Laptops owe their success to the fact that they can be used anywhere, at home, at work, or outdoors. The downside, however, is they hardly allow prolonged work as a desktop computer. You have to reconnect everything when you get home, and the connectivity ports are often lacking, which is not the case with a classic desktop computer.
Fortunately, a docking station device has made it possible to quickly transform a laptop into a complete desktop computer for the past few years. It is designed to connect your laptop with a large monitor, a real keyboard, a mouse, and any other peripherals you usually use.
Yes, there are many docking stations, but it’s essential to know how these external components work and how you can use them with your computer.
What is a docking station, and how does it work?
A docking station – or dock – is a computing device designed to accommodate, like a base, a portable computing device by plugging it in, thus supplying it with electrical current.
In the case of a laptop computer, it allows it to be used similarly to a desktop computer. It includes the necessary connections for the power supply, the peripherals (mouse, printer, etc.), and possibly an additional screen and an anti-theft device.
In the case of portable music players, such as iPods, smartphones, or digital tablets, it acts as a loudspeaker. Therefore, it is a hub or a device that repeats the incoming signals from the laptop.
The idea was to mediate the portability of a laptop with the expansion convenience of a desktop computer. It has a simple operation without moving any cables or wasting time with all the connectors of the various peripherals. You don’t have to limit yourself to a single connection adapted to the laptop. It’s specially designed for some laptops with very few ports, such as ultrabooks.
With the spread of tablets and smartphones, dock stations have been created specifically for these devices. In addition, a docking station is also used in the hybrid console to connect the handheld console part to the TV.
We’ve been reviewing many docking stations and here’s our top pick: Dell Thunderbolt Dock
How to use a docking station
Below is a 5-step procedure for connecting a docking station to your laptop.
Step 1: Close your laptop
Before placing your notebook in the docking station, save all your work in progress, put your device to sleep (or turn it off), and close it.
There are exceptions to plugging a laptop in directly without turning it off or shutting it down, as some stations allow such a connection. However, if your docking station is connected to a monitor, we cannot strongly advise you to turn off your laptop even if the manufacturer authorizes it.
Two screens running simultaneously could be hard for the CPU to handle. If necessary, clear the docking slot on the back of your laptop.
There are two main types of docking stations: the “horizontal,” which looks like a hollow rectangular block, and the “vertical,” which looks like a book placed upright. Regarding the first type of docking station, slide the back of the laptop against a card of the station.
The same is not true with vertical docking stations. Most often, they have outlets into which cables are plugged.
Step 2: Slide the laptop into the docking station
Be careful to correctly align the plugs and the docking and ejection pins with the slots provided on the back of the laptop.
For horizontal docking stations, align the USB port on the back of the notebook with the jack on the docking station. Then, push the laptop to seat the jack in the port.
For vertical docking stations, place your laptop in front of the station. The connection is not made via a socket and a USB port but via USB cables.
Step 3: Use a USB cable
If needed, you can plug your laptop into the docking station using a simple USB cable. If, for some reason, you cannot plug the computer into the dock, either because the dock is vertical or because you have a laptop whose port does not fit into the station, connect the two with a USB cable, just as you would for a peripheral (such as a monitor, a keyboard, etc.).
Today’s docking stations that require a cord come with USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 cables. However, there are exceptions, so refer to the manufacturer’s manual.
Step 4: Connect all the peripherals you want
Once your laptop is plugged into the docking station, you can plug any peripherals you want into it. The connection is possible thanks to the various ports located on the station: it is like a desktop computer. As earlier explained, a docking station can accommodate:
- a monitor (on a pin port or with an HDMI cable),
- a keyboard (through the USB port),
- a mouse (USB port),
- a modem/router (with Ethernet cable),
- a printer (various connection methods depending on the model).
However, if you don’t have all these peripherals (monitor, mouse, keyboard), you can use your laptop as you usually do (using the screen, onboard keys, and touchpad).
Step 5: Optionally install drivers
During the first connection of a device to the docking station, you may need to install drivers so that everything works well.
As soon as your laptop is connected to the station, if necessary, you will be asked to install such and such drivers. You have no choice but to accept this installation.
Then restart your computer for the changes to take effect. When everything has been correctly installed, you will have nothing more to do; the connections to the peripherals will be instantaneous.
A docking station is a hardware platform to which a laptop can be connected to convert it into a Desktop PC. Typically it contains expansion card slots, hard disk drive bays, peripheral connectors for the monitor, printer, keyboard, etc. It is, therefore, a hub or a device that repeats the incoming signals from the laptop.
If you have a wireless connection on your laptop, you can keep it on while it’s docked. You will thus have one less cable to connect to the station. On the other hand, if at home, the signal is weak, you will have every interest in making a connection with an Ethernet cable, through which the connection will be faster and more stable.
As with a desktop computer, tie together the cables plugged into your docking station. Tie them together with plastic ties or tape.