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Windows chooses the best display settings, including screen resolution, refresh rate, and color, based on your monitor. These settings differ depending on whether you have an LCD or a CRT monitor. If you want to adjust your display settings, or if these settings were changed and you want to restore default settings, use the following recommendations.

LCD monitors, also called flat-panel displays, have largely replaced CRT monitors. They are far lighter and thinner than bulky CRT monitors, which contain heavy glass tubes. LCD monitors also come in a wider range of shapes and sizes, which include widescreen screens and standard-width screens, with ratios of 16:9 or 16:10 width-to-height for widescreen models and 4:3 for standard-width models. Laptops also use flat-panel displays.

Picture of an LCD monitor and CRT monitor
LCD monitors are much slimmer and lighter than older-style CRT monitors.

For both LCD and CRT monitors, it's typical that the higher the dots per inch (DPI) you set to display on your screen, the better the fonts will look. When you increase the DPI, you are increasing the screen resolution. The resolution you use depends on the resolutions your monitor supports. At higher resolutions, such as 1900 x 1200 pixels, items appear sharper. They also appear smaller, so more items fit on the screen. At lower resolutions, such as 800 x 600 pixels, fewer items fit on the screen, but they are larger.

Windows allows you to increase or decrease the size of text and other items on your screen while keeping your monitor set to its optimal resolution. For more information, see Make the text on your screen larger or smaller.

The best display settings for an LCD monitor

If you have an LCD monitor, check your screen resolution. This helps to determine the clarity of on-screen images. It's a good practice to set an LCD monitor to its native resolution—the resolution a monitor was designed to display based on its size. To see your monitor's native resolution, check the display settings in Control Panel.

  1. Open Screen Resolution by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, and then, under Appearance and Personalization, clicking Adjust screen resolution.

  2. Click the drop-down list next to Resolution. Check for the resolution marked (recommended). This is your LCD monitor's native resolution—usually the highest resolution your monitor can support.

The monitor's manufacturer or reseller should also be able to tell you the native resolution for your LCD monitor. (CRT monitors don't have a native resolution.)

Picture of resolution options in Screen Resolution
Screen Resolution in Control Panel shows the recommended resolution for your monitor.

An LCD monitor running at its native resolution usually displays text better than a CRT monitor. LCD monitors can technically support lower resolutions than their native resolution, but text won't look as sharp and the image might be small, centered on the screen, edged with black, or look stretched. For more information, see Change your screen resolution.

Because stand-alone monitors are usually larger than laptop screens, they typically support higher resolutions than laptops.

Resolution based on LCD monitor size

Monitor size Recommended resolution (in pixels)
Monitor size

19-inch standard ratio LCD monitor

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1280 × 1024

Monitor size

20-inch standard ratio LCD monitor

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1600 × 1200

Monitor size

20- and 22-inch widescreen LCD monitors

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1680 × 1050

Monitor size

24-inch widescreen LCD monitor

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1920 × 1200

Laptop screen size Recommended resolution (in pixels)
Laptop screen size

13- to 15-inch standard ratio laptop screen

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1400 × 1050

Laptop screen size

13- to 15-inch widescreen laptop screen

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1280 × 800

Laptop screen size

17-inch widescreen laptop screen

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1680 × 1050

Set the color for an LCD monitor

To get the best color displayed on your LCD monitor, make sure to set it to 32-bit color. This measurement refers to color depth, which is the number of color values that can be assigned to a single pixel in an image. Color depth can range from 1 bit (black-and-white) to 32 bits (over 16.7 million colors). For more information, see Change color management settings.

  1. Open Screen Resolution by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, and then, under Appearance and Personalization, clicking Adjust screen resolution.

  2. Click Advanced settings, and then click the Monitor tab.

  3. Under Colors, select True Color (32 bit), and then click OK.

The best display settings for a CRT monitor

For a CRT monitor, it's important to change the screen resolution to the highest resolution available that provides 32-bit color and at least a 72-Hertz refresh rate. For more information, see Change your screen resolution.

If the screen is flickering, or viewing the screen is uncomfortable, increase the refresh rate until you are comfortable with it. The higher the refresh rate, the less likely there will be any noticeable flicker. (Because LCD monitors don't create flicker, they don't need to be set at high refresh rates.) For more information, see Correct monitor flicker (refresh rate).

Resolution based on CRT monitor size

Monitor size Recommended resolution (in pixels)
Monitor size

15-inch CRT monitor

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1024 × 768

Monitor size

17- to 19-inch CRT monitor

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1280 × 1024

Monitor size

20-inch and larger CRT monitor

Recommended resolution (in pixels)

1600 × 1200

Note

  • Unlike LCD monitors, CRT monitors generally don't come in widescreen sizes. Almost all have a standard 4:3 screen ratio, with resolutions in the same 4:3 ratio of width to height.

Set the color for a CRT monitor

Windows colors and themes work best when you have your monitor set to 32-bit color. You can set your monitor to 24-bit color, but you won't see all the visual effects. If you set your monitor to 16-bit color, images that should be smooth might not appear correctly.

  1. Open Screen Resolution by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, and then, under Appearance and Personalization, clicking Adjust screen resolution.

  2. Click Advanced settings, and then click the Monitor tab.

  3. Under Colors, select True Color (32 bit), and then click OK. (If you can't select 32-bit color, check that your resolution is as high as possible, and then try again.)

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Color management

Windows also contains advanced color management controls. Color management systems ensure that color content is rendered everywhere as accurately as possible—especially for devices such as your monitor and your printer. For more information, see Change color management settings.

Calibrate your display

Display calibration software helps to make sure that colors are displayed accurately on your screen. If you already have display calibration software from another software provider installed on your computer, you can use that software to calibrate your display. Display calibration devices are often packaged with calibration software. Using a calibration device with the calibration software it came with can help you get the best color on your screen.

Windows also includes a feature for calibrating your display. For more information, see Calibrate your display.

Set brightness and contrast

For external displays, brightness and contrast are set on the monitor controls, not from within Windows. Most CRT and LCD monitors have buttons or other controls on the front where you can control brightness and contrast. Some open an on-screen menu where you can make these adjustments. If you're unsure of how to adjust these controls, check the manual for your monitor or the manufacturer's website. For more information, see Adjust your monitor's brightness and contrast.

The brightness of most laptop screens can be adjusted within Windows. If you're using a laptop, you can adjust brightness in Power Options. For more information, see Change, create, or delete a power plan (scheme).

Improve the appearance of text

Windows includes a technology called ClearType that is turned on by default. ClearType allows your monitor to display computer fonts as clear and smooth as possible. This can help make text easier to read over long periods of time without causing eyestrain. It works especially well with LCD devices, including flat-panel displays, laptops, and smaller handheld devices.

It's a good idea to make sure ClearType was not turned off for some reason, especially if the text on your monitor looks fuzzy. You can also set up ClearType to work best with your particular monitor. For instructions on how to do both of these tasks, see Make text easier to read using ClearType.