How to Set A Custom Screen Resolution in Ubuntu Desktop

Is your screen (or external monitor) resolution is low? thus making the items on your screen look larger and less clear? Or do you want to simply increase the current maximum resolution or add a custom resolution?

In this article, we will show how to add missing or set custom display resolution in Ubuntu and its derivatives such as Linux Mint. By the end of this article, you will be able to set to a higher resolution, making content on your screen appear sharper and clearer.

Changing the Resolution or Orientation of the Screen Using Displays

Normally, to change the resolution or orientation of the screen, you can use the Displays graphical user interface tool (open the Activities overview and type Displays, click to open it or System Menu then type Displays and open it).

Note: In case you have multiple displays connected to your computer (as shown in the following image), if they are not mirrored, you can have different settings on each display. To change the settings for a display device, select it in the preview area.

Next, select the resolution or scale you want to use, and choose the orientation then click Apply. Then select Keep This Configuration.

Change Screen Resolution in Ubuntu
Change Screen Resolution in Ubuntu

Changing the Resolution or Orientation of the Screen Using Xrandr

Alternatively, you can also use the powerful xrandr tool (a command-line interface to RandR (Resize and Rotate) X Window System extension) which is used to set the size, orientation and/or reflection of the outputs for a screen.

You can also use it to set the screen size or list all active monitors as shown.

$ xrandr --listactivemonitors
List Active Monitors in Ubuntu

To show the names of different outputs available on your system and resolutions available on each, run xrandr without any arguments.

$ xrandr
List Available Screen Resolutions in Ubuntu
List Available Screen Resolutions in Ubuntu

Set Screen Resolution in Ubuntu

To set the resolution for a screen for an external monitor named DP-1 to 1680×1050, use the --mode flag as shown.

$ xrandr --output DP-1 --mode 1680x1050

You can also set the refresh rate using the --rate flag as shown.

$ xrandr --output DP-1 --mode 1680x1050 --rate 75

You can also use the --left-of, --right-of, --above, --below, and --same-as options to arrange your screens either relatively to each other.

For example, I want my external monitor (DP-1) to be positioned left of the Laptop screen (eDP-1) in correspondence to the actual physical positioning:

$ xrandr --output DP-1 --left-of eDP-1 

Keep in mind that any changes made using xrandr will only last until you log out or restart the system. To make xrandr changes persistently, use the xorg.conf configuration files for Xorg X server (run man xorg.conf for details on how to create a xorg.conf file) – this is the most effective method.

You can also use the ~/.xprofile file (add xrandr commands in it), however, there are some disadvantages of using this method, one is that this script is read fairly late in the startup process, thus it will not alter the resolution of the display manager (if you use one e.g lightdm).

How to Add Missing or Set Custom Display Resolution Using xrandr

It is possible to add a missing or custom display resolution e.g 1680 x 1000 to Displays panel, for a specific display device (DP-1), as explained below.

Add Missing Display Resolution in Ubuntu
Add Missing Display Resolution in Ubuntu

To add a missing or custom display resolution, you need to calculate the VESA Coordinated Video Timing (CVT) modes for it. You can do this using the cvt utility as follows.

For example, if you need a horizontal and vertical resolution of 1680 x 1000, run the following command.

$ cvt 1680 1000

Next, copy the Modeline (“1680x1000_60.00″ 139.25 1680 1784 1960 2240 1000 1003 1013 1038 -hsync +vsync) from the output of the cvt command and use it to create a new mode using the xrandr as shown.

$ xrandr --newmode "1680x1000_60.00"  139.25  1680 1784 1960 2240  1000 1003 1013 1038 -hsync +vsync

Then add the new mode to the display.

$ xrandr --addmode DP-1 "1680x1000_60.00"
Add Missing Resolution in Ubuntu
Add Missing Resolution in Ubuntu

Now open the Displays and check if the new resolution has been added.

Verify Resolution
Verify Resolution

The above changes are only temporary and work for the current session (they last until you log out or restart the system).

To add the resolution permanently, create a script called in the directory /etc/profile.d/.

$ sudo vim /etc/profile.d/

Then add the following lines in the file:

xrandr --newmode "1680x1000_60.00"  139.25  1680 1784 1960 2240  1000 1003 1013 1038 -hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode DP-1 "1680x1000_60.00"

Save the changes and exit the file.

For more information on how xrandr works and how to use it, read its man page:

$ man xrandr 

That brings us to the end of this article. If you have any thoughts to share or queries, reach us via the feedback form below.

Aaron Kili
Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

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34 thoughts on “How to Set A Custom Screen Resolution in Ubuntu Desktop”

  1. Simply, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!

    I really appreciate the effort that you have put in this little tutorial. It was very easy to understand and to follow the further steps.

    Best regards.

  2. xrandr
    cvt 1920 1080 60
    sudo xrandr –newmode “1920x1080_60.00” 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync
    sudo xrandr –addmode Virtual1 “1920x1080_60.00”
    xrandr –output Virtual1 –mode 1920x1080_60.00

  3. Hi Aaron,

    I think you are the person who can help me fix something. I have had the same external monitor attached to my Ubuntu 18.04 for a while. When I retired it from desktop duty I moved it to a different location. Here the external monitor is to the right of the laptop, whereas before it was on the left. I switched the positions around through the GUI tool in the System menu. (I don’t remember exactly now, but I may have had my panel on the external before, but now it is on the laptop screen.)

    The geometry is messed up now. Ubuntu treats the laptop screen as 1920×1080 when it is really a 1600×900. The external is 1920×1080 and I think it is running at 1920×1080, but it may be running at 1600×900. I’m not sure. My sticky notes that were just above the panel have disappeared. When dialog boxes open by default in the upper left corner of the default display, it is invisible to me! The Keyring password dialog, for example, always opens there, invisible. It takes the password input because the cursor is in the text field by default, so I manage.

    Other Open/Save dialogs also open in the corner, and they are unusable. In some cases, a panel item is created, and I can right-click and Move the box. I want to manually edit the config file, but I don’t remember where it is, and what it is called now. Is it Xorg.conf? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  4. It worked quite nicely in a VMWare Workstation VM running Ubuntu Mate 20.04.

    I had the problem that the very standard resolution for FullHD 1920×1080 wasn’t listed in the drop-down. But I needed that VM to be exactly at this resolution. And it was a pain to resize the window to exactly that size (automatic match of resolution to windows size – but even when VMWare showed the correct numbers for the Window size it jumped +-1 after releasing the mouse button…)

    1. cvt to get the mode line
    2. xrandr with –newmode
    3. xrandr with –addmode
    4. xrandr with –output [yourDisplay] –mode [yourMode]

    Worked like a charm. Finally, an easy way to hit that resolution without minutes of 1-px-border-drag-and-drop fiddeling.


  5. Great instructions, well written and easy to follow, but I encountered the error “unsupported signal format” after following the steps in “How to Add Missing or Set Custom Display Resolution Using xrandr”. Is there anything else I could try?

    The details:

    My HD monitor’s listed maximum resolution is 1920×1080. I connect to it using VGA from my laptop. But after creating and selecting this resolution, I get a dark screen and the error on the screen of “unsupported signal format”. I get this error under both Ubuntu 20 and LinuxLite 5.0, using the same hardware each time, a Lenovo G555, and a Toshiba 37SL833.

    By the way, this is the result of xrandr for the external monitor after following your steps:

    $ xrandr
    Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1372 x 1536, maximum 8192 x 8192
    VGA-0 connected 1024x768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 0mm x 0mm
       1024x768      60.00* 
       800x600       60.32    56.25  
       848x480       60.00  
       640x480       59.94  
       1920x1080_60.00  59.96
  6. Hi, may sound odd but I don’t know how to save a script once created (I’m a newbie).

    Can you please help?


  7. It did not work on my Acer Laptop. Windows uses 1366×768. Cvt cannot create Modeline wants 1368×768 xrandr fails with that.

      • Meanwhile, I found a solution. After recognizing that the live systems of lm and also open suse used the proper resolution. I use now nouveau.modeset=0 and the older kernel version which was used by the live system. But now I do not dare to update the kernel

        • Please tell me details about how have you fix it? My resolution is 1366×768 facing the same problem and now I am fade up… nothing working… I will be really helpful if you reply…

  8. Thank you! worked on my Linux Mint 19.3 Cinnamon. I have a 2nd monitor with VGA cable connected through a VGA to DVI adapter. and now I can use it with its native resolution 1280×1024 :)

      • Hi, I found a bug related to this, when you name it “1680x1000_60.00” that “_60.00” extra part can cause a bug for Minecraft 12.2 (and probably older versions as well) that use java8 and the LWJGL 2.

        I fixed it leaving that to “1680×1000“.

        In my case was “1280x1024_60.00” and caused an error when loading the game:

        “OpenGL: ~~ERROR~~ RuntimeException: No OpenGL context found in the current thread.”

        That caused the LWJGL 2.9.4, 2.9.3, and 2.9.2 to have an issue detecting the mode in that way. The LWJGL 2.9.1 worked fine cause it uses an older/different method.


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