Change the Screen Resolution on Your Monitor - dummies

Change the Screen Resolution on Your Monitor

By Dan Gookin

Computer monitors display images by lighting up various pixels, or picture elements, on the screen. The pixels are arranged in a grid, where the number of pixels horizontally and vertically is referred to as the display’s resolution.

To check or set the display’s resolution, you need to use the Screen Resolution window, the Display Settings dialog box, or the Display Properties dialog box.

In Windows 7, you summon the Screen Resolution window by right-clicking the desktop and choosing the command Screen Resolution.


In Windows Vista, conjure forth the Display Settings dialog box by right-clicking the desktop and choosing the Personalize command. Choose the Display Settings link in the Personalization window.


In Windows XP, right-click the Desktop and choose Properties to behold the Display Properties dialog box. Click the Settings tab.

Set the resolution by using the Resolution menu button in Windows 7. Available resolutions are listed from lowest to highest, from the top down. Any resolution that’s ideal for your monitor features the text recommended after it.

In Windows Vista and Windows XP, you set screen resolution by using the slider gizmo in the dialog box: Right is higher resolution, left is lower resolution. You’re essentially increasing or decreasing the number of pixels displayed, as well as the display’s aspect ratio (horizontal to vertical pixels).

Use the preview screen to determine how the resolution affects things.

To check the new resolution, click the Apply button. The display changes to reflect the new settings, and you’re allowed the option of clicking Yes or No to make the change permanent. If you don’t see anything, just wait and the previous settings are restored.

Click OK to confirm the settings and close the window or dialog box.

  • When the resolution seemingly and without explanation switches to very low (things look comically large on the screen), the problem is most likely a lost or improperly installed video driver. Simply reinstall the current driver.

  • Only a given number of preset resolutions are available. The variety depends on the abilities of the computer’s display adapter.

  • Safe mode uses 800 x 600 pixels as its resolution, which is about as low as you want to use in Windows.

  • A common resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels.

  • Widescreen monitors with the right display adapter can employ the ultimate 1600 x 1200 resolution. I’ve also heard rumors of a 2560 x 1600 resolution, and such a thing makes me lust for technology more than I’m willing to admit.

  • The higher the resolution numbers, the smaller things appear on the screen. When you have trouble seeing the screen, use a lower resolution.

  • Some LCD monitors display only a handful of resolutions well. Using resolutions not recommended by the manufacturer may damage the monitor.

  • If you have two monitors, the resolution is set for both of them. Choose the monitor from the list in the dialog box and then make the resolution settings.

  • A humongous difference exists between the display resolution and the image resolution. The image resolution is the number of dots per inch (dpi) used to render the image. The amount can vary. PC monitors are set at about 96 dots per inch, which is why some images appear small on the screen and others appear huge.