Properly Adjust the Screen Resolution Setting in Windows

Minor adjustments make a major improvement in the quality of your display

Adjusting the screen resolution setting on your computer resolves problems with the display size on monitors and other output devices such as projectors.

Information in this article addresses Windows 10, 8.1, 7, Vista, and XP.

How to Change the Screen Resolution Settings in Windows

The necessary steps are quick and straightforward, but there are differences depending on your version of Windows.

  1. Right-click the desktop and choose Display settings, Screen resolution, Personalize, or Properties, depending on your version of Windows.

  2. Locate the Display resolution, Resolution, or Screen resolution area.

    If you're using Vista, you won't see it until you first select Display Settings. On XP, open the Settings tab.

    display settings screen with resolution menu

    If more than one monitor is shown on this screen, you can change the resolution for each monitor individually. Just select the one you want to adjust the setting for. If you're not sure which monitor is "1" or "2" or so on, select Identify to display a number on each monitor.

  3. Pick a different resolution setting. In most circumstances, the best choice is 800 by 600 pixels or 1024 by 768 pixels, possibly higher if you're using a 19-inch or larger monitor. The "best" setting is highly subjective to your personal preferences and your equipment.

    display resolution options
  4. Choose Apply, OK, or Keep changes (whichever you see) to save. A reboot is unnecessary.

Some types of software require the screen resolution settings to be set to a specific size. If you receive errors when opening certain software titles, make any screen resolution changes as necessary.

If you set the screen resolution too high, the screen will probably go blank, which means your monitor doesn't that particular resolution. Try another setting.

Monitor Doesn't Support a Screen Resolution?

It's possible to change the screen resolution to a setting not supported by your monitor. If this happens, the screen will probably turn black and prevent you from seeing anything, including your mouse. 

Fixing this is a simple as starting Windows in Safe Mode and then following the directions above. This time, just make sure to lower the resolution to something that's likely supported by your monitor. If Safe Mode doesn't work, try choosing the Enable low-resolution video option in Startup Settings (Windows 10 and 8) or Advanced Boot Options menu for older versions of Windows. It's called Windows Advanced Options Menu in Windows XP, and the option to select is Enable VGA Mode.

If you have another monitor you can connect to the computer—one that supports the higher resolution—it might be quicker to do that to change the resolution than to boot Windows into Safe Mode.

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