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Adjusting Monitor Refresh Rates

P. D. Barnett

On some computers the display appears to flicker or shimmer. This is due to a low "refresh rate". A refresh rate is the measurement of how many times, per second, that a screen is redrawn (or refreshed). This is rather like the frames per second measurement of films. However, due to a computer's screen being drawn by a dot of light as opposed to a complete picture being shown all at once, this rate needs to be faster than a film's frames per second to be unnoticed by the human eye.

By default, a computer with a Windows operating system (OS), will set this at 60 Hz (60 times per second) if the monitor make and model are unknown to Windows. The minimum "refresh rate" recommended by the EU (and elsewhere) for a standard computer is 72 Hz. For a monitor larger than 14" diagonal measurement, 75Hz or more is a more appropriate setting.


Setting a refresh rate which is higher than the capability of your monitor can damage it.

If you have installed your monitor correctly the danger should not arise. The maximum rates for your monitor vary according to the resolution and the OS is automatically informed of those rates by your monitor (if Plug & Play) and by its driver (INF file). This should ensure that the OS will not provide rates which are too high for your monitor. To be safe, check that your monitor (and specific model) is shown correctly in the Display Properties window discussed below.


Adjusting the Rate

The commonest OS for a domestic PC is standard Windows (typically 95, 98 or ME). Windows NT (the business version) looks almost identical but gives a far greater control to system administrators. Therefore it may not be possible to access the necessary controls to change the refresh rate without IT involvement. For computers where adjustment is both necessary and possible, here is a description of how to accomplish the change in most cases.

First, using the mouse, click on any blank part of the screen with the RIGHT button, this will bring up the menu shown right. With the LEFT mouse button, select Properties.

Doing this will bring up a window like the one shown left. Select the Settings tab with the left mouse button.

With the left mouse button, click on the Advanced button at the bottom of the Settings window.

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