Don’t give up on your old monitor just yet. We’ve got plenty of tips to make its display better than ever
Monitors are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with fast refresh times and resolutions of 4K and beyond. But these flashy new models aren’t cheap and there’s really no need to spend a fortune on a raft of unnecessary features when your trusty old screen can be tweaked and customised to improve its performance.
In this article, we look at the many ways you can improve your monitor’s display without actually replacing it. We’ll also explain how you can give an old screen you’re
no longer using a new lease on life.
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How to calibrate a monitor
Calibrate the screen to make the picture better
Your monitor will come with built-in calibration settings you can use to adjust the brightness, contrast, sharpness and colour. Just press the relevant button on your monitor to access the settings. All versions of Windows from 7 onwards also come with a useful wizard you can use to make sure colours display correctly on your screen.
Here’s a step by step guide:
1. Type calibrate into the Windows search box, then launch the ‘Calibrate display colour’ tool. If you have more than one monitor attached to your PC, drag the tool’s window to the display of the monitor you want to calibrate. Click ‘Next’ and the tool will switch to full screen. Click ‘Next’ to begin.
2. The tool will now let you set the Gamma (the relationship between red, green and blue colour values). A sample image showing optimum Gamma will appear. Click ‘Next’, then use the slider to try to match it. Click the ‘Back’ arrow if you want a reminder of what you’re aiming for.
3. Click ‘Next’ and use the controls on your monitor to adjust the brightness, then the contrast. You can skip these stages if you wish. You’ll now be able to adjust the colour balance. Use the sliders to remove any colour cast from the grey bars. Finally, click ‘Finish’ to save and use the new settings.
Get the best drivers
Getting the latest drivers for your monitor and graphics card may improve the quality of the display. Most monitors don’t need any extra tools when they’re connected to a PC – they just work – but it’s worth installing a dedicated driver if one is available because it might provide a wider range of display resolutions and enable additional features, such as a webcam.
Check the monitor manufacturer’s support page to see if there are new drivers available.
If you have a graphics card installed, it’s definitely worth checking if there are new drivers for it. Gaming and 3D graphics cards come with powerful software that can improve the quality and performance of the display. Even if you’re using on-board graphics, it’s worth checking with the manufacturer to see if updated drivers are available.
Here’s how to check if you need new drivers:
1. Windows 10 should automatically download new drivers via Windows Update, but you can check for the latest ones through the Device Manager. Type ‘drivers’ into the search box and press ‘Enter’. Locate Monitors in the list and click the arrow next to it. This will show any currently installed screens.
2. You may have multiple screens installed. To check for updated drivers, right-click on the relevant screen and select ‘Update driver’. If you run into problems, you can always disable the device or uninstall the driver. You can ‘Scan for hardware changes’ here, too.
3. Go back to the Device Manager and locate and expand the ‘Display adapters’ entry. Right-click your graphics device and select ‘Update driver’. In the window that opens,
you can automatically search for updated drivers (both online and off) or browse your computer for previously downloaded ones.
Make your screen more comfortable on the eyes
Your monitor is set up to work best in the daytime. At night, the screen’s brightness can cause eye strain and the blue light it emits can be disruptive to sleep. Thankfully, there are tools you can install to make your screen less glaring in the evening and at night. The best known of these is f.lux (justgetflux.com), which automatically adjusts your display settings to match the time of day: during daylight hours, your screen will be at its brightest, but as evening falls, it slowly dulls and takes on a yellow hue.
You can manually adjust the settings to suit the lighting of your room and disable the program for an hour at a time if you need to carry out colour-sensitive work. SunsetScreen is a similar program and both are free.
Windows 10 users don’t need to install a third-party program because the latest version of the OS comes with built-in Night Light settings. To enable them, type ‘night light’ into the search box and press ‘Enter’. In the settings window, click ‘Turn on now’. You can adjust the night-time colour temperature and schedule the night light here.
Buy a display adaptor
If you’re thinking of buying a new monitor or computer, make sure the screen inputs match your PC or graphic card’s outputs. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t because you can buy adapters to convert one display connection into another (upgrading your graphics card or installing a new one if you have onboard graphics is another option to consider).
Search Amazon for the type of adapter you want and you should find plenty of cheap products. You’ll find adapters for most types of connections, such as Mini DisplayPort to VGA, DisplayPort to DVI, Mini DisplayPort to HDMI, Mini HDMI to VGA, DVI to HDMI, and so on.
Add a second screen
If you’re thinking of upgrading to a newer, larger monitor, don’t throw away your old screen.
One of the easiest and best ways to boost your productivity is to add a second screen to your setup. You can use it to permanently display your emails or Facebook page, for example, while you use your newer screen to work on.
Windows now supports multi-monitor setups, so it’s very easy to get another screen up and running, although you will need a video card with two outputs (or a secondary graphics card) to do this, as well as the relevant cables and plenty of free desk space. To add the second monitor, turn off your computer and use whatever cables and connections you need to attach both screens. Switch your computer back on and Windows should automatically recognise both displays.
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To manage the screens, right-click your Desktop and select ‘Display settings’. If the second monitor isn’t shown, click Detect. Select and rearrange the displays, setting the main one as your primary screen. You can adjust the scale, layout and resolution here. Under ‘Multiple displays’ make sure ‘Extend these displays’ is selected.