Change the screen resolution and make text and icons bigger, in Windows 7 & Windows 8.1

When you use Windows, the operating system automatically sets the screen resolution and the size of the text and icons displayed, based on what it thinks is best, depending on the monitor that you have. Most times, it does a good job at choosing the right settings for users. However, there are times when you want to lower the screen resolution to make text and items bigger on the screen. Alternatively, you may want to keep the same screen resolution and adjust the size of the text and other items. Read this tutorial and see how to perform all these tasks in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1:

Setting the screen resolution is more automatic than it used to be

In years gone by, the choice of screen resolution was almost always entirely up to a trial and error process led by the user, since Windows defaulted to one or two low-resolution screens. It was a "lowest common denominator" approach that guaranteed that people installing Windows would at least be able to see what was on the screen from the get-go. Higher resolution displays were the job of the graphics cards manufacturers, and each card came with a disk full of drivers. Even after that, not all resolutions were appropriate for all monitors, and you could (and often did) get garbage or a black screen if you tried to use them. Fortunately, Windows has always had a built-in safeguard. In Windows, the operating system tries to correctly identify your monitor model, its aspect ratio and supported resolutions. If all goes well, it automatically sets the resolution to the maximum supported by your display. That is great, and it means that you get the maximum screen space available as soon as you log into Windows for the first time.

Before you move forward, we recommend that you read: What is the screen resolution or the aspect ratio? What do 720p, 1080i & 1080p mean?. It provides the context and explains the concepts you need to consider when changing screen resolution.

How to get to the screen resolution settings in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

Changing the screen's resolution or its orientation, in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, is done from a window named Screen Resolution. You can get to Screen Resolution from the Control Panel. Open Control Panel, and go to "Appearance and Personalization -> Adjust Screen Resolution." The link is found in the Display section, as highlighted below.

The link for Adjust screen resolution, in Windows 7

The fastest way to get there is to right-click or tap and hold anywhere on your desktop and choose Screen Resolution in the menu that is shown.

The right-click menu on the desktop of Windows 7

It brings up the Screen Resolution window that allows you to make changes.

The Screen resolution window in Windows 7

What the screen resolution settings look like when you have a multi-monitor setup

You often see setups in which more than one monitor is involved. Most people go with a dual-monitor setup, but three-monitor setups are also increasingly popular.

Here is how the Screen Resolution window looks when using a dual-screen configuration in Windows 7 or Windows 8.1:

The Screen Resolution window with multiple monitors available

As you can see, both monitors are shown. Select one of the screens with the mouse or with your finger, and then you can change its settings.

How to change the screen resolution in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

To begin making changes, click or tap the drop-down menu labeled Resolution.

Changing the screen resolution in Windows 7

You can adjust the resolution up and down to whatever setting you wish. If your monitor is 1080p or 1080i, for example, remember that that translates to a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. However, you may see higher resolutions than that, depending on your monitor.

Displaying available screen resolutions in Windows 7

After selecting the resolution that you want to use, click or tap OK. Windows changes the resolution of the screen and asks whether you want to keep your new display settings. Click or tap Keep changes. If you do not, or if you choose Revert, the screen goes back to the previous screen resolution.

Confirming your display settings in Windows 7

NOTE: If you are using a portable computer, you may not be given a chance to change your screen resolution. Some laptop/tablet/hybrid devices screens have a fixed resolution, and there is no way you can change it. Others allow you to make choices.

Beware of small screen resolutions in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7

When moving the Resolution slider up and down, at some places on its travel, you may see a warning that if you choose that resolution, some items may not fit on your screen. It means that some of your applications will either not run at all or display windows that cannot fit on the available screen.

Small resolution warning in Windows 7

The consequences of screen resolution changes

Once you have changed the resolution of your screen, two problems may occur:

  • First, if you increased the screen resolution, you may find that video-intensive displays (such as games) may be noticeably slower since the video takes more resources to render at higher resolutions. It happens if you have a video card that is not able to meet the demands of the games that you are playing. Other hardware components can negatively impact the experience too, even though the video card plays a critical role.
  • Second, you may find that your screen looks considerably different. The icons and text may have changed size, and if you have chosen an extremely high resolution, they may be so small that you cannot read them. It is especially true if you watch the display from a distance as in the case of displaying on a TV.

For slowdowns, the fix is to change to a lower resolution. It may take some time to experiment with the various choices to get an acceptable combination of graphic clarity and speed.

For the icon/text problem, there are two choices: change to a lower resolution, or change the size of the icons and text.

How to change the size of icons and text in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

In the Screen Resolution window, click or tap on "Make text and other items larger or smaller."

Make text and other items larger or smaller in Windows 7

It takes you to a window where you can change the text and icons together. There's also a thumbnail preview that gives a general idea of what your screen looks like if you make the changes. Try clicking or tapping on the other options to watch the preview change.

Make it easier to read what's on your screen in Windows 7

Once you have decided which size you want, click Apply. You get a warning that you need to log off to make the changes. Close any open applications and log off.

Log off to apply icon and text size changes in Windows 7

After you log in again, you see the text and the icons using the size you selected. If they are still not right, go through the procedure again and try another size.

Experimentation is the key to finding the best screen resolution and text size

In the CRT monitors days, choosing an incompatible resolution could cause problems. Luckily, technology has improved and today's monitors and Windows operating systems are made of sterner stuff. Do not hesitate to experiment with the different settings until you find those that work best for you. Then, before closing this tutorial, let us know which screen resolution you decided to use, and which setting for the text size. Comment below and let's discuss.