How to Adjust the Color Quality Setting in Windows

What to Do If Colors Look Off in Windows

Adjusting the color quality setting in Windows may be necessary to resolve issues with the color display on monitors and other output devices like projectors.

The place you need to go to change this setting was moved starting in Windows 7, so be sure to follow the steps below that are appropriate for your specific version of Windows. See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Adjusting the color quality setting in Windows usually takes less than 5 minutes

Windows 10, 8, and 7

Screenshot of a monitor's color modes in Windows 8
Color Quality Settings (Windows 8).
  1. The fastest way to do this is with the control command in the Run dialog box. You can open that box with the Windows Key + R keyboard shortcut.

  2. Navigate to Appearance and Personalization.

    Don't see it? If you're viewing the icons in Control Panel instead of the categories, you won't see that option, but you can click/tap Display instead and skip down to Step 4.

  3. Click or tap Display.

  4. Select Change display settings from the left side of the window.

  5. Use the Advanced settings link to open the display adapter's settings.

    If you have more than one monitor plugged in, be sure to select the monitor first before opening the settings.

  6. In the Adapter tab, open List All Modes.

  7. Pick an option from the list. In most cases, you'll want to choose the one that's the same as the display resolution and has the highest number in parenthesis.

    As an example, you might see three 1280 by 1024 options: True Color, High Color, and 256 Colors, but only one will have the highest "bit" number, such as the (32-bit) one.

  8. Click or tap OK to close that box, and then again to close the adapter's settings.


Windows Vista

Screenshot of the Windows Vista color quality settings
Color Quality Settings (Windows Vista).
  1. Click on Start and then Control Panel.

    In a hurry? Type personalization in the search box after clicking Start. Choose Personalization from the list of results and then skip to Step 4.

  2. Click on the Appearance and Personalization link.

    If you're viewing the Classic View of Control Panel, you won't see this link. Simply double-click on the Personalization icon and proceed to Step 4.

  3. Click on the Personalization link.

  4. Click on the Display Settings link.

  5. Locate the Colors drop-down box on the right-hand side of the window. Under most circumstances, the best choice is the highest "bit" available. Generally, this will be the Highest (32 bit) option.

    If there are multiple monitors in use, select the one you want to change the color quality for before picking an option from the drop-down box.

    Some types of software require the colors display setting to be set at a lower rate than suggested above. If you receive errors when opening certain software titles be sure to make any changes here as necessary.

  6. Click the OK button to confirm the changes. If prompted, follow any additional on-screen directions.

Windows XP

Screenshot of the Windows XP color quality settings
Color Quality Settings (Windows XP).
  1. Open Control Panel by left-clicking on Start and choosing Control Panel.

  2. Select Appearance and Themes.

    If you don't see that option then it means you're viewing Control Panel in Classic View. Open Display instead, and then skip down to Step 4.

  3. From the bottom of that screen, choose Display.

  4. Open the Settings tab in the Display Properties window.

  5. Locate the Color quality drop-down box on the right-hand side of the window. Under most circumstances, the best choice is the highest "bit" available. Generally, this will be the Highest (32 bit) option.

    For multiple monitor setups, be sure to choose the right monitor from the monitor box above the settings. You'll want to do that before changing the color quality settings.

    Some types of software require the color quality settings to be set at a lower rate than suggested above. If you notice errors when opening certain programs, be sure to make any necessary changes here.

  6. Click the OK or Apply button to confirm the changes. If prompted, follow any additional on-screen directions.

One way to skip through the first couple steps above, regardless of the version of Windows you're using, is to open the Display or Display Properties window via a command line command. The command control desktop can be run from Command Prompt or the Run dialog box to immediately open those settings.