by Barry Dysert
(last updated January 15, 2018)
Screen resolution refers to how clear the text and images are as they appear on your monitor, as well as how they are sized. Resolution is given in pixels ("picture elements") and stated as "X by Y", or "X x Y", for example, "1920 by 1080" or "1280 x 720". The first number indicates the number of pixels that exist along the horizontal lines of the screen, and the second number indicates the number of pixels that exist along the vertical lines of the screen. The higher these numbers are, the sharper and smaller the items appear. At lower resolutions, e.g., 800 x 600, the items aren't quite as sharp, and they are somewhat larger. The following figure shows a desktop resolution of 1280 x 720. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. The Desktop at 1280 x 720 resolution (Windows 10).
Now compare how that desktop appears with one that uses a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Notice how everything (the wallpaper, the desktop icons, and the taskbar items) appear larger when using the lower resolution. (See Figure 2.)
Figure 2. The Desktop at 1920 x 1080 resolution (Windows 10).
You can't just arbitrarily select a resolution. Your monitor has to support the resolution you choose. As a general rule, a larger monitor (assuming your system is equipped with the appropriate video card) will typically support higher resolutions.
If you are using Windows 10, change your screen resolution by right-clicking an empty space on your desktop and choosing Display Settings from the resulting Context menu. Windows displays various settings you can change. (See Figure 3.)
Figure 3. The Display Settings in Windows 10.
Use the Resolution drop-down list to choose which resolution you want to use. (If Windows can identify the type of monitor attached to your system, one of the screen resolutions should show the word “recommended” beside it.) When you are done, simply close the settings window.
If you are using an older version of Windows you can still right-click on the desktop, but you'll need to choose Screen Resolution from the Context menu. Another way is to display the Control Panel and click the Adjust Screen Resolution link, under the Appearance and Personalization category. Either method will take you to a dialog box that allows you to specify which resolution you want to use. (See Figure 4.)
Figure 4. The Display Settings in Windows 8.
The Resolution drop-down list allows you to choose from among the various resolutions supported by your monitors. Select the desired resolution and click OK to have it applied.
This tip (12170) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.
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