Windows will automatically scale to meet the needs of your PC’s display: it does so by examining the size and pixel density—or PPI, pixels per inch—of the display and then choosing an appropriate scaling level. Best of all, this now works properly with multi-display set ups, and you can configure each display independently.
Note: the content in this article is condensed from the Devices chapter in Windows 10 Field Guide, which is currently in development. I plan to have an early version of this inexpensive e-book available in time for the Windows 10 launch on July 29.
Windows now runs on an amazing variety of devices, some of which now offer incredibly high resolution screens. In Windows 8, Microsoft introduced display scaling functionality that it first showed off in 2003, allowing users to scale the Windows UI so that it displayed properly on high-DPI displays. But display scaling often broke with legacy applications, and it was difficult to impossible to configure correctly with multiple displays, each of which could have different scaling needs.
Windows 10 configures a default scaling level for each display automatically. But depending on your needs, this automatic selection may not be ideal. Fortunately, you can change it.
You do so by navigating to Settings, System, Display. (Or, simply right-click the desktop and choose Display Settings from the pop-up menu that appears.)
To adjust the display scaling in bumps of 25 percent, simply adjust the slider under “Change the size of text, apps, and other items.”
When you select the Apply button, you can examine the impact the change has made on the display: open a File Explorer window and a few apps to get a feel for it. But you will need to sign out of your account and then sign back in for the change to be completed.
One of the biggest improvements involves multiple displays.
If you have two or more displays attached to your PC, simply select the display for which you wish to configure the scaling (as well as other screen properties like orientation and brightness level). You can then configure the scaling—and the orientation and brightness—for each independently.
Also, if the 25 percent bumps aren’t precise enough for you for some reason, you can adjust the display scaling further by selecting the “Advanced display settings” link. In the legacy Display control panel that appears, you can now select the “set a custom scaling level” link to specify whatever scale level you prefer.
Note: If you would rather customize the size of individual onscreen elements—title bars, menus, message boxes, palette titles, icons and tooltips—rather than the entire screen, you can access the options in the section “Change only the text size” instead. This will require even more experimentation.
This new interface represents a major improvement over the situation in Windows 8.x, which relied solely on the legacy control panel interface. Indeed, the sheer simplicity of this configuration in Windows 10 really masks how terrible this was previously.