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Quick Way to Switch to High-Contrast Themes in Windows 7

Do you ever use your laptop in bad lighting situations or where there is a lot of glare? The propensity of PC manufacturers for glossy screens can make reflections a real problem. Windows 7 comes with several themes that provide high contrast and make it easier to read screens in bad lighting. There are various ways to reach the settings but here is a quick keyboard shortcut. Simultaneously hold down the three keys:

    left Shift + left Alt + PrtScn

The dialog box shown below will appear. This shortcut can be used as a toggle to turn a high-contrast theme on and off. Click “Yes” to change the theme to high contrast. Repeating the keyboard shortcut will return you to your original theme.

Windows 7 high contrast theme shortcut

Another way to access high-contrast themes

The standard Windows 7 comes with four high-contrast themes. The shortcut given above only toggles one of these, a black and white theme. To access all of the high-contrast themes, do the following:

  1. Right-click an empty spot on the desktop
  2. Click “Personalize”
  3. Scroll down in the window that is under “Change the visuals and sounds on your computer”
  4. Four high-contrast themes are listed at the bottom
  5. Click the one you want to try
  6. Don't forget which theme you are switching out of so you can return to it if you wish

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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by KEWAL ANAND (not verified) on 7. November 2012 - 7:18  (101980)

Fixed it thanks for your suggestion.

by Farah B (not verified) on 19. January 2012 - 23:09  (87442)


The toggle on/off keyboard shortcut doesn't work for me either (Im using Windows 7 on a Toshiba laptop thats about 6 months old). I use the black background/green text. I even tried toggling for the black background/white text high contrast theme, as it says above that the toggle only works for this one - but that doesnt work either for me :(

Anyone know a solution? Or whom to ask?


(by the way the high contrast themes really made a difference for my eyes :) )

by I need help (not verified) on 2. June 2011 - 8:16  (73091)

I've turned it on and off and Paint, Wordpad and other with-ribbon programs have that look. How to turn it off? I'm using Windows 7 Ultimate with Aero theme.

Please email me to help.

by v.laurie on 2. June 2011 - 18:37  (73133)

See for the general procedure to revert to your old theme.

by TwoQuestions (not verified) on 13. May 2011 - 21:08  (71868)

Two questions:

1) Using the second method, can I change themes without automatically changing the theme? That is, I want the option to "Cancel" or "Apply" the change.

2) What I really want is my current, almost default theme, with the background picture of my niece and nephew, but high contrast scroll bars and a few other high contrast items. Possible? How?

by OldManGeorge (not verified) on 12. May 2011 - 12:16  (71825)

The keyboard shortcut is implemented and works just fine in Windows XP.

by Jojo Yee on 12. May 2011 - 2:53  (71806)

Toggling off might have an issue with the combination keys in Windows 7 Basic which I tried, but it still can be reset via Control Panel.

Toggling on and off worked perfectly with the combination keys in Windows 7 Pro on my another PC.

by v.laurie on 12. May 2011 - 0:08  (71800)

My commitment in this column is to provide useful and reliable information to the TSA community. I use tips only from well-known primary sources such as Microsoft.I personally check out all tips on a variety of different machines and operating systems before presenting them.

I have a feeling of responsibility to the readers and I take it very much to heart when a tip unexpectedly causes difficulties for some of you, as this tip seems to have done. It may be small consolation for those who ran into trouble but I offer my sincerest apologies.

by Tacito (not verified) on 11. May 2011 - 23:38  (71797)

Working perfect here on both Desktop PC and laptop.

Win7 x64 on both.

Thanks for the tip. Really useful for me.

by David Faulkner (not verified) on 11. May 2011 - 22:21  (71793)

I lost Aero Peek when I turned this on, and I find that too valuable to lose, so I immediately reversed it. However, thanks for sharing this - I'm sure others who don't need Aero Peek as I do will find this really helpful.

by MrWednesday7 on 11. May 2011 - 19:07  (71779)

"Danger, Will Robinson."

This does not turn off using left Shift + left Alt + PrtScn. I am using Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit on a 6 month old Sony notebook.

To restore the machine to normal, go to your control panel, under appearance and personalization click change theme, then just pick the theme you want, this will turn off the high contrast. You should see the theme you were using there.

You will also need to restore your wallpaper. Mine's Kelly from Misfits.


by ianjrichards (not verified) on 11. May 2011 - 22:37  (71794)


Yes I can confirm what Vic said: the keyboard combination toggles the high contrast mode on and then off again without any glitch. It worked fine both on my laptop and desktop machines.

Clearly some readers are having problems toggling off. Just why is not yet clear.


by v.laurie on 11. May 2011 - 19:53  (71781)

The toggle on/off works for me on three different systems- an HP laptop, an Asus laptop, and a locally built desktop.

by willem (not verified) on 11. May 2011 - 15:03  (71776)

hi vic, well it worked to turn the screen in high-contrast mode but the mentioned key combination didn't allow me to simply toggle (it back again) I tried it several times in my (Dell) MS Windows 7 Home Basic 32-bit OS but the screen stayed black and quite unreadable (because of the lack of heavy sunshine on my screen;-)
And, having a portuguese version of my OS I couldn't no way find the 'Personalize'(Portuguese equivelent) option in my right-click-on-empty-screen: I had to reach the 4 schemes in another way.
Parts of my screen are still in high contrast mode (the checkboxes in many applications) but I more or less restored visability by choosint another desktop background image.
Really don't know why the left alt-left shift-printscreen doesn't toggle things in my OS.

by v.laurie on 11. May 2011 - 15:45  (71777)

I am certainly sorry to hear that you have had trouble. The tip works for me on two different systems, Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit and Windows 7 Ultimate, 32-bit. I don't know the source of your problem but I haven't tried the tip on a Windows 7 Basic setup.

by Anonymuz (not verified) on 11. May 2011 - 12:59  (71768)

The tip worked but turned off my dual screen display and no matter what I do, I cannot now get it to work again.

by v.laurie on 11. May 2011 - 15:48  (71778)

Thanks for the warning about possible problems with a dual-screen setup. The tip is mostly useful for laptops which are used in varying lighting conditions and I haven't tested a dual-screen setup.

by Anonymuz (not verified) on 11. May 2011 - 13:13  (71769)

Fixed it, only with a system restore (which did not restore the display settings for either screen).