Change Screen Resolution

Category: Software

The fonts and icons on my new computer are so small that I have trouble seeing them. How do I adjust or magnify my screen for easier viewing?

Change Screen Resolution

How Do I Change the Screen Resolution?

Typically, a new Windows or Mac computer will be automatically set up to display at the highest resolution your monitor can support with the software drivers available. The resolution is just the number of dots or pixels displayed on your screen in the horizontal and vertical directions. A high screen resolution like 1680x1050 looks really sharp if you have a large desktop display and 20/20 vision. But older eyes may find that the default screen resolution needs adjusting. Even with perfect vision, things may be a bit small for comfort on a smaller laptop or netbook display. There are other reasons to change the screen resolution occasionally, too.

The higher the quality of your display, the more processing power required. If you have a souped-up graphics accelerator with its own specialized processor and RAM, there may be no problem. But the lower-powered graphics cards integrated into motherboards may bog down under a full load of pixels and colors. Reducing the screen resolution can speed up the ever-changing display without sacrificing much quality. Words will scroll down the screen more smoothly and games will be more responsive.

To change screen resolution in Windows XP:

  • Right-click on the Windows desktop and select Properties from the context menu
  • Click on the Settings tab
  • Drag the Screen Resolution slidebar left or right to reduce or increase the number of pixels displayed (1440x900, 1024x768, etc.)
  • Click on the Color Quality box and select the number of colors to be used
  • Click Apply to change the display to the new settings
  • If you like what you see, click Yes and then Save. If not, click No and choose new settings

Windows 7 works much the same way as XP, with a couple of twists:

  • When you right-click on the desktop, "Screen Resolution" appears on the context menu
  • Instead of a slidebar, there's a pulldown menu from which to select a supported screen resolution
  • Color Quality" is under "Advanced Settings" and is called "Color Management
  • "Make text and other items larger or smaller" without changing screen resolution is a new option at the bottom of the Screen Resolution window. Settings include 100% (normal), 125%, and 150%. You will have to log off (not restart) to have these new settings take effect.

What settings are optimal depends on your eyes, hardware, and the applications you use. Making text 150% larger may result in some text not showing at the bottom of the screen where the software puts it. All of the text just won't fit. Some Web pages may display enlarged text overlapping other items in your browser. Reducing the screen resolution to less than about 80% of its maximum size is generally not advisable.

Mac OS X users can change screen resolutions by following these instructions:

  • Open the System Preference dialogue via the Dock or from the Apple menu
  • Open the Displays panel and click the Displays tab
  • Select the desired Resolution from the list on the left
  • Close the System Preferences when you are satisfied with the resolution

Other Options for Screen Magnification

There's yet another display option in Windows, called the Magnifier, and it works like a magnifying glass. Under Mac OS, it's called the Zoom feature.

  • On Windows XP, click Start, then Run, type "magnify" then press ENTER.
  • On Windows Vista, click Start, Control Panel, Ease of Access, Ease of Access Center, Start Magnifier.
  • On Windows 7, click Start, enter "magnifier" in the Search box, press ENTER, then click "Turn Magnifier On or Off".
  • On Mac OS X, open Finder, click the Apple menu, click System Preferences, click Universal Access, click the Seeing tab, then click "Turn on Zoom".

On Windows, a rectangular window will appear in which a magnified view of the area around your cursor is displayed. The magnified area shifts as you move the cursor around, just like the magnified area displayed through a moving magnifying glass. You can adjust the amount of magnification and the size of the magnified area though a floating dialogue box.

Another trick which works on both Windows and Mac computers, is to use the scroll wheel on your mouse, if you have one. Hold down the Ctrl key and spin the scroll wheel up or down to adjust the text and graphics on your screen. On Windows, this works on an application level, and not every program supports zooming. Web browsers like Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, and other popular programs all have the zoom feature.

Do you have something to say about changing the screen resolution? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Change Screen Resolution"

Posted by:

23 May 2010

I find it best to set screen resolution to the LCD native resolution if that's the type of monitor you use. That way fonts and images will appear to be clearest, if not the desired size - note Bob's other above solutions.
Another approach is to zoom the whole screen with ZoomIt from . Even very small detail is easily magnified to the size desired. This solution is intended for occasional use as needed.
A more permanent solution is to check out all the magnification options available in the latest mouse driver available for your operating system and mouse hardware. It's amazing what you can specify with Lenovo's version 5.2.3 laser mouse driver under Windows 7, for example.

Posted by:

Alan Howard
23 May 2010


"While CRT displays can be adjusted to the user?s preference in resolution settings, LCDs only look good and operate properly in their native resolution. This is the 'sweet spot' of the LCD ? the resolution it was meant to be used at."


Posted by:

Alan Howard
23 May 2010

also see:

Posted by:

23 May 2010

My prior post today specified Lenovo Laser Mouse Driver 5.2.3 and I've since upgraded to Lenovo Laser Mouse Suite version 6.3.1 . The rest of my comment remains valid.

Posted by:

Mr Knight
23 May 2010

Hey Bob,

Every once in a while, I am helping someone with trying to figure out what their screen resolution is... so I had my team create this nifty tool:

Posted by:

23 May 2010

I am surprised this type of question was asked in 2010. Windows and Mac computers with this ability have been out since 1995. I do not know about the early Macs. I just thought everyone knew this, already.
PS The "free laptop scam ad" seems to be gone for good.

Posted by:

24 May 2010

Sometimes it may not be desireable to change the screen resolution as this would affect program appearance, movies, and pictures. An alternative is to adjust the screen appearance.
I'm not familiar with Win7 or Mac, but in XP, from the screen Properties dialog you can go to the Appearance, Advanced dialog and change the specific icon size, spacing and fonts, along with other items. Once you have sizes that you like, go to the Scheme dialog in the same Properties box, and notice that your current scheme now has the word "modified" after it. Use the Save option to save it right where it is, and you can recall it anytime you need it.
Tip: any time you are getting specific instructions like this you can copy a phrase you've selected and paste it into Google. You'll probably find the help you're looking for.

Posted by:

27 May 2010

Have to agree with the other posters that with LCD displays, adjusting the resolution can result in things actually looking worse, sometimes very much worse. It's one of the real drawbacks of LCD displays (compared to CRTs) for those with vision issues.

My wife has a beautiful Samsung 22" widescreen LCD display and is having just this issue. Optimal resolution is 1920*1050 but is small for her eyes and anything else just looks terrible. Font size seems only to affect Windows OS fonts and other applications.

ZoomIt looks like it might work for her though.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2010

I have a new PC running Windows Vista (Home) 4 Core processor, 6GB Ram, 1 Terra HardDrive, 1GB Graphics Card. Hooked up to a 32 inch LCD TV screen. All works well butwhen trying to play some games the screen reverts to only half size, with the left hand side (as you view the screen) appears hidden off screen?

Obviously I,ve tried the resolution but to now availe. Any ideas?

Posted by:

Marcia Brown
28 Sep 2010

We tried to change the screen resolution on a Dell Demension 3000 w/Windows XP, and the DPI slide-bar will not move. Right now everything is HUGE!!! Everything else seems to be working. Any ideas on how to 'unlock' the DPI slide-bar??? (don't really know if it's locked . . . it just seems like it might be, because it won't move at all)Thanks!

Posted by:

19 Nov 2010

I used to have a free program that sat in the bottom right corner of the menu bar that would adjust by percentage the size of the fonts in Explorer and other programs. It was a little buggy and changing would sometimes screw up the desktop icon order. Otherwise it was great. Now, if only I could remember what it was called... EZVue? EyeEase? ViewEZ? Anyone know what the program was? Thanks... (The distributor had a forum addressing the icon problems.)

Posted by:

John G
06 Dec 2011

Hi folks,
I was having some similar problems adjusting my resolution till I came across Noah's great site.

Go have a look at his free tool which can change into a variety of resolutions at the click of a
key press.

This may be just what you need.

Posted by:

01 Sep 2013

Hi Bob,
My Computers screen,icons,pages,etc had become so huge.
I don't know how to change it to it's orginal size.then I serched the net i got you ,then i type a question in a column specified.I got the right answer from your site.
Thankyou for your help.


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