Site search
Logo

Change desktop background in Windows

By , winhelp.us logo. Last updated: 2020-02-08

How to change desktop background in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10

Windows has several good-looking photos/wallpapers for Desktop background, and slide shows in Windows Vista, 7, 8/8.1 and 10. You can also use your own photos for your Desktop slide show or wallpaper.

If you do not want to use a picture for the desktop background, you can choose a solid color instead.

Using a photo for Desktop background in Windows

In case you want just one photo for Desktop background in Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 or 10, and you know exactly where the photo is, right-click it in Windows/File Explorer and select Set as desktop background.
In Windows XP, the command is in Common Tasks pane, so you must click (not right-click) the picture instead.
Windows XP, Windows Explorer. To set a picture as Desktop background, click it. Then click 'Set as desktop background' in Common Tasks pane. Windows 8, Windows Explorer. To set a picture as Desktop background, right-click it. Then click 'Set as desktop background'.

To use advanced options, right-click some empty area of Desktop.
In Windows XP, click Properties.
In Windows Vista, 7, 8/8.1 and 10, click Personalize.
In Windows 8 and 8.1, you can also use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+I to open Settings Charm and click or tap Personalize.
In Windows 10, the Windows Key+I keyboard shortcut opens the Settings app. Choose Personalization there.
Alternatively in Windows 10 Anniversary Update and later, open the Run dialog with keyboard shortcut WINDOWS KEY+R or via the Quick Links menu (WINDOWS KEY+X), type ms-settings:personalization-background and click OK.
Windows XP Desktop. To change Desktop background picture, right-click on Desktop area and click Properties. Windows 7 Desktop right-click menu. To change Desktop background, right-click on Desktop area and click Personalize.

Windows 10 users can skip this step as the correct tab opens automatically.
In Windows XP, open the Desktop tab.
In Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1, click Desktop Background.
Windows XP, Display Properties. Click Desktop tab and select a picture from Background list. Windows Vista, Control Panel, Personalization. To change Desktop Background picture or color, click 'Desktop Background'. Windows 7, Personalization. To change Desktop Background picture or slide show, click 'Desktop Background'.

In Windows XP and Vista, choose a picture from the list and click OK.
By default, there is only one picture selected in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, and that is why slide show options are disabled. Just click or tap a photo and confirm with the Save changes button.
In Windows 10, click or touch the photo you like and desktop background changes right away.
Windows XP Display Properties, Desktop tab. When you click on a picture in Background list, the monitor frame above displays how your Desktop would look like (without Desktop icons). If you like the looks, click OK to change Desktop background. Windows Vista, Choose a desktop background. Click to select a background image. Windows 10, Settings app, Personalization, Background tab. Click or touch the photo you like.

In Windows 8 and 8.1, colors of selected items in Modern UI/Windows Store apps, title bars, window borders and Taskbar change according to the displayed photo if Color in Personalization section is set to Automatic.

In Windows 10, selected items in Windows Store apps and window borders change color only if the Automatically pick an accent color from my background option is turned on in the Colors tab of the Settings app, Personalization section.
Taskbar, title bars and Start menu in Windows 10 can be colorized according to the desktop background by enabling the Show color on Start, taskbar, action center, and title bar option in the same location of the Settings app.

Selecting a folder or library from which pictures are shown

If you are not satisfied with the default background photos in Windows, you can choose your own.

In Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1, you can use the Location or the Picture location combo box for selecting the folder or library where available photos are displayed from.
In Windows 10, there is only the Browse button.

  • Windows Wallpapers (Vista) or Windows Desktop Backgrounds is the default selection and includes all photos from built-in themes.
  • Pictures means all photos in the My Pictures folder in Windows Vista; Pictures Library means all your photos and all public photos in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1.
  • Sample Pictures includes all photo samples that came with Windows Vista; Top Rated Photos means all your photos and all public photos that have a high rating in Windows 7 and later. You can change the rating of your photos in Windows/File Explorer of Windows 7 and newer by clicking on a photo, adjusting its rating in Details pane and clicking the Save button.
  • Public Pictures includes all public photos in Windows Vista.
  • Solid Colors means that no photo will be displayed and the Desktop background will consist of one color only. This one will be covered later in the article.

Windows Vista, Choose a desktop background. To select a different folder to display pictures from, use the Location dropdown. Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To select a different folder or library, use the 'Picture location' combo box.

If the photo or folder you need is not on the list, click the Browse button.
Windows XP, Display Properties, Desktop tab. To use a picture not listed as Desktop background, click Browse. Windows Vista, Choose a desktop background. To select a folder that is not on the Location list, click Browse. Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To select a folder that is not on the Picture location list, click Browse. Windows 10, Settings app, Personalization, Background tab. To choose a photo not on the list, click Browse.

Browse (in Windows XP and Vista), Open (in Windows 10) or Browse For Folder (in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1) dialog opens.
In Windows XP, Vista and 10, find and click the photo you want for the background. Confirm the selection by clicking Open or Choose picture.
In Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, find and click the folder where the required photo is and then click the OK button. This displays all available pictures in the selected folder.
Windows XP, Browse dialog. Use shortcuts to Desktop, My Documents and My Computer on the left to find the picture you want for Desktop background. Click on the photo once and then click Open. Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. Choose the folder you want to display pictures from and click OK.

Background picture positioning options in Windows - fill, fit, stretch, tile, center, and span

By default, Windows XP and Windows Vista use the Stretch and Fit to Screen options to fit a photo to screen regardless of its aspect ratio. Windows 7 and later use the Fill option by default, resizing a picture according to screen resolution, but retaining its aspect ratio.

Picture position/fit options in Windows are:

  • Fill - only in Windows 7 and newer, the picture is resized to screen resolution while retaining the aspect ratio
  • Fit or Fit to Screen - in Windows Vista, the picture is resized to screen resolution ignoring aspect ratio. In Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, the aspect ratio is retained, possibly leaving blank edges on the screen.
  • Stretch - in Windows XP, 7, 8/8.1 and 10, the picture is resized to screen resolution without retaining the aspect ratio.
    Please do note that in Windows 7, this option can be broken after applying January 2020 updates - black background is displayed instead of the stretched photo. Other options still work fine, though. To fix this, apply the KB4539602 manual update from Microsoft. You do need to have a few prerequisites installed, these are described in the corresponding support article.
  • Tile - if a picture is smaller than screen resolution, it is repeated across the screen vertically and horizontally.
  • Center - if a picture is smaller than screen resolution, it is centered on the screen, leaving blank areas around it. If a photo is larger than screen resolution, only the center part of it is visible.
  • Span - only in Windows 10, the photo is divided across multiple displays/monitors. Panoramas are best suited here.

To change photo position, select a value from Position (Windows XP), How should the picture be positioned (Windows Vista), Picture position (Windows 7 and 8/8.1) or Choose a fit (Windows 10) dropdown.
Windows XP Display Properties, Desktop tab. Select a suitable fit for the background photo from the 'Position' dropdown. Click OK. Windows Vista, Choose a desktop background. To change picture position options, select the desired value from the 'How should the picture be positioned' combo box. Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To change background picture position options, select a value from the 'Picture position' dropdown. Windows 10, Settings app, Personalization, Background tab. To change wallpaper positioning, select a value from the 'Choose a fit' combo box.

Enabling and configuring Desktop Slide Show in Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10

Windows 7 and later allow using slideshows for the background - the photos are switched at intervals you specify.

In Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, select a folder or library from the Picture location combo box or use the Browse button to specify your own folder.
In Windows 10, choose Slideshow from the Background combo box. By default, photos in your Pictures folder are used. Use the Browse button for changing the location. You can choose only one folder/album.

To select or deselect a photo in Windows 7 and 8/8.1, hover your mouse pointer over a picture and fill or clear its checkbox.
To quickly select all pictures available, use the Select all button. To clear the whole current selection, click Clear all.
Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To quickly select all available pictures for Desktop slide show, click 'Select all'. To clear any selections, click 'Clear all'.

To change the picture switching interval of Desktop Slide Show, select a value from Change picture every combo box.
Laptop users should certainly leave the When using battery power, pause the slide show to save power checkbox in Windows 7 and 8/8.1 unticked. In Windows 10, make sure the Allow slideshow when on battery power switch is in the Off position.
Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To change Desktop Slide Show picture switching interval, select a value from the 'Change picture every' dropdown. Windows 10, Settings app, Personalization, Background tab. Select 'Slideshow' from the 'Background' combo box, then use 'Browse' for locating the folder with photos

To display selected pictures in random order, enable the Shuffle option.
Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To display Desktop Slide Show pictures in random order, select the Shuffle check box.

Selecting a background color for Desktop

As background photos might use a quite large chunk of memory, so it is sometimes better to use a solid color instead. This could improve your device's performance a bit if your PC has less than 4 GB of RAM.

In Windows XP, click a color in the Color combo box. To disable background photo, click (None) in the Background list.
In Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1, choose Solid Colors from Location or Picture location combo box and click the color you prefer.
In Windows 10, select Solid color from the Background dropdown and touch or click the color you like.
Windows XP Display Properties, Desktop tab. To disable background picture, select '(None)' from the Background list. To change Desktop color, select a color from the Color list. Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To disable background picture and use a solid color instead, select 'Solid Colors' from the 'Picture location' dropdown. Windows 10, Settings app, Personalization, Background tab. To use a color for desktop background, choose 'Solid color' from the 'Background' combo box and select the color you like.

If you are not satisfied with the default colors on the list, click Other (in Windows XP) or More (in Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1).
Windows 10 has this option only in Creators Update and newer: use the Custom Color button.
Windows XP, Display Properties, Desktop tab. To define a custom color for solid color background, click the 'Other' button. Windows 7, Choose your desktop background. To define a custom color for solid color background, click the 'More' button.

In the Color dialog, use the slider and target mark on the right side to select a color. Alternatively, you can type Red, Green, and Blue (RGB), or Hue, Saturation and Luminance values in their respective boxes, or select something from the Basic colors list on the left.
Click OK to activate the custom color.
Windows 7, Color selection box. Use slider and target mark to define a custom color. You can also type in RGB values instead. Click OK to set the selected color as your Desktop background color.

Changing background color without disabling background photos in Windows Vista and 7

If a photo does not fill the whole screen and you need to change Desktop background color for a better match in Windows Vista or 7, you need to go back a step. In Windows 8 and newer, the option is not available anymore.
Click on an empty area of the Control Panel window and then press the Backspace key once.

In Windows Vista, click Window Color and Appearance. In Windows 7, click Window Color.
Windows Vista, Personalize appearance and sounds. To change Desktop background color, click 'Window Color and Appearance'. Windows 7, Change the visuals and sounds on your computer. To change Desktop background color, click 'Window Color'.

In Windows Vista, the Appearance Settings window opens. Click the Advanced button.
In Windows 7, click the Advanced appearance settings link in the bottom of Change the color of your window borders, Start menu, and taskbar window.
Windows Vista, Appearance Settings. To change Desktop background color, click Advanced. Windows 7, Change the color of your window borders, Start menu, and taskbar. To change Desktop background color, click 'Advanced appearance settings'.

The Advanced Appearance (Vista) or Windows Color and Appearance window opens.
Make sure that Desktop is selected in the Item combo box. Then select an appropriate color from the Color 1 combo box or specify a custom color clicking the Other button.
Windows Vista, Advanced Appearance. Select Desktop background color from the 'Color 1' combo box. Then click OK. Windows 7, Window Color and Appearance. Select Desktop background color from the 'Color 1' combo box. Then click OK.


 

Ctrl+F searches in the contents







Next: Change desktop icons in Windows
Previous: Desktop Gadgets in Windows Vista and 7