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.

These steps are relevant for users of Windows XP or newer.

Windows 10, 8, and 7


  1. Open Control Panel
    .

    The fastest way to do this is with the control command in the Run dialog box. You can open that box with the WIN+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 select Display instead and skip down to Step 4.

  3. Choose 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.

    Screenshot of a monitor's color modes in Windows 8
  8. Choose OK to close that box, and then again to close the adapter's settings.

Windows Vista

  1. Go to 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. Select Appearance and Personalization.

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

  3. Select Personalization.

  4. Choose 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.

    Screenshot of the Windows Vista color quality settings

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

Windows XP

  1. Open Control Panel by going to 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.

    Screenshot of the Windows XP color quality settings

    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. Select OK or Apply 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.