I've reinstalled my laptop yesterday and decided to give Elementary another shot. Everything's working great and I'm loving it but now I have a big issue.

I connected the laptop via HDMI to an external monitor and I saw both just fine. I then made the external HDMI monitor the favourite/main one so the laptop one would turn off. Now I can't turn the laptop one back on!

If I reboot the system with the HDMI cable not attached it works just fine but if I connect it it still displays the external monitor only. From the system settings I see the laptop monitor but pressing the little switch makes it move where it should be "On" but it immediately goes back to off like if I couldn't select my laptop monitor.

I pressed the F5/F6/F7 keys on this ACER(E1-570G) and now if I have the HDMI cable attached the laptop monitor keeps flashing withot showing more than the cursor, if I de-attach it the laptop one works but obviously I got no external monitor.

What's going on? How can I go back to have the laptop monitor AND the external one working together again?

  • How do you get an external monitor to show on the Linux OS via hdmi from an HP laptop, it only shows on my Windows OS
    – Tabitha
    May 10, 2017 at 15:14

5 Answers 5


I just recreated the problem and was able to fix it by deleting the ~/.config/monitors.xml file.

Note that by deleting this file all settings for displays will be lost.

The file is in a hidden folder, so to be able to find it you need to make hidden folders visible in the file browser. To do this press Ctrl+H.

  • Thanks joost, it worked! Glad I explained it decently enough for you to understand and recreate the problem with my sub-par english, but it seems this was the solution. I had to connect it twice as the first time it said something like "Unable to adjust settings for CRT monitor" or something similar but as soon as I de-attached and re-attached it again it worked.
    – daghene
    Jun 13, 2016 at 8:49
  • For me, I also had to reboot to get the external HDMI display to be found again.
    – hlongmore
    Dec 5, 2018 at 14:37

Press CTRL+ALT+F1 to open a TTY virtual terminal.Then type your username and password and once you have logged in type rm ~/.config/monitors.xml and press ENTER to delete the file @joost said about.

Thanks to @joost for telling the file

  • Thanks, found his answer easier as a Linux noob but this sure works too. Quick question though, how do you exit from that terminal when you're in it? Had to shut down my computer, I know it's probably something basic in Linux but I only know a bunch of Windows DOS commands.
    – daghene
    Jun 13, 2016 at 8:43
  • You press CTRL + ALT + F7 to go back to the GUI
    – Suici Doga
    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:22

On my Freya setup, I had a problem where the external monitor was somehow getting recognized as the primary. This meant, of course, that the login prompt or the dock were showing up on the external monitor rather than my laptop screen. System Settings was still showing my built-in display as the primary. A quick way to fix this, without removing the hidden "monitors.xml" file was to first set the external as the primary and save it. Then switch it back to the built-in display via settings and reverse it. It seems to have worked for me after I opted to "Keep the configuration".


Can't believe it's been this long and none of the _______'s at elementary HQ haven't fixed this.

Try this: http://www.calgorithms.com/blog/2014/07/30/fixing-multiple-monitor-position-in-ubuntu-gnome-14-dot-04/


I don't know if you're having the same problem as me, but the answer here Second monitor doesn't connect helped me.

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