answers are specifically for Windows, and the others do not actually address the problem. The accepted answer is one of the Windows-specific answers.
  • Uses the laptop as the second monitor for the PC (this is a fine distinction, but a very important one)

As I've outlined above, the answers for question 2 do not address question 1. Question 2 did not originally specify an OS, so the argument goes that it is an OS-agnostic question, and would cover all similar questions regardless of OS. But none of the existing answers provide solutions for non-Windows operating systems. What are we supposed to do if an existing question is broad enough that it has the potential to contain answers for our more specific questions, but none of the existing answers are even remotely adequate? In this particular case, I think it would make the most sense to reclassify it as a Windows question, since the only applicable solutions (including the accepted answer) are for Windows, and none of the provided answers to question 2 would work for question 1. Would it be inappropriate for me to retag question 2 with windows?

Second, there is a very important distinction between using a laptop screen as the only monitor for your PC, versus using it as the second monitor for your PC. For example, the answer I posted to question 1 involves X-forwarding the entire display of the PC to the laptop. I think a solution that uses X-forwarding would be ideal for question 1, but it would be completely unacceptable for question 2 (or it would require a lot of additional configuration and some very contrived workarounds to even get it to work).

What would I do if I hadn't already posted my answer to question 1 before it was closed as a duplicate? It seems to me that my only course of action would be to supply the same answer for question 2--but then I would run the risk of getting downvoted, since it is an incorrect answer for question 2.

  • @gnat this question is more than 3 years older than that one. If, indeed, they're the same, wouldn't it make more sense to mark the newer question as the duplicate?
    – rob
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 22:15
  • questions age doesn't matter, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/147643/…
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


Change the title

In this case, you should definitely change the title in order to distinguish the questions. As you mentioned, question 1 is much more specific than question 2, and the answers are exclusive. So Question 1 should be renamed

"In Linux, How can I blah blah blah?"

That makes it clearly not a duplicate, since this user has very specific reasons why the previous question was unhelpful to them. If you want, you can also link to the "duplicate" question, and indicate that it is not helpful and why. This clarifies that this wasn't an 'accidental duplicate' but rather a 'distinct but similar question'.

  • Thanks for the tips. The question isn't mine, but I'll pass along your suggestions. Unfortunately, someone is arguing that question 1 falls entirely under the umbrella of question 2, just because question 2 neglected to specify an OS. Any ideas how to deal with that?
    – rob
    Commented May 28, 2010 at 17:41

It is very helpful if the OP identifies near duplicates in the question and clearly explains why they fail to answer the current question. After that you can edit such info into the question budy (rep permitting) or discuss it in the comments.

Once closed you can vote to (or agitate for) re-open.

But, in the end the community may still disagree.

In extreme case you can flag for moderator attention and ask for help.

  • Thanks for the suggestions. I don't have enough rep to do anything about it myself yet, but I'll try to pass this along to the person who asked the question.
    – rob
    Commented May 28, 2010 at 17:45
  • Scratch that; apparently I am able to edit questions...I'll go give it a try.
    – rob
    Commented May 28, 2010 at 18:06
  • 1
    AHEM. adding "please vote to reopen" to the title and making your argument for reopening in the auto-added "possible duplicate" area IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. @rob, i've rolled back that edit; please don't do that again. add a section making your argument for reopening to the end of the question, if you must make one. clarify the title. but "[closed]" in the title needs to stay, and the auto-added text needs to be left alone. consider this your warning. Commented May 30, 2010 at 8:54
  • @quack: Thanks for the clarification on how I should go about editing questions. FYI, I am not able to remove "[closed]" from the title; that is automatically added as long as the question is in "[closed]" status. If the "[closed]" suffix was gone, the question must have been reopened. (I suppose that brings up an interesting question: if an edited question is reopened, then rolled back to its previous state, does it stay open or does it get re-closed?)
    – rob
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 20:25
  • @rob: no, i checked that the question was still closed (the "closed by" banner was still there, and no "post reopened" in the revision list). perhaps the "[closed]" suffix disappeared due to some weird bug; it does appear that the "[closed]" cannot be edited out with the normal edit dialog. sorry for accusing you of doing that on purpose. Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 23:37

Actually, I think if you combine the "inappropriate" answers ("synergy") on "question 2" with your "for example" answer of X-forwarding, you'll get something appropriate to post to question 2 as an answer that fits both questions.

I've noted this question and your campaign to get it reopened, and I note that your own answer (to question 1) suggests an "if you were using Windows" solution that matches one of the more upvoted answers on question 2. This is a large part of why I decline to reopen the question -- your own answer partially duplicates one of the answers from question 2. I think question 2 is sufficiently broad enough to handle this case, so I think you should add your answer to it rather than reopen question 1.

Given that question 1 mentions the available network resource and doesn't indicate a burning desire to dissassemble the laptop, I'll point out that there are lots and lots of questions about remote desktop technologies on Super User already. It's possible this question should have been closed as a duplicate of one of those instead.

  • 1
    there is a fundamental difference between using the laptop display as the ONLY display for the desktop PC, versus the SECOND display. Combining two distinct questions into a single, all-encompassing question, is not very helpful. The question, "How do I install a new (secondary) hard drive," is similarly different from the question, "How do I install a new (boot) hard drive," and the two should be separate questions with distinct answers.
    – rob
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 20:26
  • 1
    I've clarified my answer to specifically reference MaxiVista's monitor cloning feature (which was my original intent), although it might be more appropriate for me to remove the MaxiVista note since the question is tagged Linux.
    – rob
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 20:35

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