How To Adjust the Screen Resolution Setting in Windows XP

Tutorial on How to Change the Screen Resolution in Windows XP

A screenshot of the screen resolution setting in Windows XP
Screen Resolution Setting in Windows XP.

Adjusting the screen resolution setting may be necessary to resolve issues with the display size on monitors and other output devices like projectors.

The steps for changing the screen resolution are quick and pretty straightforward.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Adjusting the screen resolution in Windows XP usually takes less than 5 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Navigate to the Control Panel in Windows XP by left-clicking on Start and then choosing Control Panel.

    Tip: You can open Control Panel from the Run dialog box or a Command Prompt too, with the control panel command.

  1. In the Control Panel window, open Display.

    In Microsoft Windows XP, depending on how your operating system is setup, you may not see the Display icon. To correct this, click on the link on the left-hand side of the Control Panel window that says Switch to Classic View.

    Note: See the first tip at the bottom of this page for a quicker way to open Display Properties.

  2. In the Display Properties window, click on the Settings tab.

  3. Locate the Screen resolution slider on the left-hand side of the window. Slide it to the left for a lower resolution or the right for a higher resolution.

    Under most circumstances, the best choice is 800 by 600 pixels or 1024 by 768 pixels, possibly higher if you're using a 19" or larger monitor. The "best" setting is highly subjective to your personal preferences.

    Note: Some types of software require the screen resolution settings to be set at a specific size. If you receive errors when opening certain software titles be sure to make any changes here as necessary.

    Important: Before continuing to the next step and applying the changes, understand that if you set the screen resolution too high, the screen will probably go blank. See Tip 3 below to see what you should do if that happens.

  1. Click the OK or Apply button to confirm the changes. If prompted, follow any additional on-screen directions. A reboot is unnecessary.


  1. Another way you can open Display Properties is by right-clicking the desktop and choosing Properties. Then, just follow the same steps above starting with Step 3.
  1. If more than one monitor is shown, you can change the resolution for each monitor individually. Just click the monitor you want to adjust the setting for. If you're not sure which monitor is "1" or "2" or so on, click the Identify button at the bottom of the Display Properties screen - a number will appear on each monitor.
  2. It's possible to change the screen resolution to a setting not supported by your monitor. If this happens, the screen will probably turn black and prevent you from seeing anything, including your mouse.

    Fixing this is a simple as starting Windows XP in Safe Mode and then following the directions above. This time, just make sure to lower the resolution to something that's likely supported by your monitor.

    If Safe Mode doesn't work, try choosing the Enable VGA Mode option in the Windows Advanced Options Menu.

    If you have another monitor you could connect to the computer - one that supports the higher resolution, it might be quicker to do that in order to change the resolution rather than boot Windows XP into Safe Mode.