Changing Screen Resolution

by Barry Dysert
(last updated December 1, 2014)


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, "1600 by 1200" or "1280 x 800". 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 two figures show the difference of a desktop with a resolution of 1280 x 800 (See Figure 1.) versus the same desktop with a lower resolution of 800 x 600. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Desktop at 800 x 600 resolution (Windows 7).

Figure 1. The Desktop at 1280 x 800 resolution (Windows 7).

Notice how everything (the wallpaper, the desktop icons, and the taskbar items) are larger when using the lower resolution.

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.

You can change your screen resolution by right-clicking an empty space on your desktop and choosing 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 3.)

Figure 3. The Screen Resolution dialog box (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 and 8.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...


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What is 5 + 0?

2014-12-01 10:30:11

Henry Noble

LCD displays have a "native" resolution. Use that resolution if at all possible. It gives you the best image.

If you need larger icons or text, use other settings to adjust those items.

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