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How to adjust display refresh rate in Windows

The refresh rate on your monitor refers to how many times the image on the screen refreshes per second — 60Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz, etc. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the image appears. While maximum refresh rate is an innate feature of monitor models, it can also be controlled on the software side.

This is where problems can creep in: If your PC’s refresh rate is mismatched to what the monitor or its resolution can handle, it can cause problems like stuttering. If you have recently upgraded to a monitor with a better refresh rate, you may also want to double-check that Windows is set to the higher rate for a smoother experience. If you’re on a laptop, you can even set the refresh rate lower to help conserve battery life. Either way, a Windows update has provided an option to manually set or change the refresh rate. Let’s look at what you need to do.

Step 1: Close everything down and head to Settings

Going to the Settings app in Windows.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Close all the apps and running programs on your computer before you begin. They head to the search box on the Windows taskbar, and type in “settings.” When the Settings app appears, select it to proceed.

Step 2: Navigate to Display settings

Choosing System in Windows Settings.
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When the Settings options appear, select System.

Navigating to the Display Settings in Windows System.
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When System settings open, check on the left-side menu that you are in the Display section.

Step 3: Go to the Advanced Display Settings

Finding Advanced Display Settings in Windows.
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In Display, scroll down to the bottom of your options, where you will see a choice to go to Advanced Display Settings. Select this to proceed.

Step 4: Adjust the Refresh Rate

Refresh Rate settings options in Windows.
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At the top of Advanced Display Settings, you will see an option to Choose Display. If you are working on your own laptop or a PC with a single monitor, you probably don’t need to worry about this section. However, if you are working with a multi-monitor setup or a connected laptop, you should make sure that you have selected the correct display before you change the refresh rate. If you just connected a new monitor, you may want to quickly check that the display shown is correct, too.

Now head down to the Refresh Rate section. Here you can see your current refresh rate, and select it to view additional options. Windows will provide the available refresh rate options based on the display you have connected. If you feel like the options available aren’t correct, you can try disconnecting the monitor and reconnecting it.

When ready, choose from the available refresh rate options, and confirm when you have selected the rate you want.

Step 5: Test out the new settings

Nvidia GeForce RTX gaming setup with monitor and PC build.

Now it’s a good idea to play back some content to make sure the refresh rate is functioning as you wish. For example, if you just got a shiny new gaming monitor, you will want to bring up one of your favorite games and check that the action is smooth and detailed. If you are adjusting the refresh rate down to watch a movie, you may also prefer to play a minute or two to check the results. This step isn’t necessary if you’re just adjusting the refresh rate to save on battery life.

Note: It’s also possible to adjust the refresh rate through GPU software like the Nvidia Control Panel. But for most users, using the native Windows options will be a bit faster and easier. Certain GPU settings, like VRR (variable refresh rate), will automatically adjust refresh rate on their own, so be aware of this when trying to manually change your refresh rate.

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Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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