My Monitor Won’t Run at 120 Hz

You may have the latest gaming desktop or laptop computer, all the most popular and robust game programs, and even the highest-powered graphics card on the market. Even with all this power – not to mention the expense – are you getting everything you expect from your system?

Images on your monitor are enhanced by refreshing the image frequently, referred to as the “refresh rate.” This is rated in Hz – the higher the value, the better the viewing experience.

If your monitor is not running at its maximum advertised refresh rate of 120 or 144Hz, you’re not getting the best experience from your gaming sessions.

Monitor won’t run at 144hz? Check our other guide for that.

Your problem may not be the monitor itself – it’s usually within Windows. There are settings in Windows you should investigate, to make sure your system is working properly in concert with the monitor.

Monitor Won't Run at 120 Hz

Windows Settings for Your Monitor Refresh Rate

If your monitor won’t run at 120 Hz, your first step should be to visit your Windows settings.

If you’re running Windows 7, you can just right-click on your desktop and select Screen Resolution:

windows monitor settings

Any monitors on your system will be displayed – select the monitor in question, and click Advanced Settings.

monitor display settings

Then click the Monitor tab, and make sure the refresh rate is set to match your hardware’s specifications.

monitor properties

Windows 10 is only slightly different for checking and setting your refresh rate:

  • Select Settings and follow the path System > Display > Advanced Display Settings > Display Adapter Properties.
  • As described above, click the Monitor tab, select your monitor’s specified refresh rate, and click OK.

With either WIN 7 or WIN 10, if you can’t set it to the expected refresh rate, you have some additional investigation to do.

Your Monitor Still Won’t Run at 120Hz – Now What?

Your next step is to make sure you have the cables needed to support a high refresh rate. There are multiple options for connecting some monitors:

  • HDMI cables – some may be limited to 60Hz
  • DisplayPort cables – if using DisplayPort connections, make sure you have cables that are certified to run at the refresh rate supported by your monitor
  • DVI cables – make sure you’re using a recent DVI cable – some older ones don’t support anything over 60hz.

Quality cables are important for getting the performance you expect from your high-performance monitors. There are many cheap cables on the market that are simply inferior in quality, and they may not provide higher refresh rates consistently.

Even cables supplied with new monitors – although they should, in theory, work fine – may not support stable refresh rates of 144Hz.

How Do You Know There Are Problems?

Inferior cables or those not matched to your monitor’s specifications can result in multiple issues:

  • Inconsistent performance, with refresh rates intermittently dropping back to 60Hz
  • Monitor flickering occasionally

Make sure cables are suited to your monitor’s specifications, and that they are connected securely.

Trouble-Shooting Your Monitor Refresh Rate

If your monitor still won’t run at 120Hz, there are more issues that could be causing the problem:

  • Your Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) – graphics card – may simply not support a 120Hz refresh rate. If your system includes integrated graphics support or you have an older graphics card, you may need to upgrade to support the resolution and refresh rate of your monitor.

troubleshoot monitor

  • If your GPU has plenty of power, check the settings of the card. Make sure there is no conflict between your GPU settings and your monitor’s specifications.
  • If you’re playing a video game, and it’s locked at 60hz, make sure that the game supports higher refresh rates, and that you’ve successfully changed to it in the settings. Each game may have graphics settings, and some may not match those of your monitor. Be sure all the games you utilize are set to the refresh rates and resolutions that your GPU and monitor support.
  • Check your monitor settings, and set them to native resolution. It may be that the higher refresh rate is only supported at its native resolution setting.
  • Do you have the latest driver for your monitor and GPU? Outdated drivers can cause devices to work incorrectly, or may result in intermittent problems. Leading GPU manufacturers such as NVIDIA and AMD update drivers regularly to fix bugs, add features, and improve performance.

Checking the settings on your computer, monitor, GPU, and games should result in getting the best and most consistent performance from your system.

How to Keep Your Drivers Current

Graphics card manufacturers provide websites for support and driver downloads. Some even have automatic software updaters – but they can be bloated and add extra weight to your system. If you’re downloading straight from a manufacturer’s website, make sure you’re downloading the driver that matches the rest of your system including OS, graphics card model, and software version.

Other providers of system peripherals such as monitors, controllers, or storage devices may not update drivers quite so frequently, or may not make updates quite so easy to locate and install. This can make updating drivers time-consuming and introduces the possibility that you may not update your drivers with the version best suited to your system.

There is a simpler method for updating and installing drivers safely and securely, using Driver Support’s software-driven process.

Driver Support simplifies driver updates by:

  • Analyzing your computer and locating the correct driver for each device
  • Downloading the best drivers automatically
  • Performing the driver installations quickly and easily, without manual effort

Download Driver Support and get unmatched confidence that your system is running the correct and most recent drivers for each component of your system.

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