If Windows seems to start normally, but text and images on the monitor are unreadable or scrambled, the monitor/display is blank, flickers, or displays the "Out of range" message, then the Enable low-resolution video mode (also known as the Enable VGA Mode in Windows XP) comes in handy. This option is especially applicable after you connect a new monitor or replace graphics (video) card (aka display or graphics adapter).
In case you bought a new monitor and it just does not display anything although cables are connected, try locating and pressing the Source button on the monitor. This usually switches between available Analog and Digital input sources.
If you already know how to change resolution, but need to make low-resolution/VGA mode permanent, jump here for instructions.
You can also check out the built-in DirectX Diagnostic Tool for troubleshooting display driver errors - just use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+R to open the Run dialog, type dxdiag and click OK.
A prompt for checking WHQL digital signatures appears first, click Yes there.
Open the Display tab above and verify that the Notes field contains "No problems found". If there are problems, you must reinstall or update the display driver.
In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, the good old F8 key trick does not work anymore. If Windows is unable to start, you can get into new Startup Settings after Windows detects it was unable to start - click See advanced repair options in Recovery screen, or after Automatic Repair fails - click Advanced options.
If Windows 8 or 8.1 is able to start and run and you can use at least one monitor, open Settings charm using keyboard shortcut Windows Key+I. The fastest way is to click Power and then hold down the Shift key while clicking Restart. This will reboot into Windows 8/8.1 Advanced Startup screen.
While Windows 10 is running, the best way of getting to the Advanced Startup screen is to open Start, click or tap Power and then hold down the Shift key while clicking or touching Restart.
The longer way in Windows 8 and 8.1 is to click Change PC settings at the bottom.
In Windows 10, open Start and choose Settings. The keyboard shortcut for the Settings app is Windows Key+I.
Alternatively, in Windows 10 Anniversary Update and newer, open the Run dialog with keyboard shortcut WINDOWS KEY+R or via the Quick Links menu (WINDOWS KEY+X), type ms-settings:recovery and click OK.
In Windows 8, click to open the General tab of the PC settings app, scroll all the way down to the Advanced startup section and click Restart now.
In Windows 8.1, open the Update & Recovery tab on the bottom left and then click the Recovery tab. Click Restart now in the Advanced startup section.
In Windows 10's Settings app, click or tap Update & security, and open the Recovery tab. Click Restart now in the Advanced startup section.
This is how Windows 8/8.1 Advanced startup screen looks like. Windows 10 version looks very similar, so I won't add screenshots here.
Click Troubleshooting in Choose an option screen. Next, in the Troubleshoot screen, click Advanced options tile. Then, in the Advanced options screen, click Startup Settings. And finally, in the Startup Settings screen, click Restart.
Windows 8/8.1 or 10 then reveals its Startup Settings screen. Press the number 3 key or the F3 key to Enable low-resolution video.
Getting into low-resolution video mode in Windows XP, Vista and 7
To get access to the Enable low-resolution video mode option in Windows XP, Vista, and 7, you will have to press the F8 key on your keyboard after the big logo or black screen with white texts appears.
On some computers, you will see a boot selection after pressing F8, cancel that by pressing the Esc key on your keyboard and then press the F8 key again.
First, you might see an operating system selection screen - select the correct one there in case you have multiple operating systems installed. If you already pressed F8 repeatedly, this screen might not appear, move on to the next picture.
You will see a screen like follows. Use the Arrow Down key on your keyboard to move down to Enable VGA Mode (in Windows XP) or Enable low-resolution video (640x480) (in Windows Vista and 7). Press the ENTER key on your keyboard to start Windows with low resolution.
In Welcome Screen, choose your account and type your password as usual. The screen might look a little odd with items really huge, but this is due to low resolution.
After Desktop appears, right-click on an empty area. In Windows 8 and 8.1, the Start screen appears after signing in, so click Desktop or use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+D.
In Windows XP, click Properties.
In Windows Vista, click Personalize.
In Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, click Screen resolution.
In Windows 10, click or tap Display settings.
In Windows XP, the Display Properties window opens. Click to open the Settings tab and adjust the Screen resolution slider.
In Windows Vista, the Personalization window opens. Click Display Settings at the bottom of the window. Then, in the Display Settings window, adjust the Resolution slider.
In Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, the Screen Resolution window opens. Click Resolution to see the list of possible options.
In Windows 10, Customize your display appears. First, click or touch the Advanced display settings link. Then use the Resolution dropdown to choose the desired setting.
Click the Apply button to test the new resolution.
The monitor 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 setting.
Click OK again to close the Screen resolution or the Advanced display settings window. Then restart your computer and check if Windows works correctly. If yes, then you solved the problem.
If not, enable the low-resolution video mode again and select a lower display resolution or refresh rate.
For more details on setting display resolution, refresh rate, and color depth in Windows, see the Change screen resolution in Windows article.
If text looks blurry after setting a new resolution, read the Change font smoothing in Windows article.
Some devices are able to use only the low-resolution mode due to an old graphics adapter or monitor/display. It would be really bothersome to press the F8 key every time you start or restart your computer. Luckily, you can make low-resolution video mode permanent using the Windows System Configuration Utility.
In all versions of Windows, use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+R to open the Run dialog. Alternatively, open the Start menu and click Run. Type msconfig and click OK.
Windows Vista users get an extra bit of love from User Account Control that tenderly asks if they are sure they want to open System Configuration Utility. Click Continue.
In the System Configuration window, open BOOT.INI (Windows XP) or Boot tab. Make sure that the correct Windows is selected if you have multiple operating systems installed.
Then activate the BASEVIDEO (Windows XP) or the Base Video option.
In Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, and 10, tick the Make all boot settings permanent box.
Do not change anything else - you might make Windows inaccessible!
Click OK to close System Configuration Utility.
In Windows Vista and later, a very scary, but somewhat misleading warning appears - it says that you will not be able to undo the changes at a later time. Don't worry, disabling base video mode (low-resolution video mode) later is easy - just run System Configuration Utility again and clear the BASEVIDEO or Base Video checkbox.
System Configuration tool now offers to restart your computer. Close all open programs and click Restart.
Now Windows always starts in low-resolution video (VGA) mode.
Windows XP users must take one final step - disable the dialog that reminds about changes made. Put a checkmark in the Don't show this message or launch the System Configuration Utility when Windows starts box. Then click OK. If System Configuration Utility opens after this, close it.
In case your device has serious problems with the display/graphics adapter driver, you can turn off hardware acceleration in Windows. The problems with bad drivers cause parts of window or desktop to become unreadable, empty or scrambled, or computer crashes while using programs that use hardware acceleration.
As usual, try looking for a driver update before disabling acceleration features: a newer driver from the graphics adapter or computer manufacturer's support site might resolve your device's problems. If your laptop or tablet screen flickers or flashes often, even BIOS/UEFI updates can help (in the case of Lenovo Y70 and HP 6550b at least).
In Windows XP and Vista, you can most probably do this in the display driver troubleshooting settings. Right-click an empty area of Desktop and choose Properties or Personalize.
In Windows XP, the Display Properties window opens. Click to open the Settings tab and click the Advanced button on the bottom right.
In Windows Vista, the Personalization window opens. Click Display Settings at the bottom of the window. Then, in the Display Settings window, click the Advanced Settings button.
Then, in the Display Adapter Properties window, open the Troubleshoot tab.
In Windows XP, drag the Hardware acceleration slider all the way to the left (None).
In Windows Vista, click Change settings and then drag the Hardware acceleration slider all the way to the left (None).
Click OK to close open windows. You might have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.
Since Windows 7, the Troubleshoot tab is missing for most display adapters, but Windows itself uses hardware acceleration to display some effects and render even very basic stuff. This can cause serious readability problems in Windows and different software and apps.
Be very careful with Registry Editor: adding incorrect values or removing required ones can make your device unbootable or unusable.
To completely turn off display/graphics hardware acceleration in Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10, open Start and type regedit. Right-click or tap and hold the result and choose Run as administrator.
Navigate to Computer, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, SOFTWARE, Microsoft, and click or touch Avalon.Graphics. Right-click an empty area of the right pane, expand New, and choose DWORD value or DWORD (32-bit) value.
Type or copy-paste DisableHWAcceleration (mind the capitalization, please!) and press Enter.
Double-click the new value, set its value to 1 (Hexadecimal), click OK, and restart your device.