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Why Do My Windows Vista Fonts Look Horrible?

If you’ve just bought a computer with Windows Vista installed and your fonts look awful, especially when browsing the web, it could be because the default settings enabled by the manufacturer have font smoothing disabled.

Here’s what the fonts look like without font smoothing:

 

And here’s what they should look like with ClearType enabled:

 

To make sure that ClearType is enabled, you’ll need to open the classic Appearance Settings dialog. Right click on the desktop and choose Personalize. Then click on Window Color and Appearance:

If you have Aero enabled, you’ll have to click on “Open classic appearance properties for more color options”.

Click on the “Effects…” button and make sure that your computer has the checkbox for font smoothing enabled.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/10/07

Comments (85)

  1. daniel

    The Vista Premium image for Lenovo laptops comes without font smoothing enabled. This flat out drives me batty. You’d think that an image which you *know* will be exclusively running on a laptop (with an LCD screen) would have the appropriate visual optimizations in place. *shrugs*

  2. Joshy

    Thanks for the good tip. But the web page for most of the sites are becoming shorter like shown in half page of the total screen, leaving both sides a blank. When it is zoomed, most of the pictures and text blocks become misaligned. Is there any solution for this

  3. The Geek

    Joshy,

    Unfortunately, most sites these days are using a fixed width format (like mine, for instance).

    The problem is that content sites don’t scale to widescreen format very well, and if the site designer doesn’t make a point of designing the theme with scaling in mind, then there’s nothing you can do.

  4. Tom

    I am not sure why you would want ClearType enabled. I have exactly the opposite problem, and struggle to read font with it (especially on my small laptop screen). But thanks anyway :)

  5. xe-cute

    I am the same as Tom.

    I have an LCD screen too, although It is at 1280 x 1024 @ 19″ and the 1st thing I did was disable cleartype as it looks blurry as if I need glasses.

    Even standard is too blurry for me so I have them both switched off.

    Under Windows XP I had Standard switched on, but Under Vista even that looks blurry (God knows why they look different).

    My next problem is working out why fonts on websites are different to fonts under windows XP which is also driving me nuts.

    I also resized the icons on my desktop to XP size as they far too big at standard size.

  6. nk

    Same as Tom & xe-cute. I hate the blurryness that ClearType & the standard smoothing introduce. Without it, all my fonts look as sharp as they should be, imho. This is on a 1920×1200 Dell-screen.

  7. tonberry1

    Thanks. This really helped.

    Like the previous commenters, I hate cleartype as well. Even though it looks nice, its as terrible to read from as from the old CRT displays.

  8. Juan Carlos

    Thanks all of you.

    I agree also… the smooth effect it doesn’t help at all. Turned them off and now it looks like a new Windows. Before it reminded me Windows 95.

  9. Scott

    How do you turn it off? I have the same problem mentioned above where my laptop seems to think I need glasses….I have tried turning off cleartype but it makes no difference. Some text is fine but the next line can only be described as ‘soft’

  10. Paul

    Thanks for the tip. I’ve successfully disabled this dreadful feature.

  11. Lucian

    I just don’t like the new Vista fonts. It looks so fuzzy and I’ve tried everything to make it clearer. The only way I could do it was to set my resolution to the highest (1680 by 1050). Everything is so small I can hardly read a thing and all my older programs including business appplications I developed and use daily display wrong. I want XP fonts back please.

  12. The Geek

    Lucian,

    You should set your resolution to match the default resolution of the monitor, and then just adjust the windows font sizes in the Personalization section of control panel.

  13. Lucian

    What is the default for a 15 inch lcd (Notebook) screen? I have changed the cont sizes and thought I had it, but then other programs displayed inappropriate. Will try it again, maybe I changed too much at the same time. Thanks

  14. Shane

    My screen is also blurry, these tips however didnt work. Also everything looks too big, and i am unable to find a way to adjust this. Please help!

  15. Lucian

    I set my screen resolution 1280 x 800 and adjusted the brigtness of my display. I can read all my stuff and my applications display correctly. If you adjust the font size your forms will not fit on the screen if the font is bigger. This is very frustrating if you are a developer and must ship your apps to other computers. If I have a problem in a specific app, I reset the font for that application in the settings of the particular app. This makes Vista workable for me. Hopefully with service packs to come MS will give us the option to work like we did in XP with no vaseline on the screen.

  16. carpentry

    I was having problems with the size of the fonts and everything was too large. I tried everything to make it right. I finally encountered that the problem was that my computer had somehow managed to change into this extremely large font because of this installed feature for blind people. If you left click on the desktop and go to the NVIDIA Control Centre and click on display you will the have the option to change it to single. I hope this helps because it changed mine back to normal :)

  17. carpentry

    Also, if you go into window colour and appearance and go into effects and change it from standard into cleartype it will help clarify the writing.

  18. manon

    Thanks carpentry. That worked – whew, those fonts looked awful on my desktop.

  19. ankit

    i have vista, and i dont know recently whenever i turn on my laptop, my icons are suddenly huge, and sometimes automatically they come as normal… wen its normal and if i leave it on hibernation and wen i start it again, it again shows huge fonts.. i dont know wats the problem..
    pls help

  20. Larry

    Exactly what I needed!! It was actually all working fine, then mysteriously Aero and cleartype got disabled, and I had no idea where the control was to turn it back on!

  21. Charles Brannon

    Internet Explorer v7 has a separate setting for ClearType that you may need to tweak if you want to enforce (or disable ClearType). Look for it in the Advanced options (Tools->Options) under the Multimedia section.

  22. Richard

    I completely corrected my weak fronts to a sharper image , by going into Display,click appearence, click effects, change to clear type, hit ok, click on setting, click on the sceen resulution , click once to read 1024 by 768 on a laptop….click apple , or ok..its done

  23. sam

    how can i make my screen bigger to look at and read it

  24. Dave Matel

    I love to go to a forum called talkcafe when I had XP, now with Vista, the forum fonts on the site look tiny. Any ideas? I had a 15 inch laptop screen on my old computer and my new one is a 15 inch “wide” screen and I now have to squint to read their forum.

  25. Jim

    Vista and ClearType. why does cleartype get turned off? I have turned it on through the power tool, and in the IE7 advanced settings, but when i turn machine off and then start, clearType is turned off.

  26. Tom

    Here is what helped me: I am running a HannsG 21.6″ widescreen display. I had to change the resolution from the default 1600×1200 to 1680×1050. Whoosh – immediately the fonts looked great!

  27. Shala

    Hi. On our laptop we have windows vista and my sister in-law enlarge the icons by mistake one day and we don’t know how to make them regular size again. Please help. Thanks. Shala.

  28. Eli

    Right click on the desk-top > View > Choose which size you want Medium is the Default for Vista

    - Eli

  29. marc

    Why its look 10 times better without font smoothing ??
    With ClearType enabled its look blurry and the color seems fuzzy !!!!

  30. Alan

    Thank you. Reading a file in Notepad was giving me a headache. I could not find a font that looked good.

  31. Bob

    I’ve re-set my font on the desktop in Vista after it changed itself once I installed some dvd copy software. I took the programme off my PC once I realised it had changed the font but now everytime I tru the PC on, it’s re-set to this new font. My desktop doesn’t stay on the font I set… any suggestions?!

  32. a person

    I accidently made the font for everything, to windows classic and I did what you said, put cleartype, and it still looks like windows classic!

  33. sumit

    i do not satisfy by your above instruction
    i cant change my font & icon size

  34. gwynn

    Everything is in large on my PC. Win98 compaq. I went to control panel-display- and saw where to change size but the screen is so big that I cant scroll down to click on “apply” what in the world do I do now?? can you help me?

  35. Premankan

    Hey thanks a ton there!! The other day, my lappie crashed on me while i was watching a movie…and after vista was done with its recovery stuff….the fonts jus looked HORRIBLE!! I was stumped….i tried a system restore….didnt fix things up! I came here to post on the forums asking for help when i noticed this article…thank you soo much fer helpin me get rid of them disgustin lookin fonts!!

  36. koko

    Seems MS didn’t get the message yet that Font Smoothing is a Personal Preference. The only way to turn it off in *every* window is to revert to the classic theme. Since I don’t like the feeling that I’m reading something through an aquarium I have this ‘solution’. It’s sad, really sad…

  37. Michael

    Tnks man, I had that trouble, that was a good tip!

  38. az

    thanks a lot, i tht i had a virus or something… lolz… this really helped. ClearType is very useful for me…

  39. Hunter

    Good tip, thanks!

  40. trep

    My font in some programs was so small it was unreadable. I tried changing internet explorer \ firefox font sizes to no avail.
    The fix was to goto windows help and support, in the options (top right), choose text size > medium.
    Hope it helps someone.

  41. Chloee

    I have got Vista. I did have the fonts on Cleartype and it looked fine, but some fonts look a lot better un-cleartype than in cleartype.
    Such as tahoma size 10. Looks more rounder with cleartype turned off, and thinner when turned on. I have turned off the cleartype and its awesome. :)

    Thanks for the help guys.

  42. j-som

    thx for the help^^ seem to work in XP too..

  43. Kathy

    I have been helping my Dad set up his computer for visual accessibility in Windows Vista. We went in and customized the font size, icons, pointer etc to be larger. Now it is too large and pop-up windows on the screen are so big we can’t scroll down to click on “apply” or save change after trying to re-set to 96 dpi. How/what do we do to get it back to regular size? Many thanks.

  44. jd2066

    @Kathy: Just press the enter key and that will press the OK button, closing the DPI dialog and saving the setting.

  45. tony

    Thanks so much for this useful info, my fonts looks much better now!!

  46. Craig

    Thanks! This was driving me crazy! Easy fix!

  47. Cindy

    I just got a computer with windows vista home premium. I can’t figure out how to make the print bigger on my desktop icons or anything else for that matter. Hope you can help me.

  48. vanvikki09

    Thank, you for sloving this problem, and other peoples too. When I had went into effects on Windows Visita, I got thick words which were hurting my eyes and I didn’t like it.The small font of the size, I could not stand. But, when changing to clear it made feel much bettter of the words I can read now. Thanks to you I am glad to see better of the words.

  49. Kaki

    To solve resolution problems, one must simply right-click on their desktop, and select “graphics properties”. Select “display settings”, and alter screen resolution from here via the drop-down bar available in this window.

  50. Craig

    Thanks alot for this. Mine had changed all of a sudden on it’s own and didn’t know how to fix it and this done the job.

  51. caesder

    thank u for the help. it just helped me now. i was planning to re install windows.

  52. Holden Cau

    ClearType sucks, tuner or no.

  53. dsf

    How anybody could think Cleartype makes text look better is beyond me. It makes everything absolutely blurry and hard to read. I’ve seen Cleartype on many LCDs and it always looks horrible. Without Cleartype, text is much more clear and easy to read.

  54. Dutch

    I already wear glasses but the ‘soft’ look of Vista (not to mention Office 2007) really drives me nuts. I have tried to revert to Classic style and switched wherever I could to my beloved crispy clear Tahoma, the one I love on XP, instead of the blurry Segoe UI font. I ended up with a hybrid system as Microsoft has hardcoded Segoe UI in so many forms and dialogs that in fact the Vista box now looks even worse. Thumbs down. And this silly behaviour is also present in Windows 7. Bleah.

  55. Karen

    Hi, Looking for help as I’m slowly been driven crazy with this problem….the fonts on my Vista laptop are huge, meaning that I’ve to scroll every which way to view webpages, emails etc. Even the icons on the desktop are huge. It’s becoming a real pain so any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks, Karen

  56. Maurice Quite

    Thanks, I searched all web for answer, and here it is. Thank you so very much!

  57. Steini

    Thank you very much!

    My theme suddenly changed for no reason, maybe beacause of Windows Update.

  58. Sumit

    To get rid of this problem just go to the Nvidia control panel, then choose “Adjust desktop color settings” from left hand side and then reduce the Image sharpening from right hand side, that’s it.

  59. king

    I tried to enable cleartype but it didn’t work. Help

  60. FLOYD

    Look the Video and Fonts on Windows 7 are Blurry even with my Glasses on!
    Even on the U TUBE display videos and other Reviews the Fonts are very blurry!
    I will just sit on the sidelines until they fix all of this crap!
    You looking at hours to change over to a new OS system and hours to change back (if you can) if it does not work.
    Window 7 Beta has been out for almost a year and they have not worked the
    bugs out of it?
    The only ones defending this crap are probably the geeks who created it?
    I can live with the small stuff but Video display is Major!

    Floyd in Florida

  61. SAA

    Great that was work well thanks

  62. Titi

    Thanks………….it worked for me.
    i’ve been trying to fix this problem for close to 3 wks…tnx again

  63. Terryl

    My print has gotten real small, and I need to enlarge, when I go to print something it comes out real small

  64. hlee

    a guy with poor sight brought his laptop 40 miles to me so i could make it easier to read … after a lot of trouble i figured out that vista puts font size under “PERSONALIZE” . so i make his fonts bigger and he went home happy .. that is until he tried to load software … you cant see the OK box or worse if there is an accept / dont accept that you dont even know about or other options (like add ons) .. you have no idea what you are agreeing to by just hitting enter and often its a reject button …even the sign on screen is nearly unusable with large fonts … i just couldnt believe that this problem still exists in something as advanced as Vista.. going back and forth between font sizes is just too complicated for the guy … i did find one trick thats nice .. in IE you can hold the cntrl key and use the mouse wheel to change font sizes (if you have such a mouse) he has only the pad so thats a problem … in one version of linux i saw a wonderful and simple solution .. there is a plus and minus in the corner ..you siimply use that to adjust the font on the fly … what a nice feature ..
    so now i have to explain to this guy how to change fonts so he can actually use his new computer and how to change them back to large so he can see what he is doing … changing the screen resolution from native resulted in unreliable results depending on content …the magnifier works but is even more awkward and hard to explain to a person not skilled in computer … this is sad … sure glad this forum is around .. its been always helpful ..

  65. Antonio

    Grazie.
    Thank you very much

  66. JannyMaha

    The blurry texts started after i changed resolution. After trying everything I set resolution to match the default resolution of the monitor. Nothing. Then I decided to change the flicker rate to the lowest setting (opposite of ‘optimal’ settings) and wala! I wanted to kick myself.

  67. anonymous

    Thank you so much for this article! A co-worker changed my settings and trying to fix the font was driving me crazy!!

    Thanks again!

    :-)

  68. Kim

    Thanks for the tip. For some reason an older game disabled the font smoothing for me, and I was feeling pretty perplexed. =)

  69. macaw

    hello, same problem
    but, i done a custom, i change it .then i fool around with the DPI

  70. macaw

    heres other part , now my text size is stuck to larger !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! any suggestion are do i do the same thing using effects!

  71. macaw

    so like i was saying bout my text and its stuck to large . could i do these to see which one would help ????? PLEASE SOME GEEK HELP also iam having same problem as everyone here!

  72. Vanessa

    Thanks soooo much!
    The font was driving me crazy to the point I wanted to put the reboot disc in!

  73. Charlie

    I also hate ClearType and miss the crisp, clean lines of Tahoma with ‘Standard’ font smoothing that was the default in Windows XP.
    I suggest that many people won’t realise exactly why the fonts in Windows 7 don’t look ‘quite right’ and it is because Bill Gates was trying to make text in Windows 7 appear as it does on a printed page (using ClearType).
    Sadly, it will never work, due to the horrible anti-aliasing that will always be necessary. When will the Microsoft engineers give up (as they should) and accept the fact that small text looks best with the absolute minimum amount of smoothing.
    Give me XP’s Tahoma any day!

  74. cs

    my eyes thank you endlessly!

  75. freeman

    how to solve computer icons are too big for vista

  76. tech

    Desktop -> Right click -> View-> Small icons (Or Classic icons)

  77. John

    About ClearType and font-smoothening:

    I have noticed something.
    On my old laptop with a 15″ 1024×768 screen and Windows XP, everything looked good. I had ClearType enabled, but the text was nice and crisp and everything looked good.

    However, with newer laptops, I have definitely had problems with ClearType.
    I’ve had a 17.3″ laptop with 1600×900 screen and a 15.6″ one with 1366×768 resolution, both running Windows 7. When ClearType was turned on, all the text was fuzzy and not crisp at all, and my eyes got tired quickly. (I even think my eyesight started deteriorating a bit.)
    The only way I could continue using the laptops was to turn off ClearType and font-smoothening, and resort to Windows Classic theme.

    However, this doesn’t solve everything.
    With ClearType and font-smoothening turned off, a lot of websites look ugly. The fonts look jagged, especially at larger sizes.
    It’s the same problem when word-processing – a lot of fonts look ugly.

    I think this problem needs to be seriously addressed.
    Seeing how this problem arose when going from a lower-resolution screen to a higher resolution screen, perhaps as the pixels get smaller and smaller this causes problems with ClearType and font-smoothening?
    Since LCD screen resolutions will only get higher and higher, and pixels get smaller and smaller, I think we should abandon ClearType and concentrate on making fonts look CRISP, not smooth and blurry.
    (Otherwise, the only people to benefit from this trend will be eye doctors and opticians.)

    If it is not feasible to abandon ClearType, when we should at least come up with ways to look fonts look good even with ClearType turned off.

  78. J

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! I had tried everything and never would have found this!!!! It changed overnight on me. THANK YOU again!!!

  79. aR

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! it was doing my head in!

  80. sarah

    Thank You!!!!!!!! I intstalled a weird program that messed up all my fonts and this fixed it :)

  81. Andy B

    Awesome tip! I had installed some DVD authoring software and for some reason, it unchecked the font smoothing, I really didn’t know what to do until I did a search and found this, thanks :)

  82. Gina Langridge

    Thank you so much! I’ve been struggling to find what I had to change to be able to see the fonts on my laptop easily – they looked like spider footprints! One small change has made all the difference. I’m really grateful!

  83. Jeanine

    At last!!!! Thank you so much!

  84. Jim

    This solution worked great for me and my coworkers. It’s simple, and doesn’t require admin rights.

  85. vasant

    This tip seems to be a best one !!! thank u

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