I really don't know who at MS thought ClearType was a good idea, but personally I hate it. I want maximum clarity, contrast and sharpness on my desktop, so disabling ClearType is one of the first things to do when starting with a fresh Windows installation. For some strange reason you really need to dig deep to find the settings to do that. Here are the required steps, which I collected from various forums:

Disable ClearType:

  • Control Panel -> Display -> Adjust ClearType text
  • Uncheck "Turn on ClearType" and click through the adjustment wizard
  • Finish

Disable font smoothing:

  • Control Panel -> System -> Advanced system settings -> Advanced -> Performance -> Settings...
  • Uncheck "Smooth edges of screen fonts"
  • OK, OK

For a more Windows XP -look, you can change UI fonts:

  • Control Panel -> Personalization -> Window Color (bottom row, second from left) -> Advanced appearance settings...
  • Click through the items and change fonts to Tahoma
  • OK, Save changes

Now you should have a crisp and sharp desktop without any blur whatsoever (unless your monitor sucks or is set to a non-native resolution). Some other programs (like PuTTY) uses Antialiasing too to blur things up, but that can be disabled as well: Windows -> Appearance -> Font quality: Default.

In short the keywords to avoid are: ClearType, Smoothing, Antialiasing

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