Change screen resolution in Ubuntu Linux

Changing screen resolution in Ubuntu can be achieved in a variety of ways. This article explains a couple of them.

Change screen resolution using GUIĀ  tool

On the GNOME toolbar click on System > Preferences > Screen Resolution (See figure below).

The Menu for accessing Screen Resolution GUI in GNOME
The Menu for accessing Screen Resolution GUI in GNOME

This will open up a GUI tool. Switch to the required screen resolution from the drop down box and once you are satisfied with the settings, Click “Apply” button.

GUI for changing the Screen Resolution of your monitor in Ubuntu
GUI for changing the Screen Resolution of your monitor in Ubuntu

Change screen resolution by editing XOrg configuration file

If you do not see the required resolution values in the GUI tool, you can add additional screen resolutions by editing the xorg.conf file.

The full path of the file is /etc/X11/xorg.conf. Suppose I want to add the resolution “1024×768” which is supported by my monitor. I do the following :

Open /etc/X11/xorg.conf in a text editor. I usually use vi. You have to use sudo to open it to make changes so the actual command will be something like follows :

$ sudo vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Xorg.conf file in Ubuntu is quite sparse and contain only a few lines. I made the following changes to get 1024×768 resolution on my machine. The changes / additions are highlighted in bold font.

Section "Device"
	Identifier	"Configured Video Device"
Driver    	"vboxvideo"

Section "Monitor"
	Identifier	"Configured Monitor"

Section "Screen"
   Identifier    "Default Screen"
   Device    "VirtualBox graphics card"
   Monitor    "Configured Monitor"
DefaultDepth    24
   SubSection "Display"
         Depth     24
         Modes     "1024x768"

If you have noticed, I have used the device driver vboxvideo. This is because I run Ubuntu in VirtualBox. If you are running it natively then, in all probability, Ubuntu would have detected and configured the correct driver and resolution for your machine. If not, you can change the line Driver “vboxvideo” to the driver suited for your hardware. Possible candidates are intel, nvidia, nv and so on.

Use dpkg-reconfigure script to change the xorg.conf file

If you are skeptical of your skills in editing a text file (xorg.conf) by hand, then you can also use the dpkg-reconfigure script to do the same. Open up a terminal and run the following command :

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

This will start a wizard albeit on the console, which will walk you through configuring Xorg server. Among other things, it will ask you to choose the video driver and the resolution of your monitor from a list. Once all the questions are answered, the wizard will make a backup copy of your current xorg.conf file and write in the new values. You will have to restart Xorg server for the changes to take effect. If you are in graphical mode, you can press the key combination “Ctrl + Alt + Backspace” to do so.