How to Make Your 120Hz or 144Hz Monitor Use Its Advertised Refresh Rate

So you’ve purchased a monitor that offers a 120Hz or 144Hz refresh rate and plugged it in–great! But don’t stop there. Your monitor may not actually run at its advertised refresh rate until you change some settings and sort out your hardware.

Set Your Refresh Rate in Windows

Most importantly, you’ll want to ensure Windows is actually set at the advertised refresh rate and not a lower refresh rate, like 60Hz.

On Windows 10, head to Settings > System > Display > Advanced Display Settings > Display Adapter Properties. Click the “Monitor” tab, choose your monitor’s advertised refresh rate from the “Screen Refresh Rate” list, and click “OK”.

On Windows 7 or 8, right-click the desktop and select “Screen Resolution”. Select your monitor if you have multiple monitor and then click the “Advanced Settings” link. Click the “Monitor” tab and choose the refresh rate from the “Screen Refresh Rate” box.

If you don’t see your monitor’s advertised refresh rate in this list–or if you can’t seem to get your monitor to stay configured at the advertised refresh rate–there’s more you need to do.

Check Your Cables

You can’t just use any old cable and expect a high refresh rate. Some monitors may have both HDMI and DisplayPort connections, but may be limited to a 60Hz refresh rate when connected via HDMI. In this case, you’d need to use a DisplayPort cable. Check your monitor’s specifications or setup guide for more information.

You don’t just have to worry about the type of cable, either–you have to worry about the cable itself.

If you’re using DisplayPort, be sure you have a properly certified cable that’s built to the DisplayPort specification. A properly manufactured, certified cable built for DisplayPort 1.2 should work perfectly fine with DisplayPort 1.4. Unfortunately, there are a lot of poor quality cables out there, so a cable built and sold for DisplayPort 1.2 may not work with DisplayPort 1.4. There are also a few Reduced Bit Rate (RBR) DisplayPort cables on the market that will only support 1080p—just make sure you don’t have one of those. Visit the official DisplayPort website for more information.

If you’re using HDMI, you’ll want to ensure you’re using a “high speed” HDMI cable and not an older “standard” HDMI cable. However, you don’t need an HDMI cable with Ethernet included. Visit the official HDMI website for more information.

When in doubt, use the cable your monitor came with. It should work–in theory. Unfortunately, cheap, low-quality cables can also cause problems. Your monitor’s included cable might not even be good enough. We recently found that the included cable with an ASUS monitor couldn’t provide a stable signal at 144Hz. Instead, the screen would occasionally flicker and the refresh rate would drop down to 60Hz until we rebooted the computer. We replaced the cable with a higher-quality Accell DisplayPort cable and the monitor operated fine at 144Hz without any flickering or refresh rate drops.

As always, make sure your cables are securely connected. If you’re experiencing a problem, try unplugging the cable and plugging it back in to ensure a solid connection. A loose cable connection could cause problems.

More Troubleshooting Tips

Lots of other issues could cause your monitor to not function at its advertised refresh rate:

  • Your computer’s GPU isn’t good enough. Integrated graphics or older discrete graphics might not support your monitor’s refresh rate. Be sure your graphics card supports the monitor’s resolution and refresh rate.
  • You need to update your graphics drivers. Be sure to install the latest available version from NVIDIA or AMD’s website.
  • You’re attempting to run your monitor at a lower resolution. Select your monitor’s native resolution–it may only support the higher refresh rate at its native resolution and be limited to 60Hz at lower resolutions.
  • You’re playing a game and that game has its own integrated graphics settings. You may need to select your monitor’s native resolution and the refresh rate of 120Hz or 144Hz in each game’s graphics options menu or that game may use a lower refresh rate.

Hopefully, after going through these steps, you’ll find that your monitor runs in its butter-smooth high refresh rate.

Image Credit: Lalneema

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.