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Refresh Rate

Refresh Rate

Note: Please be advised that this tip will vary quite a bit depending on the computer and video adapter. In some cases, you can not even adjust your refresh rate. Now on to the tip…

Is your computer screen is giving you sore eyes? Is there anything you can do besides adjusting the brightness and looking away from it like you’re supposed to?

Well, you might try speeding up your “refresh rate.”

Some people experience eyestrain, headaches, and fuzzy vision when looking at their computer screens, especially if the screens are CRT’s (Cathode Ray Tubes – the chunky, TV-like screens). A CRT has ray guns that make the pixels (or dots) of the screen glow by hitting them with an electron beam. The pixels then begin to fade, but are “refreshed” by the beam 60 times or more per second. The refresh rate is represented by hertz (for example: 60 Hz).

60 Hz is considered low these days and 72 Hz is the minimum recommended to reduce flickering. But did you know that even the kind of flickering you can’t “see” is processed by your brain and can fatigue your eyes?

Some people say that making your refresh rate too high will wear out your screen over time. Make sure that your brand and type of screen are represented correctly in your software and you probably won’t be allowed to make a Hz choice too fast for your screen to handle. I’ll show you how to check for that now.

1. Checking to see that your screen brand and model number are represented correctly: First, go to any unused part of your desktop and right-click . Click the left button of your mouse on Properties. Click on the tab that says Monitor , or perhaps the tab actually has the brand name of a screen instead.


Make sure the brand and model stated there match those of the screen you’re using.

If your screen is not represented correctly, you can choose Change and follow the directions of the Installation Wizard.

You want your computer to recognize what screen you own so that your software won’t let you set your refresh rate too high. Older computers may not have the ability to automatically restrict the settings, so if you can dig up the owner’s manual that came with your screen, take a look at it. The manual will tell you what refresh rates your screen can handle at different resolutions. (See an example of such a guide in the Notes section below.)

2. Write down your current resolution settings: Again, go to any unused part of your desktop and right-click . When you get the menu, click on Video Modes or Display Modes . A selection of resolutions/video modes will appear, with a check mark by the one you’re currently using. Write down that resolution number on a piece of paper in case you decide later that you liked your original settings the best.


3. Find your refresh rate: Once again, right click on a blank part of your desktop and select Properties . Then chose the “Settings” tab.


Now click on the Advanced button. You’ll get a whole new set of tabs. Chose Adapter .


And now you’ve finally reached the elusive refresh rate settings! Your current setting will appear in the slim window titled Refresh Rate. (Go ahead and write this setting down, next to your video modes/resolution number, in case you need it later.)

Right click on the arrow next to the refresh rate window, and you’ll see your other choices, such as “Adapter,” “60 Hz,” “72 Hz,” and so on.

4. Chose another refresh rate: Move the colored bar to the refresh rate you’d like to try. Then click on Apply . Now, a warning might pop-up. If you’ve done step one, and/or checked the owner’s manual for your screen, you’ll be fine. Just choose OK.

The screen will go blank for a moment, but it will come back a bit different (though perhaps not noticeably so, at first).

If you don’t choose Apply in a moment or two, the screen Hz/Refresh rate setting will revert to what it was before. So if the picture looks terrible, just wait and it will automatically go back to the old setting.

Once you’ve changed your refresh rate, you can try out the new settings for a while, and see if your eyes feel any better.


1. Perhaps choosing a faster refresh rate has caused the display area on your screen to shrink, and now you see a thick black border around your picture.
On the bottom of your monitor (perhaps behind a panel) are real-life buttons you can press. A menu will come onto the screen, and you should choose the option that has up, down, right, and left arrows.

After stretching the display, if you don’t like what you see, you can repeat steps three and four above, and choose the refresh rate that you had to begin with (remember, you wrote it down!)

2. If you’ve chosen a sharp, high Video Mode/Resolution (such as 1600 x 1200), refreshing it at a fast pace (85 Hz, for example) will take more effort from those cathode ray guns than a lower, less demanding resolution (800×600). Some combinations officially “work,” but you won’t like the look of them (your desktop items will be too small, or things will look fuzzy). For instructions on how to change your Video Mode/Resolution, see your Monitor’s manual.

The size of your screen will limit how fast you can set your refresh rate and/or how high you can set your resolution. Here’s a table from a screen manual that shows the best combinations of refresh rates/Hz with Video Mode/Resolution:


3. Florescent lights flicker – even the ones that claim to be “flicker free”! Sometimes, I switch on my lights and their flicker matches the refresh rate of my computer. The screen then seems to vibrate which is terribly annoying. If this happens to you, turn your office lights off and on to get the two flicker systems off the same pattern.

~ Leslie Richardson, Dallas, Texas