More on Windows 7, bitmap fonts and DPI settings

David Meego - Click for blog homepageThis post is a follow up to the previous post on the topic which discussed how you can use the registry editor to adjust the font files used for bitmap fonts to restore them to the default 100% DPI size.  If you have not read the previous post, please use the link below:

Windows 7, bitmap fonts and Microsoft Dynamics GP

As I hinted at in this previous post, any older applications that use bitmapped fonts such as MS Sans Serif, MS Serif and Courier are likely to have this same issue. 

I have already explained the logic behind the change in behaviour for Windows 7 which can automatically set the DPI to 125% during the install.  What has not been explained is why the bitmap fonts are not restored to 100% DPI when the DPI setting is changed back to 100% via the User Interface.  This is the subject of this post.

How we see Windows is controlled by two primary settings:  The resolution and the DPI setting. 

In Windows Vista (and earlier) the resolution could be changed for each user on a workstation, but the DPI setting was system based.  This means that a user did not really have full control of the settings for their profile and if another user changed the DPI setting, it would affect all users on that workstation.  Changing the DPI setting would require a reboot for the change to take effect and it would adjust the bitmap fonts as part of that change. 

So Windows 7 introduced a change to allow the DPI setting to be set on a per user basis (only requiring a logout and login to make the change).  It is important to note that the user based DPI setting only affects the scalable fonts which can be adjusted without a reboot. 

The bitmap font DPI settings are still system based and would still require a reboot to change and would also affect all users on the workstation.  To avoid the now user based DPI setting from affecting other users in the system, the bitmaps fonts are no longer changed when adjusting DPI via the Display Control Panel applet.

The bitmap font size is now set only once during the installation and not altered thereafter. As we now understand, the initial DPI setting used during the install will control how the bitmap fonts are set.

I am researching if there is a way to make Windows 7 always default to 100% DPI during the installation, or a way to keep the bitmap fonts at 100% DPI size.  However, if you DO want the 125% DPI setting, you will then have the same issue but the other way around.

Thanks to Peter Constable from the Windows 7 Development team for his input.

I hope this clarifies what is happening.


Comments (9)
  1. joe says:

    Thank you so much for this – when I installed W7, i had an hdmi cable to my tv plugged in as a secondary monitor, for routing video to the tv.  Win took this as the primary desktop, over the standard monitor that was also plugged in, and adjusted all the fonts (and the resolution of the initial login screen!) to be too big.

  2. mike says:

    Old post, I know, byt while you're at it, could you please look into why it was possible to set *any* DPI in Windows XP (even less that the 100% 96 DPI), and why that is no longer possible in Windows 7?

    I know that most people don't care about this – they only want their fonts to be "big and readable", but I like my display to be configured to "perfection", not to "readability". I *NEED* to set the DPI in Windows 7 to 90 (less than 96) – that is the closest integer value to the actual PPI of my monitor at it's optimum resolution. Setting the DPI to 90 in Windows XP worked perfectly, but with Windows 7, I have to go hunting for registry values, and even then, the font "MS Sans Serif" in some dialogs gets replaced with the default "System" font – this is probably because the bitmap font "MS Sans Serif" in Windows 7 doesn't have a resolution lower than 8 points (which I assume is used for 96 DPI) ? Then why bother with bitmap fonts anymore? And why did I not see this problem in Winows XP?

  3. Alec says:


    Thanks for all of this great info!  I went into the registry editor to make these changes, and they were already made!  So now I still have the wrong font size…..any further suggestions?

    Thank you,


  4. David Musgrave says:

    Hi Alec

    is the font too small or too large?

    These articles are about setting the DPI to 100% and the bitmap font being too big.


  5. Jawa says:

    Hi David,

    Did you ever find a way to default to 100% during the installation? We are having this issue with our SCCM OS deployment.



  6. David Musgrave says:

    Hi Jawa

    Sorry, I don't know a way to override the defaults that Windows uses during the install. It depends on the resolution of the monitor attached to the computer… hard to control on anything with a built-in screen.


  7. Stanislaw says:

    This is BS reasoning.

    Old Windows applications using the bitmap screen fonts will usually not be flexible enough to accommodate the enlarged fonts anyway.

    If people use such old-style Windows applications, it usually is in a corporate/business setting => *all* users will be using the same applications => *all* users will need the proper DPI setting => the administrator should be able to adjust it to the backwards-compatible setting => there should be a control available and/or system should leave the bitmap fonts alone during installation.

  8. James says:

    The only workaround I have found for this is to simply leave the video driver out of our .wim files for laptops with hi-res displays then install the driver after the machines have been imaged.

  9. Hi James

    Not having the driver available means that the standard driver will be installed and the DPI will start at 100%.

    If you want to include your driver, it will probably start the DPI at 125% or 150% and you will need to adjust the registry if you want the bitmap fonts set back to 100%. This is discussed in the first article.


Comments are closed.

Skip to main content