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Monitor Resolution Problem

Discussion in 'Debian GNU/Linux' started by Terry Mester, Mar 3, 2018.

  1. wizardfromoz

    wizardfromoz Well-Known Member

    Apr 30, 2017
    Likes Received:
    In #7, I listed four (4) methods that might assist the OP to remedy his illegible screen output.

    I did not think of a 5th method until much, much later – sometimes even Wizards overlook the bleeding obvious :)

    So without further ado, here is Method 0 (zero):



    1. Boot your PC
    2. At login, enter your password and press enter again
    3. If you are in the same sort of environment as the OP, you will be presented with an illegible screen (it may or may not have been preceded with a splash of coloured shapes). From here, we are working (effectively) “blind”.
    4. Press the Super key aka Windows key, usually between your left Ctrl button and left Alt button, often has a Windows logo on it. This will either open a Search field, or else open your Menu with a Search field activated.
    5. Type in (without the quotes) “terminal”. In Debian, this may offer a number of options including a multilingual terminal, but press Enter anyway. Now we are assuming we have an open Terminal.
    6. In the OP’s case, he has determined, as asked, from the output of “videoinfo” at bootup, that available resolutions include (but may not be limited to) : “1920x1440, 1600x1200, 1280x1024, 1024x768, 800x600, and 640x480”. He further volunteers “It is set at 640x480”, and “The manual for my Ultra VGA Monitor says that it can handle Resolutions up to 1024x768”.

      At this point, he can type in and enter one of the other resolutions, let’s say 800x600. Command is as follows

      xrandr --fb 800x600
      - that’s a double-dash before fb. Enter.
    7. An immediate outcome will hopefully be that he has a visible screen? It does not matter whether eg the right-hand side has been shrunk or expanded, icons near a border are missing, or other. He can then go to Menu, and find Settings – Display and open it.

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    8. In those settings, it may well be that the default highlighted is the one he does not want, that is 640x480. He can choose 800x600 and Apply it, he may be asked if he wants to keep that resolution, so choose to do so.

    9. Reboot. If all has gone to plan, he will have a visible, legible screen, and can then work his way through those Display settings until he finds one that most closely reflects what he wants.

    It should be noted that using xrandr in this way will, by itself, only last for the session you are in, hence having to continue to tweak the settings from the GUI, in order to have a lasting effect.

    I will provide further options in subsequent Posts, likely daily for a few days, to assist Users in navigational directions.


    atanere likes this.
  2. wizardfromoz

    wizardfromoz Well-Known Member

    Apr 30, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Before I go on to tell you other methods that will work, I’ll tell you about two (2) which won’t work … that is quite possibly the case under the circumstances experienced by the OP, Terry. They may, however, work for you under certain circumstances, so bear them in mind?


    From the moment we reach the login screen, enter our details and proceed to desktop functionality, we are in the X Environment, that is, graphical.

    Unless we are using Wayland, and then you can’t use xrandr, so we won’t go there.

    From a DE, we can issue a command line instruction from one of two or more ways. I will deal here with only two.

    METHOD ONE – Alt-F2

    If your laptop or desktop PC is set up fortuitously, then Alt-F2 (holding down the Alt key and then pressing and holding the Function 2 key) will open a small popup which allows you to issue a Terminal command, press enter and have it run.

    For example Alt-F2 type in firefox and enter.

    In this scenario, we could issue the xrandr command referred to last Post, and see the instant effect of the screen change. Further, we could do this despite the fact that our initial screen was illegible.

    PROBLEM IS – Many, many keyboards already have a number of the Function keys mapped to certain functions. On my Toshiba Satellite laptop, F1 has a ? on it, and invokes Help, F2 (the one I want) is for reducing screen brightness, F3 for increasing screen brightness, and on and on.

    So no joy there if the OP’s keyboard is in that category, but yours may be different. Of course, once we have a functioning unit again, we can re-map keys, but that is no good to us now.

    METHOD TWO – Ctrl-Alt-t, ie Terminal

    In many Distros, Ctrl-Alt-t will open your Terminal on the desktop, and we could type the xrandr command in, blind.

    That is certainly the case with many of the Debian-based Distros eg Ubuntu, Linux Mint, etc. An exception was Linux Mint 17.0 ‘Qiana’ (all DEs), where it was skipped, but returned with 17.1 ‘Rafaela’.


    With Debian itself, the shortcut does not exist by default. So no use to the OP.

    I have installed probably over 120 Linux on my computers (currently running 34 on the Toshiba), and with each and every one, the first of maybe 10 things to do after install, right after enabling or checking the firewall is to check that Ctrl-Alt-t opens the CLI, and if not, to create a keyboard shortcut for it.

    I would urge all to do the same, from Novice to Expert.

    In the next Posts, I will be covering two (2) more ways that will work, both under the OP’s circumstances, and likely yours.

    The first will be simply a matter of generating a Folder and a couple of files, and copying them from a Live Medium (CD/DVD/USB) to the stricken system.

    The second can be used as a standalone method, or if the first does not have the conditions met, and it will involve a Live Medium and

    … chroot


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