Small Wallpaper, Tiny Text, And Other Screen Resolution Issues

by on November 19, 2007

Q: When I increase my resolution from 1024×768 to 1600X1200 on my laptop I can fit more on the screen but it is much harder for me to read the text and see the icons. What can I do to resolve this?

A: Text/Icons/Pictures appear smaller as your computer’s display resolution is increased. This is why stuff looks bigger on your laptop’s screen at a resolution of 1024X768 than at 1600X1200. Computer programmers have been working on eliminating this problem through something called resolution independence. Unfortunately, resolution independence is not widely used yet. Your external monitor may have a higher native resolution than your laptop’s screen. Native resolution is the “perfect” resolution of a display. Even though your laptop’s display is able to use 1600X1200, its native resolution could be much lower. Note, a computer screen’s maximum resolution is not necessarily its native resolution. Setting a screen to a higher setting than its native resolution often results in text/icons/pictures seeming smaller. The DPI (Dots Per Inch) specs of a display can also play a role in the size of text/icons/pictures. I’ll discuss DPI more in a few moments.

It should be easy to get a wallpaper to fill your screen in Windows XP:

  1. Right-Click anywhere on your desktop where there is not an icon.
  2. Choose Properties for the menu that appears.
  3. You should see a new window with some tabs. Choose the tab called Desktop.
  4. You’ll see a drop-down menu called Position. Chances are it is currently on the “Center” setting. Change it to “Stretch” and then left-click on the Apply button.

Your wallpaper problem should now be solved. However, text/icons/pictures will still appear tiny. You can fix this most easily by using a lower resolution on your laptop’s screen. It seems from your question that you know how to change the display settings on your computer, so I won’t post any instructions for that. Another way to make text/icons/pictures bigger is to increase the DPI settings in Windows XP:

  1. Right-Click anywhere on your desktop where there is not an icon.
  2. Choose Properties for the menu that appears.
  3. Go to the Settings tab.
  4. Choose your laptop’s display and click on Advanced. Note, the next steps might be different on your computer. It depends upon the driver/software that you have installed for your graphics card.
  5. Choose the General tab.
  6. There should be a menu called DPI setting. Windows uses a default setting of 96 DPI. Choose the 120 DPI setting. You may need to restart you computer. You can also input a Custom setting — the larger the number the bigger items on your screen will appear.
  7. Note, some software may not like the new DPI setting. Save your work often!
  8. If you use both of your monitors at the same time, it might be a good idea for both of them to be using the same DPI. My guess is that they will use the same DPI automatically. But I don’t know for sure.

Your text/icons/pictures should now be bigger.