Whether you’re gaming, streaming movies, or working, screen resolution problems ruin the experience. Fixing the issue depends on the cause, which can range from hardware to settings problems. Windows offers a variety of settings to customize your screen resolution to best fit your monitor type and situation.
Common Causes of Screen Resolution Problems
Most screen resolution issues come down to one of the following causes:
- Settings aren’t optimized or have been changed
- Installing a new monitor
- Windows Update problems
- Driver issues
- App-specific issues
- Hardware problem (monitor, graphics card)
While everything else involves changing settings, if you have a hardware issue, you’ll likely need to replace the failing hardware. This happens as screens wear out. However, if you’re trying to play a game or watch something in a higher resolution than your graphics card and screen support, you’ll have issues no matter what you do. The signs that this is the problem include:
- Flickering screen
- Screen randomly going black or staying black
- Fuzzy screen no matter what settings you change
- Lines through the screen
- Certain colors are off
In this case, you’ll need to choose a lower resolution before playing or watching anything. For instance, YouTube allows you to change the video quality, which helps it to display better and stream faster.
For the other issues, tweaking a few settings is often all you need to do.
1. Check for Windows Update Issues
Before diving into your display settings, let’s take a look at Windows Update issues. If your screen-resolution problems didn’t begin until right after installing a Windows Update, the issue is normally caused by an update changing your display settings or changing your display/graphics driver.
2. Adjust the Resolution
You can solve many screen resolution problems in Windows just by adjusting the resolution. Windows updates, apps, second monitors, and more can all change your default or custom settings.
- Right-click anywhere on your desktop and choose “Display Settings.”
- Scroll down until you see “Display resolution.” Open the drop-down box to view your options. Typically, the “recommended” option is what’s best for your current screen. However, test out other options to customize the resolution for you.
From the Display settings, you can also adjust the brightness, scaling, and the settings for additional connected screens.
If you need a brighter or more vibrant display, and HD is supported by your monitor, click “Windows HD Color settings.” You’ll only be able to change the settings if your monitor supports them, which mine doesn’t, so no HDR games and video for this writer. In Windows 11, look for the HDR setting under “Display.”
You can also access advanced settings by clicking “Advanced display settings” in the Display settings. Select the display you want to change to view details, then click “Display adapter properties for Display” at the end of the details.
From here, you can adjust the adapter properties, screen refresh rate (Monitor tab), and the color management (Color Management tab).
3. Update Display Drivers
For something so necessary for hardware to work properly on Windows, drivers cause many problems sometimes. For example, a flickering screen is often a driver issue. Drivers are often the culprit behind stretched screens, fuzzy resolution, poor refresh rates, and more. They can also make your screen look more like a Windows 95 desktop than the modern, crisp look we’re all used to.
Windows updates may help fix screen resolution problems if the update includes an improved driver. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a good place to start. While Windows loves to force updates automatically, you can run a manual check, too.
Open the Start menu, type “Windows Update” and click “Windows Update Settings.” If Windows doesn’t list any updates or doesn’t automatically check for new ones, click “Check for updates.” Otherwise, you may need to un-pause updates if you’ve paused them.
If updating doesn’t work, you’ll need to update the driver manually. Right-click the Start menu and choose “Device Manager.”
Expand “Display adapters.” Right-click your display adapter and choose “Update driver.” Follow the prompts to search for and install a new driver.
If you’ve installed a new monitor, expand “Monitors” and do the same thing with your new monitor.
If you continue having issues, right-click your display adapter and choose “Uninstall device.” Restart your computer and let Windows reinstall the driver automatically. You can also visit your display adapter’s manufacturer’s website to download the latest driver directly.
4. Tweak App-Specific Settings
If you’ve recently installed a new game, app, video player, or anything similar, the app may be to blame for the screen resolution problems. This is especially true if the resolution problems only occur within that specific app.
Check the app’s settings for resolution or display settings. Also, check the app’s requirements to ensure your screen supports the optimal resolution settings. No setting will fix an app that needs a higher resolution than your screen can offer.
5. Adjust DPI Size
Adjusting your DPI size manually usually isn’t recommended. However, DPI (dots per inch) affects the size of various elements, such as icons. If these look fuzzy, then your screen resolution may seem off. If nothing else seems to work, go to “Display Settings” and select “Scale.”
Enter a number between 100 and 500 in the “Custom Scaling” box. Click the checkmark to save your settings. The default is 100. It becomes problematic when you change the setting, as all display settings adjust accordingly. Make sure you know all your original display settings before you change anything.
6. Change Display Adapter Mode
If your screen resolution problems in Windows are related to low resolution, and you can’t change the resolution using any of the above methods, there may be one more option. (Make a note of the original setting so you can revert to it if this method doesn’t work.)
- Go to “Settings -> System -> Display -> Advanced Display.”
- Click “Display adapter properties for [Display name].” If you have multiple monitors with resolution issues, you can repeat the process for each monitor.
- In the Adapter tab, select “List All Modes.”
- Select a different mode from the list to see if it makes any difference. As you can tell, you have quite a few to choose from.
- Press “OK” to save your changes.
- Click “Apply” to finish saving.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Could the problem be a failing monitor?
Absolutely. If you have an older monitor, screen resolution problems in Windows might have nothing to do with settings, apps, or drivers. It could be a simple issue of your monitor wearing out.
Of course, it could also be a compatibility issue when it comes to an older monitor. Monitors can only support certain resolutions. Older monitors don’t support high-res anything.
If possible, try your PC with a second monitor to see if you have the same issues.
2. Will connecting a second monitor hurt my original monitor’s resolution?
It shouldn’t. However, it’s a common problem that when trying to connect and adjust display settings for your second monitor that you accidentally either change your original monitor’s settings or the settings are applied to both monitors.
In this case, ensure you choose your original monitor in the display settings screen and adjust the settings back to what looks best for your first screen.
3. Will changing my screen resolution help me see my desktop icons better?
Adjusting your screen resolution can sharpen or blur your desktop icons, depending on the resolution you choose. However, if apps and graphics look fine, you don’t have a resolution problem. Instead, you just need to adjust the size of your desktop icons.
Right-click any free area of your desktop and select “View.” From here, choose “Small,” “Medium,” or “Large.” If you want a custom size, press and hold the Ctrl key while using your mouse’s scroll button to adjust the size smaller or larger.
If you need to make text larger overall in apps and on your desktop, go to “Settings -> Accessibility” and choose “Text Size.” Use the slider to adjust it.
4. Why does my screen resolution only look strange at night?
If your screen seems dim or the color is a little off, but only during certain hours, such as night, you likely have Night Light turned on. This feature was introduced in Windows 10 with the Creator’s Update. It’s designed to turn down the brightness slightly and use warm colors to reduce blue light.
You can turn this off, adjust the hours, and change how much blue light is filtered by going to “Settings -> System -> Display -> Night Light.”
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