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High Res Problem on Windows

added: Summarized update here

My client woke me up with an interesting problem today. After talking to me and Dell customer support, he found out that one widescreen monitors under supremely high resolutions (he’s at 1680 ? 1050) Windows, the font sizes default to 120dpi. Oh, and added to that, Internet Explorer decides to increase your image sizes to match the higher font size. So what’s the result?

Here’s my current (still under development) live site. Here’s my client’s screenshot. Notice how the top navigation wraps strangely. Notice how the image replacement in the right-hand column is cut-off. Also notice that the images are all disgustingly pixellated as if I set the JPG quality settings to 0. But believe me folks, that’s not bad lossy, the images look jagged like that because IE has decided to — by default — to increase the images to match the text. I asked my client to visit my own website (what you see here) and a couple of other CSS websites, and he mentioned problems with text overlapping some images as well as poor image quality.

With the adoption of widescreens becoming higher, especially amongst the decision-making executive types, this is definitely a cause for concern. Because of the higher DPI, the increase of text and images can result in breaking a CSS layout and making images fuuuugly. It doesn’t matter if you set the fonts to pixels — IE scales that too.

Yes, this is default behaviour on computers with widescreens.

So, I screamed at my monitor for a while.

Fortunately, there is a bit of a workaround. There is an MSDN article that gives you a bit of a registry hack that isolates the culprit.

HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Internet Explorer > Main > UseHR= dword:00000001

So, what does that mean to a layman? Explain this to your client:

  1. Go to Start > Run
  2. Type regedit and press OK
  3. Click on the triangles beside the folder HKEY_Current_User, then the triangle by Software, then Microsoft, then Internet Explorer, then Main
  4. Fine the term UseHR on the right-hand window pane
  5. Right click over the UseHR and choose modify
  6. When the new window opens up, change the Value from 1 to 0. Press OK.
  7. Get out of Regedit and close all instances of Internet Explorer.
  8. Open up Internet Explorer again and visit the website
  9. The end.

This is inexcusable behaviour for Microsoft and Internet Explorer. This should not have been placed automatically on the registry, and there should have been an easier way to turn it off without having to resort to fiddling with the registry. Can we make this another request to the IE team to fix? Please?

If someone can make me a .reg file that is just easy to download that applies this change immediately, please contact me with the file! Thanks very much.

Cal generously let me know how to make the .reg file, so here it is for your convenience. Please Right Click > Save As. The file is suppiled as-is, and I have no guarantee it will work perfectly. But I tested it on my end and it seems to have worked, so please test before deploying on your clients. Remember, this is only for widescreen users in high resolutions. No one else seems to be affected.

added: also, if anyone knows a css hack, I’d like to know about it!

added: please check the comments for updates on this! :-)

added: Summarized update here.

38 blabs to High Res Problem on Windows

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Wow! Talk about a badly implemeted ‘feature’. I wonder how much testing was done with this – if any! I wonder if/when Microsoft will ever implement the function that Safari has where the green button automagically resizes the browser window to fit the current page perrrfectly? It makes so much more sense than a ‘maximise’ button does, especially with widescreen displays.

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Oct 26
11:04 PM

I suppose I should clarify that I haven’t tested this strange occurence on any other instances besides the one of my client. Someone suggested to me that it may have been set by Dell, specifically — so if you own a widescreen on another machine, let me know if this strange behaviour is default.

Also, it’s quite possible that this problem can be replicated on non-widescreen but super-high resolution machines that are under Windows. So, if anyone wants to test that out, let me know if the weirdness happens by default, and what manufacturer your computer is from.

Heh. When you said about the problem I was completely stumped. Quite lucky to find out the problem, you could have been there for hours.

Picture of Johan Prawiro

Name Johan Prawiro

Date Oct 27
06:09 AM


I don’t think this issue is related to high-resolution-display settings. I work on a 19” CRT with 1600 × 1200 and I never encountered a problem like this.
Instead I suppose that DELL wanted to “support” the customer in advance by setting the internal font-size from windows to 120dpi (large fonts). The note “These are usually done by the manufacturers of higher resolution systems.” in the MSDN article (in the “How to Activate Scaling “-part) lead me to this thought. I found the setting in the “advanced”-dialog of the display-properties (where you can set the actual resolution). Additionally the “UseHR”-key has to be added for the IE to scale fonts and images according to the internal system-setting. So this reg-key should not be existent on systems not delivered with such HR-displays (it sure is not in my reg. I just tried to look it up).

Maybe you can reproduce that problem even on low-resolution systems if you do the changes to the internal font-size and add the reg-key manually. I didn’t do that right now, because windows requires a reboot for that font-size thing.

Also I think, that this might be an accessibility issue to low-vision / vision-impaired users who have a low resolution with large fonts enabled. Fortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case, since this is the first time I have heard about this specific problem. =)

(Sorry if my english seems a bit… odd. It’s not my native language. :)

I have a Sony Vaio laptop with a 1920 × 1200 display – dpi is set to 96dpi by default so I get no issues.

Picture of Chris

Name Chris

Date Oct 27
09:09 AM

If this behavior is truly by default, then it isn’t likely that every user with a wide screen will download a .reg patch in order to view the site properly. It would be better to see if there’s something you can do on the content side to prevent this.

I noticed the original site’s img tag didn’t define the height and width of the image- does IE still autoscale it if those are defined?

PS: My wife’s 1680×1050 Dell Monitor does not exhibit the same behavior. By default, it is 96 DPI.

We just got a bunch of 20” widescreens from Dell. We pulled up your example site and the screen shot from your client side-by-side and there is no difference. I will email you the screenshot from our test.

Picture of Jo

Name Jo

Date Oct 27
11:51 AM

I have a Dell widescreen set to 1680×1050 but the dpi is set to 96 and so I don’t get the problem you describe.

When I try to set it to 120dpi, it says it will take effect after the fonts are installed and windows has restarted. I didn’t go with it but wonder whether the fonts it mentions are auto-installed with my new settings or have to be specially installed on my computer? Maybe your client installed new fonts?

Great site btw. Love the pink ;)

Picture of Johan Prawiro

Name Johan Prawiro

Date Oct 27
12:32 PM

Ok… maybe I wasn’t specific enough about my guess. So here it is without any sugar-coating:

I am pretty sure, that DELL did a default installation of the 120dpi fonts along with the registry entry “UseHR”, which leads to the scaling problem in IE. So your client must have bought a brand new computer with his (btw very nice) widescreen-display, where those settings were already installed.

Anyone who will upgrade to a high-resolution-display will likely not be affected by this (unless they do the changes themself!).

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Oct 27
02:40 PM

Hm, okay, so it seems to be a manufacturing addition by DELL from these accounts. Thanks for everyone’s responses and even screenshots. :-) This is good to know.

Picture of Jo

Name Jo

Date Oct 27
06:03 PM

In addition to my previous comments, I ought to point out that my widescreen monitor (which is very, very nice) was part of a brand new system from Dell for my new job (not my monitor unfortunately!). I’m pretty sure no-one else played with the display settings and I know I haven’t, and so am assuming that 96dpi was set as default.

It is very interesting to learn of this problem though which could become more prevalent in the future as screens get bigger and wider. Interesting to see how IE 7 handles it…

FYI: I’m in the UK

Picture of Sepherenia

Name Sepherenia

Date Oct 28
01:32 AM

Hi there, just thought I’d pop by and say that I’m on a Dell Inspiron 8600 on exactly the same resolution as your client, but my computer’s always defaulted to 96dpi. :) It would seem to me that your client is the exception, not the rule, though that is frustrating.

Why is anyone being allowed to use IE in the first place?!?

Get Firefox.


Picture of D?nal Mac An R

Name D?nal Mac An R

Date Oct 28
01:30 PM


I’m on a Dell Lattitude D610 with resolution set by default to 1400 * 1050 (not widescreen). I experience the same problem when I use IE.

From what I can gather, the problem is not specific to resolution but rather to the font size setting, ie 120dpi. IE behaves similarly for me at different resolutions.

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Oct 28
08:07 PM

From what I gathered, and how it was related to the resolution was that my client said that when he switched to the high resolution, it had also automatically switched to 120 dpi.

But you’re right, any resolution could conceivably have 120dpi set and that could trigger this strange behaviour

For everyone wondering about the problem, it’s definitely on new Inspiron 6000’s released by Dell, and yes, it’s a Dell problem. What’s worse is both IE and Opera are affected.

Dell released a fix for this problem which can be downloaded at Dell updates, but the registry edit is probably easier for anyone who knows what they are doing.

As the person linked to in the original post, let me try to clear things up.

1) This is NOT a Microsoft default. It’s a video driver setting, when you switch font sizes around between normal and large.

2) It’s optional, Dell enabled it as part of their Windows config. A standard install usually doesn’t.

3) I doubt CSS will help with image scaling, as you can’t detect the current screen DPI and adjust, but overlapping text? Well serves you right for using absolute positioning and assuming a DPI <g>

Picture of amber

Name amber

Date Apr 14
02:06 AM

this is waaaay after the fact, but thank you so much for posting this. i’m running IE and i just received my new dell with a widescreen display and i thought i was crazy, but i was having the same problem as your client. your solution fixed me right up.

Picture of Adam

Name Adam

Date Jun 13
06:23 PM

Thanks for the post. Just got a Dell Precision M90 laptop and everything looked like crap in IE. I’ll have to play with the DPI settings. Thankfully we dont have to implement another css hack!!

Picture of pd

Name pd

Date Sep 12
01:33 PM

I found this helpful as well. Kudos and thanks!

Picture of Don

Name Don

Date Dec 07
03:06 PM

Recently had a similar issue. Found it was directly related to the 120 (dpi) setting in the drivers area. It did not, however effect fonts in my case. It DID affect graphics be rescaling them…and that caused the CSS to “swell”, which caused (in my case) a div to move down underneath another one. Firefox seems to IGNORE the setting and renders everything according to the CSS and image font sizes correctly (as least in my case).

Picture of JJ in NC

Name JJ in NC

Date Dec 30
04:28 AM

I just got a Dell E1505 on Dec 06 and was completed stumped on this pixalation issue. I applied the manual fix and now I can sleep tonight! Thank you!

Picture of Lee

Name Lee

Date Jan 13
09:31 AM

Just what I was after! This is the second time I’ve found this site when looking for a fix. First time was when this computer was new, second time when I was reinstalling windows. Thanks a heap!

Picture of Sanjay

Name Sanjay

Date Jan 19
05:22 PM

I looked all over the net for this solution but had no luck.

Thank you for sharing your experience and solution

Picture of ReaderX

Name ReaderX

Date Jan 31
02:23 PM

More and more people are getting laptops where Windows is default set to “120 DPI” (even though it’s not truly a DPI setting, but actually a magnification).

How in the world are designers working around this these days?

Telling people to change all the laptops is a non-starter.


I have the same problem with my client. And I give this as a reference to him, may be this solve our issue.

Thanks to LeaLea.

i recently had this problem only to discover after editing my registry with no avail that somehow (with some dumb keystroke mishap) I had changed the zoom level of my IE to 95%. Fixed everything.

Picture of Cristi

Name Cristi

Date Jun 13
08:19 PM

If you have 96dpi and a resolution of 1920×1200 on a 15.4” display you will need a BIG pair of glasses. The bigger the diagonal for the same res, the better the results. Anyway, great tip, worked for me, thanx.

Picture of Kierstin

Name Kierstin

Date Aug 31
01:18 AM

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I just received my new Dell Latitude D830 today with a great screen. Well, I hit the same problem the rest of you have talked about and since I’m a gaphic designer of websites this was going to be a HUGE problem! I’m so excited I found this site and that you found the solution.

Picture of OZ

Name OZ

Date Oct 07
07:18 AM

Thats a god send, cheers. I actually love 120dpi scaling just not ie’s attempt untill now i have been using avant browser which ignours it, on a big screen its much better to have clear text.

Anyway if your in the enterprise world and need to do this to a job lot you can also paste this in to the run box or even a login script.

reg add “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main” /v UseHr /t REG_DWORD /d 0×00000000 /f

Great thread, got the same problem with a new Sony widescreen laptop with css heights overlapping previously untouched areas.

This is a major issue for public web sites, users are not going to accept making any changes to their laptops and will assume the web site is not worth using.



Picture of Dean

Name Dean

Date Apr 28
04:23 PM

Sorry, but I can?t see the probem. The links you gave don?t work any longer. I have a resoultion of 1600×1050 and no problem with that. The fonts are normal and also are the images, in firefox as in IE.

Picture of Thomas

Name Thomas

Date May 28
11:39 AM

Thanks for this thread, but I thing it?s a Dell Bug an so they should solve this Problem. I dont like to change anything in registry.

Picture of Jens

Name Jens

Date Jun 22
11:54 AM

Thanks for all the different interesting articles. We like
to visit your website and the diverse postings.

Picture of Green

Name Green

Date Nov 23
02:13 AM

My main beef is that I don’t have a DELL computer to simulate this issue with. With clients complaining of the problem, and no way to see it, coding in the dark is kind of difficult (there are CSS solutions to this to at least keep sites from breaking).

So, I figured I’d do the steps in reverse. Up my DPI to 120, and add the faulty registry key.

1. Go to Start > Run
2. Type regedit and press OK
3. Navigate to HKEY_Current_User -> Software -> Microsoft -> Internet Explorer -> Main
4. Right click in the right side pane and select “New” -> DWORD Value
5. Name the new key “UseHR” with a data value of 1

1. Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Appearance and Themes -> Change the Screen Resolution -> Advanced
2. Increase DPI to 120
3. Apply settings and restart your computer

Voila! Like it was shipped fresh from DELL ; )

OK this is shocking. But I’m glad the article is four years old. Or is the problem still persistent in IE7?

I dont think that the problem is with IE7…older version, older bugs

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