A very common issue many Mac users face is blurry fonts on their screens. They may also look fuzzy or even extremely thin. This is a very common issue for macOS High Sierra and newly launched macOS Mojave.

Blurry Fonts

Many users are having blurry text or fonts on Mac computers with external non-retina monitors. This blurriness seems to be due to changes in the anti-aliasing in these particular macOS versions. One example is having your Macbook Pro with retina display connected to an external display which may cause the text to be blurry on the latter.

What is a Retina Display?

A retina display is a IPS LCD and OLED displays that have a higher pixel density than traditional Apple displays. If your Mac computer has a retina display, this means that each user interface widget is doubled in width and height to compensate for the smaller pixels. Apple calls this mode HiDPI mode. The goal of retina displays is to make textual elements and images extremely crisp, so pixels are not visible to the naked eye. This is great for Mac users with retina displays, but not so great for Mac users that do have a non-retina display.

If you are using macOS High Sierra or Mojave and have a non-retina display (like an external monitor that does not display ultra-high resolution) you already noticed that the fonts and texts on that screen might be blurry and difficult to read. You can verify this by unplugging the external monitor from your Mac computer and looking at the native retina display that your Mac has. If you see a big difference in the blurriness then for sure your external display is non-retina and may have the issue we are talking about. But do not worry and continue reading the article as this is something that can be fixed.

There are a couple of remedies to smoothen fonts or text on your Mac’s external monitor. You can also experiment with combinations of these settings and try to get a clearer display if needed.

Enabling Font Smoothing in macOS High Sierra and Mojave via System Preferences

To enable this option you can follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.
  2. Select “General” and click on the box for “Use font smoothing when available” to enable this option (or if necessary disable it).

Blurry Fonts

This is the simplest checkbox and when it’s enabled, you might see a difference almost immediately. If the change you see on the screen is good enough, you might not need to do anything else to get rid of the blurry text on your Mac computer.

If you still feel that the text could look better, you will want to proceed with some extra adjustments.

Enabling Font Smoothing in macOS High Sierra and Mojave vía Terminal

If changing the settings in your General Preferences did not work and the fonts still feel blurry to you, we will need to continue with some more advanced methods and adjust font smoothing even deeper.

1. Go to Applications -> Utilities and then open the Terminal.
2. In the Terminal window type in the following command as shown below:

defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool NO

3. Press the Return key, then log out of the Terminal and reboot your Mac computer for the font smoothing settings to take effect.

To some Mac users, this change might be too soft and they won’t even see a difference in the clarity of their text or font. For others, this change might be enough to stop seeing the blurry text on their screens. If you are still scratching your head on how to get a clearer text and font on your Mac display, then let’s move on to the next adjustment.

Adjusting the Mac Font Smoothing Settings via Defaults.

The next step is a manual change, where you will try to change the strength of font smoothing settings or anti-aliasing in macOS. This procedure will also need to be performed via Terminal on your Mac computer. So we will once again head to the Applications/Utilities and open the Terminal.

Listed below you will find all smoothing default commands. You will need to enter one and then hit the Return key, then restart your Mac computer to verify that the changes have taken place.

  • Strong font smoothing defaults command:
defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 3
  • Medium font smoothing defaults command:
defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 2
  • Light font smoothing defaults command:
defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 1

You might want to try each of the described commands above to verify which one works best for you.

Reverting Any Changes in Font Smoothing in macOS

If you do not like the way your fonts and texts are looking after this troubleshooting procedure, you can revert any and all changes that we have performed so far. To do this we will need to access the Terminal application again.

Once in the Terminal, we will type the following commands:

This command will remove any custom font smoothing setting from your Mac OS X:

defaults -currentHost delete -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

The next command will revert the changes done to the rendering font smoothing settings back to the defaults in Mac OS X Mojave:

defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool YES

Once more you will need to restart your Mac for all the changes to take place.

The methods mentioned in this guide, might not apply to you directly or to a particular display or screen you have connected at a given point to your Mac computer with High Sierra or Mojave, but in most cases this is all you need to improve how these 2 operating systems handle font rendering and anti-aliasing.

Data Recovery

One thing you can be sure about, if by any chances while you are configuring or touching any specific Settings in your Mac computer and you make a mistake and delete any important files, you can use Disk Drill to recover your lost data. Disk Drill is a free Mac application that will let you scan your Mac computer and retrieve your deleted files and folders at the highest data recovery rate possible.

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.updated: June 3, 2021 author: Robert Agar