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I want to know how to simulate a higher resolution than what my notebook's screen can actually display. What I mean by this is rendering the desktop and OS windows to a higher resolution than my screen's top resolution, then scale it back to the native resolution so it can be displayed. This would allow programs to display content as if I had a higher resolution display (hence displaying more content). I don't mind the loss of detail that comes with this.

In Ubuntu I can use a tool called xrandr to do exactly this. Check pictures 1 and 2 to see what I mean. I haven't found a way to do this on windows and I was hoping somebody would know how to do it.

1: OS as it looks at max resolution (1024x768) OS as it looks at max resolution (1024x768)

2: OS as it looks at a scaled down, simulated higher resolution (1600x1200) OS as it looks at a scaled down, simulated higher resolution (1600x1200)

  • This may only work for DPI aware apps, but you could try setting a custom DPI to get more content on the screen. – Jens Ehrich Sep 3 '16 at 1:24
  • Thanks for your suggestion. However I need to simulate a higher resolution since I want to play a game and it has a resolution selector in the settings. It is better played at a higher resolution since you can see more of the map (there is no zoom option). – Lucas Sep 3 '16 at 1:37
  • Games like Diablo 3 do this very thing. I dont know how you would do it for the desktop though. – Keltari Sep 3 '16 at 5:10
  • The game I am playing is Age of Empires II. The lower resolution makes it very difficult to keep track of stuff because of the very narrow field of view. – Lucas Sep 4 '16 at 20:30
  • I have seen now that virtual machines allow you to set a higher resolution than your actual screen's maximum and then scale it back. I have seen a friend of mine do it using vmware, so I imagine there must be a way to do this without virtualization. – Lucas Sep 16 '16 at 6:06
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This is not natively possible in Windows. The only way is to add a monitor capable of displaying a higher resolution. There are some cheap ones out there that can do this. They are like 19" but can output to 1080p even though their native resolution is small.

Some graphics cards can force a custom resolution, but it is up to the monitor to support it or not, and scale down properly. This is usually not possible however.

The last option that does work is to use a Virtual Machine. Its not ideal, but at least it does work.

In your case, you can look into getting Age of Empires II to work under Wine with Ubuntu, given that you have managed to get the scaling to work there.

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  • Thanks for your reply. I did play AoE 2 on wine, but it is not usable for multiplayer as the MP client doesn't work well with wine. I have a desktop PC with an nvidia gtx 960 card that allows me to force higher resolutions, but there's still no way to do that on windows without a dedicated GPU. This is quite surprising given how it is possible to run a virtual machine with higher res but you can't do that natively. I guess since it's not a wide use case microsoft just doesn't bother adding such a feature. – Lucas D'Abate Jan 31 '19 at 18:11
  • Its more than Microsoft not bothering. They have prevented similar options. It used to be possible to set a DPI value of lower than 100% which did essentially do the same thing, make all programs smaller so it appears you use a higher resolution. The biggest problem was the fact that not all programs scaled well. Some programs ignored the DPI and some just could not handle the DPI setting causing text to go missing, some elements not sizing while others did, etc. So Microsoft said, okay, minimum value is 100%, anything lower through hacks is ignored. – LPChip Jan 31 '19 at 20:21
  • It's really unfortunate, as supersampling isn't really comparable. I use a FHD screen but with nvidia supersampling I can use up to a 5k resolution that then gets downscaled to fit my FHD panel. Granted, text becomes unreadable unless you set the DPI high to compensate, but for games like AoE2 which only respond to resolution and don't have dynamic zoom, it's the only way to get more vision. It also has the benefit of not messing with DPI which means every program looks as if you had a higher res screen. It's only a matter of not going overboard so that it is still usable. – Lucas D'Abate Feb 1 '19 at 19:12
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Both AMD and nVidia now have included Super Resolutions in their driver package.

What this means is that if you have a newer AMD or nVidia graphics card and you run drivers from 2019 or newer, you likely have the ability to up-scale your resolution through your GPU.

This allows you to get a higher desktop resolution while still have readable text because AI is used to up-scale the image, without much performance loss.

The display will still use the same (native) resolution, but the desktop will have a higher resolution. This is great, because now, my old TV is suddenly a 4k TV. :D (well, sort of)

I own an AMD card, but have no access to an nVidia card, so I don't know exactly how its called and where it is located. I just know that nVidia also supports super resolutions now.

For AMD, go to your graphics settings, display, select the display that you want to alter (multiple displays means, you have to change them for both individually). Enable Super Resolution and enable GPU upscaling. Now, if you go to change your resolution, you'll notice, a few additional resolutions have been added.

The resolution that says (recommended) is your native resolution, which will offer the clearest image, but a higher resolution is possible, and you can use a higher DPI to make the text a little bit more readable in case it is too small.

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  • Thanks for the answer. As stated in the comments above, I had integrated Intel graphics, which don't come with an option to do this. I could do it on Linux without any issues, but not a way on windows other than by replacing my laptop with one with a discrete GPU. – Lucas Oct 31 at 22:05

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