How to increase the screen resolutions available to Ubuntu while running in Parallels for OS X

After installing Ubuntu in Parallels Desktop for OS X, you may have noticed that your screen resolutions are limited to a maximum of 1024×768. Here’s how to solve that problem..

NOTE: the steps outlined in this tutorial will not work if you’re using Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron”. However, this tutorial will walk you through the steps required to change the screen resolution for Ubuntu 8.04 running via Parallels Desktop.


First – this tip wouldn’t have been “made possible” without Lindsay pointing out a great article @ Muffin Research Labs.

Remember: this tutorial walks you through the steps to change the screen resolution in Ubuntu “Feisty Fawn” (7.04) – though it should work in 7.10 as well.

  1. To start, open a Terminal window by selecting Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal
  2. Enter in sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg and then your password.

  3. click to enlarge

  4. Make sure that vesa is highlighted (it should be by default, but if you have to scroll up or down to get to it, use the up and/or down keys on your keyboard) and then hit enter.

  5. click to enlarge

  6. Select the resolutions that you would like to be available for Ubuntu by using the arrow keys to scroll up and down, and the Space Bar to select them. Do not select resolutions that your Mac doesn’t natively support. Because I prefer not to work with Parallels in “Full Screen” mode, and my MacBook Pro is set to 1440×900, I’ve opted for 1228×800. When you’re done selecting resolutions, hit enter.

  7. click to enlarge

  8. Restart X by clicking Control+Alt+Delete (backspace). Ta-da! Your new resolutions are now available.

Update: if the above method didn’t work for you, for whatever reason, please see comment #15 below (Thanks Steve!) or #20 (same thing, a bit more detailed).

  • Morten Ravn

    Thanks again!

    Now we’re getting there! ;o)

  • lee317

    Got it working on my MacBook Pro CoreDuo but now when I switch to any other resolution lower than my maximum (1440 x 900) in the ubuntu Screen Resolutions settings panel I get distorted wavy video. Has anyone else experienced this?

  • >lee317:

    I have had a similar experience. I have a 17″ MBP, and cannot run in any mode but 1600 x 1200 with my Cinema HD 23″. I also get the ‘screens gone badly wrong’ :)

  • jack

    hmm, the install howto worked great however this one not so much… after these steps im still stuck with 1024×768 as my max, could i have selected the wrong kernel type, ther were two and it cut off the text so i dont know which one was 2.6, i chose the second one, could this be my problem, please email me

    thanks for the great help!

    [email address removed by ross so you don’t get spammed]

  • Hei. I changed the resolution on my MacBook, but the screen became all fucked up.. I see four pointers moving beside each other. And it is almoust imposible too watch. Se this picture. How do I fix it…

    http://bildr.no/view/63770

  • After inputting the terminal command:
    sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

    I get the the following feedback:
    sudo: timestamp too far in the future: May 14 20:38:35 2007

    The time is currently 13:04 and this is shown in both Ubuntu and OS X.

    Any ideas?

  • newhere

    I did it (Kubuntu), and it works, except when I choose to change the resolution, it only stays on the largest resolution. Some resolutions it actually changes, if you can call it that, but the screen goes all strange and distorted, until it reverts after 15 seconds. Any ideas? I’m glad that I can get full screen looking normal, but it would be nice if I could get it to look normal as a window, like it does when I run Windows XP.

  • This worked great for me.

    Now, has anyone gotten Beryl to run in (k)ubuntu in Parallels? It may be too much of a system hog to run virtually, I am not sure.

  • Just an FYI – I’ve been responding directly to people – I should stop that habit and respond here so everyone can see the “answers”. Sorry.

    Anyway, Beryl will not run in Ubuntu via Parallels, or any virtualization software that I’m aware of. I know, bummer.

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  • Simon Hibbs

    In some dialog boxes in Ubuntu I am unable to enter any text. I can delete text, but when I type nothing appears. I had this first when trying to login to X after changing the screen resolution, and I’ve had it several times since.

    Any ideas?

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  • Steve

    Nice article. Though I didn’t use the

    ‘sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg’

    command… I didn’t quite understand why to use that when you can change your resloution directly by editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf

    In my MacBook I just had to open xorg.conf and find these lines:

    SubSection “Display”
    Depth 24
    Modes “1024×768” “800×600” “640×480”
    EndSubSection

    ———-

    And insert the MacBook’s default resolution in front “1024×768” in the ‘Modes’ line.
    So after editing the section looks like this:

    SubSection “Display”
    Depth 24
    Modes “1280×800” “1024×768” “800×600” “640×480”
    EndSubSection

    ———-

    Then restart the X-server. Fastest way is pressing CTRL + Backspace

    Works like charm.

  • zeko

    hi, it is a grat article but i have one problem with changing screen resolution. i type sudo… and password, and then this is what appears
    /usr/sbin/dpkg-reconfigure: – is not instaled
    what could be the problem?

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  • zeko –

    Try the method that Steve suggested. I checked my other computer that has Ubuntu and got a similar error as yours – but in Ubuntu in Parallels (which is what I’m writing this post in) it works perfectly.. So I’m a bit confused myself.

  • zeko

    can you please explain how to do that in more details, im new with linux…thanks

  • zeko –

    Sure here goes

    Open a Terminal by selecting Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal

    At the prompt, type in:

    cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf ~

    That will copy xorg.conf to your home folder, just in case something gets messed up, you can revert to it.

    Then enter:

    sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

    enter your password when prompted

    A graphical text editor will open. Scroll down to the section that looks something like:

    SubSection “Display”
    Depth 24
    Modes “1024×768? “800×600? “640×480?
    EndSubSection

    and add whatever resolution you want to the Modes line. Make sure it’s a resolution that your monitor and video card support. Then save the the file. To allow the changes to take effect you have to restart X , and as Steve mentioned the easiest way to do that is to hit CTRL + Backspace (close open programs first).

    If something goes wrong and you can’t get X to start properly, restart your computer and boot linux into the command prompt. Login and enter:

    sudo cp ~/xorg.conf /etc/X11/

    That will restore your backup copy of xorg.conf. Try restarting X again and you should at least be back to a working state.

  • zeko

    thanks, i made it, now im a linux user ;-)

  • isaak

    well, i actually cant do it yet. :(
    i used the first method, but it does not work.
    and modifying in cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf ~,
    it modifies all the resolution and looks horrible.
    it appears with a lot of lines and like 4 minidesktops….a big mess!

    please gus help me!

  • Yeah I had the same problem. I think you can go into safe mode and re run the program to set the resolution back.

  • curry

    I have the same problem as isaak and tyler pederson…help!

  • mark

    i am using a 17in macbook pro and have a good login screen, when it loads into ubuntu it goes all messy with lines on the screen. I have set resolution to 1680 x 1080 and it wont work. Who said linux is for the masses? not yet guys, flashy desktop isnt enough to win me. I dont want to learn another language to make it work i just want it to run as it should. Why is my experience of linux always like this? its a pain.

  • Brian

    Re: Comments #15 and 20 … I’ve followed the recommended steps (thanks!) and confirmed that the resolution I want is in xorg.conf, but when I open ‘System > Preferences > Screen Resolution’, the setting I just saw in xorg.conf isn’t one of the options listed, even after logging out an restarting. Doh! Ideas anyone?

  • Bif

    Re: Comment #26 – I’m in the same boat, hope someone can help out!

  • Brian and Bif – sorry for the delay in my response.

    When you go back to xorg.conf are the changes you made still in that file? If not, it’s possible that you forgot to save it before exiting gedit. Or, you didn’t open gedit w/ the sudo command first.

  • emgeejay

    I’m having the same issue as the people in comments 22-25. Whenever I successfully change the resolution in Ubuntu to a larger (natively supported) res, the entire screen becomes pixelated and impossible to work with. FYI, I’m running a MB Pro 17 with the ATI Radeon 1600. Thanks.

  • IG

    I tried it on my dell laptop running ubuntu fiesty and it worked. Thanx man you’ve saved me a lot of trouble.

  • udroomla

    I’m also having the same issues as #26 and #27.

    Changes are definitely saved in xorg.conf file as I can see them after a restart but the options in the display properties still are the original options (after restart).

    I am running Ubuntu inside virtual box under windows if this makes a difference but this should not stop me from making this change I would have thought.

  • Andrew

    Ok everyone. Here is THE REAL WAY to solve the problem with expanded resolution. I was having the same problem as the last 15 posts or so; doing the -bpkg command and selecting the resolutions and still getting messed a warped ubuntu upon reboot. Here is what you need to do, just did this and it worked for me beautifully!

    In MacOSX, under Parallels Desktop, go to Actions -> Install Parallels Tools…

    Follow the prompts in the terminal. This replaces your xorg.conf with a special one meant for Parallels. It allows for seemless transitions between full screen mode AND windowed mode!!! A side note however! Make sure that you have the correct resolutions inputed under your Ubuntu’s Parallels Configuration Settings (not to be confused with the actual xorg.conf file in Ubuntu, you never need to touch it ever! this part is in the MacOS). So for me, I had to put in my MBP 17″ max resolution of 1680×1050.

    Happy Paralleling!!!

    Update from Ross, the site author, not the person who left the above comment, which I haven’t touched at all:

    Installing Parallels Tools, as Andrew suggests, requires that you update your version of Parallels to v3.0 (or higher).

  • I have a self contained wubi install of ubuntu 7.04 and I got this message:

    xserver-xorg postinst warning: overwriting possibly-customised configuration
    file; backup in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.20070817114710

    What does this mean??

  • Nathan,

    It means that when you updated xorg.conf, whatever method it was that you used to update that file, thought that it was over-writing a “custom” version of xorg.conf (which it may have). So, it saved the previous version as xorg.conf.20070817114710 in the /etc/X11/ folder. That way, if you ever need to revert to your previous version of xorg.conf, you can rename xorg.conf.20070817114710 to xorg.conf.

  • Thanks. I ended up with a file called xorg.conf.[timestamp] and I was able to use
    ~$ sudo mv xorg.conf xorg.conf.old
    and then change the timestamped one into the xorg.conf.

  • bahram

    Hi,

    I’d like to make a note of caution. using the command

    sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

    has a side effect : it resets the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file from the debian database (read the first lines of xorg.conf).

    So, if you had set some parameters (like setting a French keyboard, or commenting out the wacom input device) all will be lost, and you can get into trouble the next time you try to log in.

  • Ed

    In response to comment #32. This looks to address the problems I am having trying to get other screen resolutions available. I get the garbaged displays when I try the method outlined in the original post or in comments #15 and #20. Additionally, with method 15/20, I loose the ability for the cursor to seamlessly move between the linux window and Mac OS-X.

    I’d like to try the method outlined in comment #32. However I cannot find the file that the poster refers to. He states that it is accessible from Mac OS, but what is the file name and where is it???

    Thanks in advance,

    = Ed =

  • Paul

    Just put Ubuntu 8.04 into parallels on a macbook pro and none ofthe above methods seem to work. The X11 configuration file is in a different format now it seems. No idea what to change in it.

  • Paul,

    I’m downloading 8.04 right now myself, I’ll let you know what I come up w/ once it’s installed. Cheers!

  • Just downloaded and installed 8.04, and am not happy. New(ish) ASUS board (M2N-MX SE Plus) with integrated video and Gutsy, is wimpy. Only shows 800×600 @ 60Hz. And the tool under System->Adminstration to control the video card / screen resolution is not there. When I run the xorg reconfig package, at best I get keyboard options, but no video options.

    (I would really like to get dual display working with a PCI card I have – MGA Mystique, its an older one, so I’m not it has what it takes)

    But first, I want to get my 1024×768 @75Hz back!

  • Paul

    Thanks Ross, looking forward to a solution if you can find one :)

  • Paul

    It looks like the solution is really simple. Make sure ubuntu is suspended, go to the ubuntu settings and make sure there is at least 32mb of video ram (in the memory settings, worked for my 1440×900). In the video section make sure your custom video resolutions have been added and enabled.

    Done. Maybe ubuntu and/or parallels is a bit smarter now and no editing of X11 seems to be required.

  • Paul –

    I’ve set 1200×800, 1280×1024, 1440×900 – but 1152×720 remains the highest resolution available when I select System > Preferences > Screen Resolution in Ubuntu.

    I set the System Memory to 512, video memory to 32MB in Parallels and made sure it was saved. I’ve rebooted Ubuntu a couple times just to make sure – and always the highest resolution is 1152×720.

    What were the exact steps you took? Which version of Parallels are you using (I’m using the very latest as of yesterday). When you installed Ubuntu did you upgrade from 7.x or did you do a fresh install of 8.04? Thanks!!

    Ross

  • Paul

    Wow – I searched a lot and found many options but this one was the easiest to follow and it worked perfectly!

    Thanks alot!

  • Jim

    Ross,

    I got full display working on my 17″ iMac under Parallels build 3188 after installing Ubuntu 8.04. After a bit of research, I came upon the xorg.conf I’ll include at the end of this email. Still no joy, until I added custom resolutions in the Parallels preferences of 1440×900. Then, bingo.

    Hope this helps…

    Jim…

    # xorg.conf (X.Org X Window System server configuration file)
    #
    # This file was generated by failsafeDexconf, using
    # values from the debconf database and some overrides to use vesa mode.
    #
    # You should use dexconf or another such tool for creating a “real” xorg.conf
    # For example:
    # sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg
    Section “InputDevice”
    Identifier “Generic Keyboard”
    Driver “kbd”
    Option “XkbRules” “xorg”
    Option “XkbModel” “pc105”
    Option “XkbLayout” “us”
    EndSection

    Section “InputDevice”
    Identifier “Configured Mouse”
    Driver “mouse”
    EndSection

    Section “Device”
    Identifier “Configured Video Device”
    Boardname “vesa”
    Busid “PCI:0:2:0”
    Driver “vesa”
    Screen 0
    EndSection

    Section “Monitor”
    Identifier “Configured Monitor”
    Vendorname “Generic LCD Display”
    Modelname “LCD Panel 1440×900”
    Horizsync 31.5-56.0
    Vertrefresh 56.0 – 65.0
    modeline “640×480@60” 25.2 640 656 752 800 480 490 492 525 -vsync -hsync
    modeline “800×600@56” 36.0 800 824 896 1024 600 601 603 625 +hsync +vsync
    modeline “800×600@60” 40.0 800 840 968 1056 600 601 605 628 +hsync +vsync
    modeline “1024×768@60” 65.0 1024 1048 1184 1344 768 771 777 806 -vsync -hsync
    Gamma 1.0
    EndSection

    Section “Screen”
    Identifier “Default Screen”
    Device “Configured Video Device”
    Monitor “Configured Monitor”
    Defaultdepth 24
    SubSection “Display”
    Depth 24
    Modes “1024×768@60” “800×600@60” “800×600@56” “640×480@60”
    EndSubSection
    EndSection

    Section “ServerLayout”
    Identifier “Default Layout”
    screen 0 “Default Screen” 0 0
    EndSection
    Section “Module”
    Load “glx”
    Load “GLcore”
    Load “v4l”
    EndSection
    Section “ServerFlags”
    EndSection

  • If you hava an nvidia card:

    $ sudo apt-get install nvidia-settings
    $ nvidia-settings

    This works well on ubuntu 8.04.

  • Fau

    I’ve managed to change the screen resolution to 1440×900 on my MBP. I’m using Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron (fresh install) and Parallels build 3214.

    Here’s my xorg.conf
    # xorg.conf (X.Org X Window System server configuration file)
    #
    # This file was generated by dexconf, the Debian X Configuration tool, using
    # values from the debconf database.
    #
    # Edit this file with caution, and see the xorg.conf manual page.
    # (Type “man xorg.conf” at the shell prompt.)
    #
    # This file is automatically updated on xserver-xorg package upgrades *only*
    # if it has not been modified since the last upgrade of the xserver-xorg
    # package.
    #
    # If you have edited this file but would like it to be automatically updated
    # again, run the following command:
    # sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

    Section “InputDevice”
    Identifier “Generic Keyboard”
    Driver “kbd”
    Option “XkbRules” “xorg”
    Option “XkbModel” “pc105”
    Option “XkbLayout” “us”
    EndSection

    Section “InputDevice”
    Identifier “Configured Mouse”
    Driver “mouse”
    Option “CorePointer”
    EndSection

    Section “Device”
    Identifier “Configured Video Device”
    EndSection

    Section “Monitor”
    Identifier “Configured Monitor”
    HorizSync 28-40
    VertRefresh 43-60
    modeline “800×600@56” 36.0 800 824 896 1024 600 601 603 625
    modeline “800×600@72” 50.0 800 856 976 1040 600 637 643 666
    modeline “800×600@75” 49.5 800 816 896 1056 600 601 604 625
    modeline “800×600@60” 40.0 800 840 968 1056 600 601 605 628
    Modeline “1024×768@60” 64.56 1024 1056 1296 1328 768 783 791 807
    Modeline “1152×720@60” 66.75 1152 1184 1432 1464 720 735 742 757
    modeline “1152×768@54” 64.995 1152 1178 1314 1472 768 771 777 806
    Modeline “1280×800@60” 83.91 1280 1312 1624 1656 800 816 824 841
    modeline “1280×854” 80.0 1280 1309 1460 1636 854 857 864 896
    modeline “1280×768@60” 80.14 1280 1344 1480 1680 768 769 772 795
    modeline “1280×720@60” 74.48 1280 1336 1472 1664 720 721 724 746
    modeline “1280×800@75” 107.21 1280 1360 1496 1712 800 801 804 835
    modeline “1280×768@75” 102.98 1280 1360 1496 1712 768 769 772 802
    modeline “1280×720@50” 60.47 1280 1328 1456 1632 720 721 724 741
    modeline “1280×800@60” 83.46 1280 1344 1480 1680 800 801 804 828
    modeline “1440×900@75” 136.49 1440 1536 1688 1936 900 901 904 940
    modeline “1440×900@60” 106.47 1440 1520 1672 1904 900 901 904 932
    modeline “1600×1024@60” 136.36 1600 1704 1872 2144 1024 1025 1028 1060
    modeline “1680×1050@60” 147.14 1680 1784 1968 2256 1050 1051 1054 1087
    modeline “1680×1050@75” 188.07 1680 1800 1984 2288 1050 1051 1054 1096
    modeline “1920×1200@60” 193.16 1920 2048 2256 2592 1200 1201 1204 1242

    EndSection

    Section “Screen”
    Identifier “Default Screen”
    Device “Configured Video Device”
    Monitor “Configured Monitor”
    DefaultDepth 24
    SubSection “Display”
    Depth 24
    Modes “1440×900@60” “1600×1024@60” “1440×900@75” “1680×1050@60” “1280×800@60” “1680×1050@75” “1280×720@50” “1920×1200@60” “1280×768@75” “1280×800@75” “1280×720@60” “1280×768@60” “1280×800@60” “1280×854” “1152×720@60” “1152×768@54” “1024×768@60” “800×600@60” “800×600@75” “800×600@72” “800×600@56”
    EndSubSection
    EndSection

    Section “ServerLayout”
    Identifier “Default Layout”
    Screen “Default Screen”
    EndSection


    Restart and at login screen, run session as Failsafe Terminal and at the terminal prompt, type ” gnome-control-center ” and change the screen resolution from there. Restart Ubuntu 8.04 and voila.

    Hope this helps.

  • muni

    hi…. need help….. i have installed ubuntu 8.04 on my macbook using vertualbox but the screen is postcard size… i have been lookin everywhere but i can’t seem to figure how to make it full screen,even when i use “comand’F…..

  • hi im using ubuntu and am unable to change my screen resolution through system, preferences, screen resolution. so im stuck with either 640 x 480 or 800 x 600…can anyone let me know how i can increase this?
    thanks

  • KONRAD

    xserver-xorg postinst warning: overwriting possibly-customised configuration
    file; backup in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.20081018135220
    this is what i get after the first step…any help with this?

  • Ah… That’s better.

    Thanks!

  • leacher

    I simply tried it via screen resolution menu when I applied 1024×768 my screen resolution got blinf I mean transitions of screen and miscellaneous noise. How to fix it without reinstalling? I tried creating account .. it gave error that etc.. is not sudour. in root shell I tried xserver xorg… it says you have not installed xorg..

    what should i do?

  • Dan

    Excellent tutorial that worked in just 2 steps. My resolution is so high right now I can barely read this text!

  • Alvin Zaragoza

    I’ve just installed Linux 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on my 20″ Intel iMac under parallels 3.0. Im running OS X Leopard (10.5.6). I’m having trouble adjusting the screen resolution from Ubuntu’s default which is 1024 x 640. And my iMac’s resolution is 1680 x 1050. I was wondering how can i readjust so that ubuntu uses up the entire screen as oppose too its default. Help!!!!!

    Im super new too linux.

    Thanks for your help.

    Alvin

  • Sergio

    Hey, this gave me the right way to do the things, my xorg.conf looked like this (without comments):
    Section “Monitor”
    Identifier “Configured Monitor”
    EndSection

    Section “Screen”
    Identifier “Default Screen”
    Monitor “Configured Monitor”
    Device “Configured Video Device”
    SubSection “Display”
    Virtual 1278 768
    EndSubSection

    EndSection

    Section “Device”
    Identifier “Configured Video Device”
    EndSection

    Nobody has talked about the Virtual tag, but it seems pretty logical that I had to change this as my maximum resolution was 1278 768.
    Then I have just changes the Display section to this:

    SubSection “Display”
    Virtual 1280 800
    Modes “1280×800@75” “1024×768@75” “1024×768@70” “832×624@75” “1024×768@60” “800×600@60” “1280×960@60” “800×600@75” “800×600@72” “800×600@56” “640×480@75” “640×480@72” “640×480@60”
    EndSubSection

    After a restart I was able to change the display resolution. Thank you very much.

  • Dan

    When I type:
    sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

    I get:
    xserver-xorg postinst warning: overwriting possibly-customised configuration
    file; backup in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.20090621225211

    I cant get passed the first step! Need help…

  • aardvark

    In paralells 4, note you MUST get your video memory above 3MB (the default) then install parallels tools.

  • MG

    I am getting the same result as Dan said: xserver-xorg postinst warning: overwriting possibly-customised configuration
    file; backup in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.20090621225211

    Not sure what to do.

  • AnriL

    Its unfortunately not working for me.
    anri@anri-desktop:~$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg
    anri@anri-desktop:~$
    It gives me nothing. Please help me. Running Ubuntu 9.10

  • hemant

    Same is happening with me!!

    Nothing happens!!

    Me running Karmic Kaola 9.1

  • Echinus

    I fixed it by changig the RAM Size for the Graphics in the VM preferences.. then I was able to choos higher resolutions.

  • uma

    @AnriL and @hemant: i m having the same issue

  • uma

    can anyone tell me how to change the resolution in GUI without using any command