There are any number of reasons you would want to force Windows 95 or Windows 98 to a specific refresh rate, such as 60 Hz. When recording a CRT monitor with a video camera, most refresh rates cause an annoying line because the refresh rate is out of sync with your camera. But certain specific rates look good on camera. And for other purposes, some monitors only support specific refresh rates. And higher refresh rates are easier on the eyes.
To force a specific refresh rate manually, such as 60 Hz or 75 Hz in Windows 9x operating systems like Windows 95 and Windows 98, you use a registry key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Class\Display.
Manually setting the Win9x refresh rate
Occasionally a monitor will go goofy on you when Windows decides to use a weird refresh rate that the monitor won’t support. Sometimes Windows (especially Windows 95) just flat refuses to work with a really old VGA monitor because it insists on using something other than 60 Hz. Or maybe Win9x just isn’t using the highest rate your monitor supports. Or maybe you’re recording video and want to get the best possible image by synchronizing the CRT to your camera.
But there’s no easy way in the UI to set a specific refresh rate in Windows 95 or 98. You have to go spelunking. Boot in safe mode, which uses boring but safe 640×480, 60 Hz. Right click on the desktop, select Properties, then select Display Properties. Set the resolution to something you know works with your combination of hardware. The click Start, select Run, and type REGEDIT and press OK. Inside regedit, navigate to HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Class\Display.
Your computer may have multiple forks at Display, starting at 0000. The highest number is the active video card. Select it and navigate to Default\RefreshRate. It will probably be set either to -1 or 0, which lets Windows and the monitor negotiate. Change that value to 60 to force 60 Hz, which is typically a safe rate for most monitors and typically looks good on camera. Or set it to another value if you want to force a refresh rate other than 60 Hz or whatever Windows and the monitor decide is best.
What refresh rate is best for Windows 95 or 98?
To reduce eyestrain and reduce the risk of burn in, set the highest refresh rate your monitor supports at your desired resolution. Remember, refresh rate comes at the expense of resolution. Some monitors advertised obscenely high rates, but those will generally only work at 640×480. Most monitors top out at 85 Hz (at best) at usable resolutions. Check your documentation that came with your monitor if you’re not certain.
Be careful–overdriving your monitor or your video card can seriously damage one or the other, and I can’t take any responsibility for that.
To look best on camera, check what FPS your camera records at, and set your refresh rate to either the same number or an even multiple. If your camera records at 30 fps, you want 60 Hz, since that’s double your camera’s FPS rate.
I used this trick to get Windows to work with a number of really early VGA monitors in the 90s. Sometimes I had to force a rate lower than 60 Hz with certain monitors. Today, the main reason to force a specific refresh rate is to make CRTs look good in recordings, say, for Youtube videos.