How DPI Scaling works in Windows 8.1

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 20, 2013
Windows, Windows 8

Most Windows users probably do not bother with their operating system's DPI scaling settings at all. The setting determines how items on the screen are displayed which is independent from the screen resolution the monitor is running on. Some users like to increase the DPI scaling to improve the readability of elements on the screen.

The main purpose though is to make sure that items on the screen look fine regardless of resolution and size of monitor. A basic example is that the items on the screen of a 24" Full HD display may look different than items on a screen of a 46" Full HD TV if the same DPI setting is used. Basically, the items will not appear at the same scale when you compare them, with items on the 46" considerably smaller than those on the 24".

That's where DPI comes into play. To improve this, you increase the DPI setting to a larger value to improve the readability and accessibility of items and information on it.

With Windows 8, there is only one DPI setting for all screens you connect your computer to. This is especially a problem for Microsoft's Surface Pro as it ships with a screen resolution of 1920x1080 and a DPI setting of 150% instead of the usual 100%. This works out quite well for the native screen of the Surface Pro, but quickly becomes an issue when you connect it to a larger monitor, for instance at work or at home.

The reason for this is that other screens may not look right when you run them on 150%, and while you can go into the display settings of the Surface Pro to lower it to the - usual - 100%, you would have to modify the setting again once you start to use the Surface's screen again. And that is not even taking into account situations where you may want to use both screens at the same time.

One of the new features of Windows 8.1 is automatic DPI scaling (Microsoft calls it per-display DPI scaling). What is meant by that is that Windows 8.1 will automatically select a DPI scaling for each connected monitor. So, the Surface Pro would be run at 150% while the larger Full HD monitor on your desktop would run on 100% (or whatever the appropriate value is) without the two values interfering with each other in any way.

While automatic should work fine for most users, it is possible to override that in case you prefer to run a single DPI for all connected screens.

DPI Scaling settings in Windows 8.1

The easiest way to open the DPI scaling options is to right-click on the desktop of the operating system (on the screen you want to modify the values for) and select Personalize from the context menu.

Here you then need to click on Display under See also in the lower left corner of the screen.

windows 8.1 dpi-scaling
DPI scaling options
  • The "Let me choose one scaling level for all my displays" determines whether the automatic DPI-scaling of Windows 8.1 is enabled or not. If the setting is unchecked, Windows will automatically select scaling values for each display the PC is connected to.
  • You can use the slider, supporting the three states smaller, large and larger to adjust that scaling based on your personal preferences.
  • If you check the preference, you disable automatic mode to select a custom DPI setting for all displays instead.
  • The display setting can go up to 500% when you click on custom sizing options which is another improvement over Windows 8.
Note: If you modify settings here, you are still required to log off and on again before all of the changes are applied to the system. This is actually one of the most requested features in regards to running different displays and changing DPI settings for them individually.
Pro Tip: You can also modify the values in the Registry. You find the preference LogPixels under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop. Change the value to 96 for 100%, 120 for 125%, 144 for 150% and 192 for 200%.

Microsoft employee Gavin Gear explains why this is the case:

Scaling turns out to be a lot harder to change on the fly than resolution.  We’ve had resolution change in the ecosystem for about 20 years.  Apps that need to work with different resolutions are expected to respond to WM_DISPLAYCHANGE and a host of other events to resize themselves.  There’s no comparable event for a scaling change (WM_DPICHANGED is new in Windows 8.1), so there are only a few apps that handle this event today.  For any app that doesn’t handle this event, Windows has to do the scaling, and that means performing a bitmap scaling operation on the app’s rendered output.

So, Windows 8.1 supports that feature, but the majority of apps and programs do not.


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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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