Screen resolution defines how much information you see on your screen at a time. Resolution is defined in pixels, Width times Height - 1024×768 or 1920×1080 for example. Essentially, 1920×1080 (aka Full HD or 1080p) displays much more information on your monitor, but it also means that text size and icons are noticeably smaller.
Please note that larger monitor/display size in inches does not necessarily mean higher resolution: for example, you can buy 20" Full HD (1080p) and 23" HD ready (720p) displays.
All LCD/LED (thin) monitors have a recommended setting for resolution and text might look blurry when you use a lower resolution. Windows can automatically set the correct resolution on most new displays.
Huge old CRT monitors are able to use several resolutions without affecting text quality (although they have recommended resolution, too), but the refresh rate is the real quality indicator for them. While most LCD monitors are using 60-100 hertz refresh rate, CRT monitors use 75-200 hertz. Rule of thumb for CRT-s is to use at least 75 Hz for refresh rate and 100 Hz or more if possible. That is because low refresh rate on CRT-s will tire out your eyes and ultimately affect your vision negatively in a longer period of time. 100 Hz and more is said to be safe for your eyes.
You can also make all fonts larger in Windows to make texts easier to read. Click here to move on to the DPI scaling section of this article.
If you cannot see anything on a new monitor, or the screen is scrambled or displays the "Out of range" or "Invalid resolution" message, use Low-resolution video (VGA Mode) to set a working display resolution.
Changing screen resolution and orientation in Windows
In Windows 7 and 10, you can open the Start menu, type the word resolution and choose the correct result: Adjust screen resolution or Change the screen resolution. This is probably the quickest way.
Alternatively, right-click or touch and hold on an empty Desktop area.
In Windows 10, select Display settings.
In Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, click Screen resolution.
In Windows Vista, choose Personalize.
In Windows XP, click Properties.
In the original (2015) and Anniversary Update (2016) of Windows 10, click or tap Advanced display settings to customize screen resolution. Then use the Resolution dropdown to select the setting you need.
In Windows 10 Creators Update (2017), the Resolution dropdown is immediately visible.
Please note that in the Creators Update, you can also enable and schedule the Night light option to prevent screens from emitting too much blue light that keeps people awake for too long.
In Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, Screen Resolution window opens. Open the Resolution combo box to choose the desired setting.
In Windows Vista, Personalization window opens. Click Display Settings at the bottom of the window. Then, in the Display Settings window, adjust the Resolution slider.
In Windows XP, Display Properties window opens. Click to open the Settings tab and adjust the Screen resolution slider.
Most LCD monitors and display adapters are able to list supported resolutions - the maximum or recommended one is most probably the best choice. In Windows 7 and newer, optimum resolution for a monitor is marked with "(recommended)". If you have such resolution in the list, it is surely your safest bet.
CRT monitors usually have no such feature and listed resolutions are actually the ones that your computer's graphics adapter supports - these might or might not be supported by your CRT monitor. Consult your monitor manual for best settings.
Windows 7 and newer have the Orientation combo box, Landscape being the default value there. This setting is primarily meant for tablets and monitors with tilt option that can make good use of the additional Portrait, Landscape (flipped) and Portrait (flipped) options. In the age of wireless displays, you can set your tablet to be your desktop's or laptop's secondary or tertiary display and use different orientation there.
In Windows 10, monitor orientation selection is in the Settings app, System, Display.
Click the Apply button to test the new resolution.
CRT monitors might go blank if you select a resolution that the monitor is not capable of and possibly display the "Out of range" error message. Do not worry, wait for 15 seconds without pressing a key on your keyboard or clicking somewhere with your mouse and Windows will revert to previous settings.
If you do see Windows correctly, but the screen flickers, you should select a higher refresh rate (described later in the article).
Windows will then ask if you want to keep the new display settings. Click Yes (Windows XP and Vista) or Keep changes to confirm; No or Revert to restore previous settings. You should click a button within 15 seconds, or Windows will automatically revert to the previous resolution.
In case you have more than one monitor and you extend your desktop over these, you can also change the other monitor(s) to recommended resolution in case Windows does not do it automatically.
You cannot set separate resolutions if your device duplicates desktop over multiple displays. In this case, the lower resolution is selected automatically: for example, if one monitor supports 1280×768 resolution and the other one supports 1920×1080, then both monitors are at 1280×768. If both screens have the same recommended resolution, no changes happen upon connecting the second one.
Monitors are marked with numbers: usually, number 1 is the main display. The currently selected display is marked with the light blue frame or is highlighted (in Windows 10 only).
To find out the number of a monitor, click the Identify or Identify Monitors button. You can rearrange monitors to your liking by clicking and holding on its box and dragging to the desired location.
Click Apply and then Yes or Keep changes if you are satisfied with the result.
You can choose to duplicate or extend your desktop in case of multiple monitors: in Windows XP and Vista, select the secondary display and tick or clear the Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor or Extend the desktop onto this monitor check box; in Windows 7 and newer, you can also choose to show desktop only on one of the available screens.
To choose which monitor is your primary one, select the one you need and tick the Use this device as the primary monitor (Windows XP), This is my main monitor (Windows Vista) or Make this my main display (Windows 7, 8/8.1 and 10) check box.
In Windows 8, 8.1 and 10, right-click on an empty area of Taskbar and choose Properties or Settings (Windows 10 Anniversary Update only) to control which monitor(s) show Taskbar and icons for running apps/programs.
In Windows XP, Vista and 7, Taskbar is displayed only on the primary monitor.
In Windows XP and Vista you can also select the number of colors available in the Display Properties or Display Settings window by adjusting the Color quality or Colors box value. Under most circumstances, you should select Highest (32 bit) here. If you are using some old CRT monitor, you might also try High (24 bit) or Medium (16 bit) modes.
To modify color depth in Windows 7, click Advanced settings in the Change the appearance of your displays window and use the Colors dropdown in the Monitor tab.
Color depth means how many different colors your monitor or graphics adapter is able to display. 8-bit mode shows only 256 colors and that is unacceptable today. 16-bit color mode means that your monitor can display over 65 thousand different colors. This might sound good enough, but actually, you need more color variations for high-quality photos, videos or even games. 24-bit color mode displays over 16 million different colors. 32-bit color mode is theoretically able to display over 4 billion different colors, but in reality, some non-color data is usually added to 24-bit color to achieve pleasing visual effects.
Please note that setting a higher color depth might lower screen resolution on older CRT monitors or graphics cards/display adapters.
To change monitor's refresh rate, click Advanced (Windows XP), Advanced settings (Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1) or Display adapter properties (in Windows 10). In Windows 10 Creators Update, this is available in Settings, System, Display; older versions of Windows 10 require clicking the Advanced display settings link first.
Open the Monitor tab and select the best possible Screen refresh rate in the Monitor Settings section. For LCD/LED displays, this is usually 60-75 hertz; for CRT (large) monitors, this can be anything from 75 to 200 Hertz.
Whenever possible, tick the Hide modes that this monitor cannot display checkbox to see usable choices.
Click Apply to test new settings. Again, CRT monitors might go blank - wait 15 seconds without clicking a mouse button or pressing a key on the keyboard to revert to previous settings automatically.
In the modern high-resolution world, the text might seem too small on your screen. You can adjust text/font size by selecting a higher DPI setting. This is also known as display scaling.
In Windows XP and Windows Vista, this setting affects all users on the computer, but Windows 7, 8/8.1 and 10 are able to use different DPI settings (text size) for each user account.
In Windows 10, display scaling affects everything, including those Windows Store apps that support this feature.
In Windows 8, scaling affects Desktop programs only, all Windows Store (aka Modern UI/Metro-style) apps have a fixed font size.
Windows 8.1 users can control app sizes on high-resolution (more than Full HD) screens only - this is described at the end of this tutorial.
Please do not forget to adjust font smoothing (aka ClearType) in Windows for better text readability after modifying DPI settings.
In Windows 10, open the Settings app (keyboard shortcut Windows Key+I) and navigate to System, Display. Or just right-click on Desktop and choose Display settings.
In Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, click Make text and other items larger or smaller in the Screen Resolution window (right-click on Desktop and select Screen resolution).
In Windows Vista, click Adjust font size (DPI) in the Personalization window (right-click on Desktop and select Personalize).
In Windows XP, click Advanced in the Display Properties window (right-click on Desktop and select Properties).
In Windows 10, use the Change the size of text, apps and other items slider in the Settings app, System, Display. Depending on display capabilities, available values are 100%, 125%, 150%, and 200%.
Windows 10 Creators Update (2017) also allows setting a Custom scaling value between 100 and 500%, but this is not recommended unless you know technical details about your device's monitor(s).
You can set different DPI for each connected display. First, select a display under the Customize your display text; then use the slider to affect only the selected display. If necessary, repeat the process for the other monitor(s).
Windows 8.1 allows using different scaling for each monitor by default, and only a slider with Smaller and Larger is available then. Changing this affects only the current display - you need to open the same Screen resolution window on the other monitor to change the size of all items there. Please note that the text size slider might be disabled on lower-resolution monitors (such as 1024x768).
To set the same DPI for all screens in Windows 8.1, tick the Let me choose one scaling level for all my displays checkbox. After the different scaling feature in Windows 8.1 has been disabled, available options are the same as in Windows 7 and 8. You can now set all option on lower-resolution screens, too. High-resolution ones have two additional item sizing options here: Larger - 150% and Extra Large - 200%.
In Windows 7 and 8, select Medium - 125% in the Make it easier to read what's on your screen and click Apply. You might see a yellow warning text "Some items may not fit on your screen if you choose this setting while your display is set to this resolution" near Apply button. This indicates that some text or items might not fit on your screen while using this DPI setting. Well, you can still try it.
In Windows Vista, select Larger scale (120 DPI) in the DPI Scaling window and click OK.
In Windows XP, make sure you are on General tab of the Monitor and Graphics Adapter Properties window. Then select Large size (120 DPI) from the DPI setting box and click OK.
Windows 7, 8/8.1 and 10 warn you that the changes take effect only after you log off/sign out and log back on again. Click Log off now or Sign out now.
Windows Vista reminds you that the changes take effect only after you restart your computer. Click Restart Now.
Windows XP requires a restart to apply the new settings. Click OK to close the warning window.
Click OK to close the Monitor and Graphics Adapter Properties window. Another window pops up saying that the required files are already present. There is no need to overwrite them, click Yes.
Then Windows XP works for a while and icons and text size increase. System Settings Change dialog appears with enlarged text and buttons. Click Yes to restart your computer.
After you log back on, you will notice changes in text and item size.
Here's a comparison between 100% and 125% sizes in Windows 7.
To change display resolution and orientation, plus app sizes in Modern UI app of Windows 8.1, open Settings charm using keyboard shortcut Windows Key+W, type "resolution" and click Display settings.
PC Settings app opens in PC & Devices, Display tab. Configuration is pretty straightforward and easy here. Note the Change the size of apps on the displays that can support it setting that is not available in Control Panel. This is available for high-resolution monitors (more than Full HD) only, and you can set it to Default or Smaller. The latter option also allows displaying six or more rows of tiles on Start screen if you open Settings charm, click Personalize and enable the More tiles option.