How to make Windows desktop apps look better on high DPI displays, goodbye blurry fonts

You can disable scaling for apps to fix blurry fonts and elements on Windows 8.1.

Desktop app with and without high DPI setting

We’re finally starting to see more PC makers bringing high DPI displays to Windows PCs. High-resolution screens not only provide more viewable real estate, but they also make text, photos, and videos look sharp, crisp, and more beautiful than ever before.

But no one says that applications must be built to scale properly on these displays. If they are not, you’ll get blurry fonts and pixelated images, or they just won’t scale well—a really big problem, even more so when you spend a lot of money on that brand-new laptop.

Windows 8.1 brings new improvements in automatic scaling for high-density displays, and users have no problems making Windows look beautiful. But up to a point, parts of the operating system still need a lot of work. For example, sections such as Device Manager, Administrative Tools, and others still experience blurry fonts and pixelated icons. Windows 8.1 doesn’t support automatic scaling on multi-monitor setups. On the other hand, Windows 10 includes DPI scaling support for multi-monitor setups.

Device Manger problem scaling in Windows 8.1

Change scaling settings on Windows 8.1

Let’s start with the basics. Windows 8.1 will automatically choose the optimized scaling configuration for your laptop or tablet. You can always change this configuration by going to Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Display. Windows will provide you with all the optimal choices, but you can always use the “Let me choose one scaling level for all my displays” option to select something more specific.

Display DPI settings in Windows 8.1

Because hundreds of thousands of desktop applications were created before high-resolution displays, this results in a poor user experience with blurry text and other inconsistencies.

Fix blurry apps on Windows 8.1

The primary issue is that Windows automatically tries to scale applications. However, older apps were not designed to run in high-pixel-density environments. As a result, you’ll get blurry and fuzzy fonts when automatic scaling is applied.

To fix this issue, you can easily tell Windows 8.1 not to scale applications, resulting in better-looking desktop apps running on high resolution. Here’s how to change the settings:

  1. Right-click the app and select Properties

    Desktop app Properties in Windows 8.1

  2. Click the Compatibility tab

  3. Check the “Disable display scaling on high DPI settings” option under the “Settings” section.

    Disable scaling on high DPI displays

  4. Click the Apply button.

  5. Click the OK button.

Following the steps mentioned above should do some good for apps. For example, you’ll no longer see blurry or fuzzy text again, only crisp and sharp fonts and other elements as such images will look smaller because of the obvious loss of scaling, but they won’t be pixelated or look horrible.

Of course, you’ll only have to do this for older desktop applications, as all Windows Store apps already support automatic scaling.

Update March 18, 2024: This guide has been updated to ensure accuracy and reflect changes to the process.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].