How to customize the desktop background in Windows

Some people might not yet have discovered that Microsoft supplies a selection of colorful wallpapers with its operating systems, and thus they never experiment with changing the standard background. We've always picked something other than the default background, so in this article we will talk about how that's done in Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. We'll also talk about ways to go beyond what's supplied by Windows or already on your computer. Let’s start:

The basics about themes in Windows

Microsoft puts together collections of backgrounds, window colors, sounds and screen savers into what they've called themes. Choosing one of those is a great way to get started with customizing your desktop. Each theme has a selection of wallpapers to choose from. You can keep just one, or let them play like a slideshow. The following illustrations are from our computers; yours will look slightly different depending on what options you've chosen, but the procedure will be the same in any case.

Regardless of whether you use Windows 10, Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, right-click (or tap and hold) anywhere on the desktop to begin. The right-click menu looks different in the three operating systems, and your menu will very likely look different from ours, depending on what you have installed, but the Personalize choice is there on all.

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If you’re using a Windows 8.1 or a Windows 7 PC or device, then the above action will take you straight to the Personalization window. However, if you’re on Windows 10, it will take you to the Personalization section from the Settings app. To get to the desktop themes settings, you will have to click or tap Themes on the left side of the Settings app, and then click or tap on Desktop themes on the right.

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The Personalize window is slightly different in Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. Windows 7 has Aero themes in addition to the standard themes, and you can change your account picture from this window as well.

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Other than that, though, the three operating systems work exactly the same way. Here’s a sample of what the Personalization window looks like in Windows 8.1.

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And in the next screenshot you can see what the Personalization window looks like in Windows 10.

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Click on a theme that appeals to you, and Windows will change your wallpapers, the screen colors, sounds and the screensaver to those included in that theme. Below, we've chosen the Characters Aero theme in Windows 7.

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In the screenshot below, we enabled the Flowers theme in Windows 8.1. Note how the window borders have changed color to match the theme.

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And finally, here’s what the Windows 10 theme looks like in, well, Windows 10. :)

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Play around with the available choices as much as you like. If none of the built-in themes pleases you, Microsoft has an outstanding collection here. We also have a great series of unique themes and interviews, here.

NOTE: We don't recommend using any of the high contrast themes unless you really need them, unless you are having sight issues. They are eye-bogglingly ugly.

How to use your own wallpapers for the desktop background

But what if none of the pre-made themes appeals to you? You can easily choose an image on your hard drive as your wallpaper.

In Windows 7, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the image you'd like to use as wallpaper. Right-click on your image, and choose “Set as desktop background” and you're done.

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In Windows 8.1, use File Explorer to navigate to your image, and right-click or tap and hold on it. The menu looks slightly different, but “Set as desktop background” is the same. Click and you've got it.

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The “Set as desktop background” is also present in Windows 10. Open File Explorer, navigate to the picture you want to use as wallpaper on your background, right click or tap and hold on it and then click or tap on the “Set as desktop background” option.

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But what if you don't want just one image? What if you want to have your own slideshow with multiple images from a folder? That's just as easy to do, and it works the same way in Windows Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, although it’s different in Windows 10. Go to the next page of this guide to learn how it’s done.

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About the Author: Codrut Neagu
Codrut is a Senior Editor on Digital Citizen. He's passionate about technology and he is fluent in working with several operating systems, including Windows and Linux. He likes to test security products and he feels like at home when digging through the registry, optimizing things or having fun on Telnet.