My laptop screen is shattered and I have what looks like a monitor jack on the back of the PC. I am wondering if I need the laptop's screen to change settings for an external screen to work or if the jack is hardwired without any need to change settings.
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Sure, it shouldn't be a problem. You probably have a VGA jack on your laptop, so after hooking a monitor up to it, either restart the laptop or try pressing fn+f5 or simply f5 to switch the monitor on.