Looking to completely transform your workflow? A docking station can seriously help with that. Docking stations are a great way to connect all your accessories and devices straight to your laptop, without having to plug and unplug them all every time you leave or get back to your desk.
Of course, you might be wondering what a docking station actually is. A docking station is essentially a device that has a number of ports built into it — and that you can connect to a single port on your laptop or desktop computer.
Docking station use cases could vary depending on your setup. If you’re interested in using a docking station for yourself, read on.
Using a docking station with a laptop
Most people will likely get a docking station for their laptop — although there are good reasons to use one with a desktop too. If you are interested in a docking station for a laptop, there are a few different paths you could take in setting up your docking station.
The first scenario involves owning a modern laptop with a USB-C port or a Thunderbolt 3 port, plus a newer docking station with USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. In that case, all you really need to do is plug one end of the USB-C cable into the docking station, and the other end into your laptop — and you’ll then be able to connect your peripherals and accessories to your docking station.
Of course, you will need to ensure that you have a decent-length USB-C cable. Often, the cables that come with docking stations are relatively short, and longer ones can get pricey. Thankfully, however, they are readily available, and you can get them from suppliers on Amazon.
If you have a slightly older laptop or a slightly older dock, you will likely need to buy an adapter to make the dock compatible with your computer. A good example of this is if you have a dock that supports Thunderbolt 2, but a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 ports. In that case, you’ll need to get a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter. It’s important to note that using a docking station that doesn’t have USB-C support may get a little trickier, as older versions of USB don’t support native video streaming. As such, older docks that use USB-A usually need drivers to work, and those drivers can slow down your computer.
Connecting your dock to your laptop is only part of the work — you’ll then need to connect your peripherals and accessories to the dock itself. Examples include connecting a monitor to the dock’s HDMI port, or wired mice and keyboards to the USB ports.
You may even be able to connect multiple monitors to your laptop through a dock. This can often be done through USB-C, or through adapters like a USB-C to HDMI adapter.
Monitor support with a dock can get a little complicated though. With most USB-C docking stations, you can use one 4K monitor at a 60Hz refresh rate, or two monitors with a 30Hz refresh rate. Lower-resolution monitors can run at 60Hz, even if you’re using two of them at once. Thunderbolt 3 docks, however, can usually support two monitors at 60Hz.
It’s also important to note that Apple computers also handle external monitors a little differently through USB-C. That’s because they can’t stream two display streams through one USB-C port, because they don’t support a technology called MST. Thankfully, they do support two monitor streams through Thunderbolt 3.
Using a docking station with a desktop
If you do want to use a docking station with a desktop, the overall setup process is more or less the same. That said, the thinking process behind using a dock with a desktop may be slightly different. For example, if you want a dock for a permanent setup, then you’ll want to think about where the dock is going to be placed.