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How to adjust your PC screen brightness, manually and automatically



A laptop outdoors on a sunny day with glare on the screen.
Leigh Prather / Shutterstock.com

You probably need to change the brightness of your screen regularly. When it̵

7;s clear outside you want to turn it higher so you can see. When you are in a dark room you want it to be dark so it doesn’t hurt your eyes. Lowering the brightness of your screen can also save power and extend the battery life of your laptop.

Aside from manually changing the screen brightness, you can let Windows automatically change it in several ways. Windows can change it based on whether you’re plugged in, based on how much battery power you have left, or based on an ambient light sensor built into many modern devices.

How to manually adjust the brightness on a laptop or tablet

Most laptop keyboards have shortcut keys that allow you to quickly increase and decrease your brightness. Often times these keys are part of the row of F keys – that’s F1 through F12 – that appear above the number row on your keyboard. To adjust the screen brightness, find an icon that matches the brightness – often a sun logo or something similar – and press the keys.

These are often function keys, meaning you have to hold down the Fn key on your keyboard, often in the lower left corner of your keyboard, while pressing it.

Top row brightness keys on a Microsoft Surface keyboard.
Chris Hoffman

You can also adjust the brightness of the display from Windows. This is especially useful if your keyboard doesn’t have these keys, or if you’re using a tablet and need to do this within software.

On Windows 10, you’ll find a quick brightness slider in the action center. To access it, click or tap the notification bubble icon that appears to the right of the clock on the taskbar. If you don’t see the slider, click the “Expand” option above the grid of tiles. Click (or tap) and drag the slider to adjust the brightness of your screen.

On a touchscreen, you can also swipe in from the right side of your screen to open the Action Center.

The brightness slider in Windows 10's action center.

You can also find this option in the Settings app on Windows 10. Open the Settings app from your Start menu or Start screen, select “System” and select “Display”. Click or tap and drag the “Adjust brightness” slider to change the brightness level.

The screen brightness slider in Windows 10's Settings app.

If you’re using Windows 7 or 8 and don’t have a Settings app, this option is available in Control Panel. Open the Control Panel, select ‘Hardware and Sound’ and select ‘Power Options’. You will see a ‘Screen Brightness’ slider at the bottom of the Power Schemes window.

Power Plan Settings in Control Panel.

You can also see this option in the Windows Mobility Center. Launch it by right-clicking the Start button in Windows 10 and 8.1 and selecting “Mobility Center”, or by pressing Windows key + X in Windows 7. Change the “Display brightness” slider in the window that appears.

The Windows Mobility Center.

How to manually adjust the brightness on an external display

Most of the methods in this article are for laptops, tablets, and all-in-one PCs. However, if you’re using a desktop PC with an external display, or even connecting an external display to a laptop or tablet, you’ll need to adjust this setting on the external display itself. Usually you cannot do this. do it automatically.

Look for “brightness” buttons on the screen and use these to adjust the brightness of the screen. You may instead need to press some sort of “Menu” or “Options” button before accessing an on-screen display that allows you to increase or decrease the brightness. You can often find these buttons near the power button on a computer monitor. Some monitors may also allow you to adjust the brightness of your screen with an app such as ScreenBright or Display Tuner, although they don’t work with all monitors.

How to automatically adjust the brightness when connected

RELATED: Should you use the Balanced, Energy Saving, or Powerful Power Plan on Windows?

You can set different brightness levels on your laptop or tablet depending on whether or not you are connected to an electrical outlet. For example, you can set it to a high brightness level when you plug in the power cord, and to a lower level when using the battery. Windows would then automatically adjust your brightness.

Open the Control Panel to adjust this. Select “Hardware and Sound”, select “Power Options” and click on the “Change plan settings” link next to the power plan you are using. You are probably using the balanced power plan.

Configure different screen brightness levels for ‘On battery’ and ‘Plugged in’ under ‘Adjust brightness of plan’. This setting is linked to your power plan. You can configure different screen brightness levels for different power plans and switch between them, if you prefer (although we think power plans aren’t really necessary).

Edit power plan settings in Windows 10 Control Panel.

How to automatically adjust the brightness based on the remaining battery life

You can automatically adjust the backlight of your screen based on how much battery power your laptop or tablet has left. On Windows 10, you can use the Battery Saver feature for this. Open the Settings app, select ‘System’ and select ‘Battery’.

Make sure the ‘Lower screen brightness during battery saver’ option is enabled, then choose the percentage by which you want to activate Battery Saver. When Battery Saver is activated at that level, your backlight will be reduced and you will save power. By default, Battery Saver is activated when 20% battery is left.

Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the exact brightness level that Battery Saver will choose. You can also enable this feature manually from the battery icon.

Battery saver brightness settings in Windows 10's Settings app.

Automatically adjust brightness based on ambient light

RELATED: Disable Adaptive Brightness in Windows to troubleshoot dark screen issues

Many modern laptops and tablets have an ambient brightness sensor, which works in the same way as that on smartphones and tablets. Windows can use the sensor for “adaptive brightness,” which automatically increases the display brightness when you are in a bright environment and decreases the brightness when you are in a dark room.

This is useful, but some people find that it also gets in the way. It can automatically lower or increase the brightness of your screen when you don’t want to, and you may want to manually manage the brightness with the above settings. You may want to try it on and off to decide which one you like best.

To turn this feature on or off in Windows 10, open the Settings app, select System, then select Display. Enable or disable the option “Automatically change brightness when lighting changes”. You will only see this option if your device has an ambient light sensor.

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You can also change this setting from Control Panel. Open the Control Panel, select ‘Hardware and Sound’, select ‘Power Options’, click on ‘Change plan settings’ next to the power plan you are using and click on ‘Change advanced power settings’.

Here, expand the ‘Display’ section and then expand the ‘Enable adaptive brightness’ section. The options here let you control whether adaptive brightness is used when you are on battery power or when you plug in the power cord. For example, you can turn it off when you plug it in and leave it on when running on battery power.

Control adaptive brightness in Windows 10's Power Plan options.


You can adjust the brightness of your screen both automatically and manually, and both have their time and place. If you turn on automatic brightness, you won’t be able to adjust your brightness using hotkeys or the options in Windows whenever you want, so you have nothing to lose by trying all the options above.




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