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Chapter 4. Personalizing Your Work Envir... > Changing Your Desktop Background

Changing Your Desktop Background

You can change the image, or wallpaper, that appears under the icons on your desktop. If you don’t like the desktop backgrounds that Windows provides in Control Panel > Appearance and Themes, you can use a file of your own.

To change the desktop background:

In Control Panel, choose Appearance and Themes > Display Properties > Desktop tab (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6. Use the Desktop tab to select an image or browse for an HTML page as your desktop background.


Right-click blank space on the desktop; then choose Properties > Desktop tab.

Select an image from the Background list or click Browse to hunt for an image file on your computer or the network.

Windows looks for Background files in the My Pictures, \Windows, and \Windows\Web\Wallpaper folders.

Select the file’s icon in Windows Explorer; then click Set As Desktop Background in the Picture Tasks section of the task pane (Figure 4.7).

Figure 4.7. A picture folder is one for which the Pictures or Photo Album folder-type template has been applied on the Customize tab of the folder’s Properties dialog box.

From the Position drop-down list, choose one of these options:

Center to center the image on the desktop background.

Tile to repeat the image over the entire screen. This option works best with small images.

Stretch to resize the image to fit your screen (with some distortion). This option works best with large images and photos.

Select a desktop color to fill the space unoccupied by a picture.


Select a predefined color or click Other to specify a custom color.

Click OK (or Apply).


  • To display a solid desktop color with no picture, select None in the Background list.

  • To use an Internet Explorer image as wallpaper, right-click the image; then choose Set as Background. The downloaded image appears as Internet Explorer Background in the Background list. Each new Internet image you define as a background replaces the old one.

  • To use an Internet Explorer image as your permanent background, right-click the image as it appears in your browser; choose Save Picture As; save the image in My Pictures or a folder of your own; then proceed as described.

  • To place live Web content on your desktop, see the next section.

To Squish or Not to Squish?

The Stretch function of Display Properties can be handy, although the results are sometimes amusing. But a photo from a new digital camera can easily be larger than your computer’s entire screen—demonstrating the lack of a matching Squish function. Here’s how to detect and deal with the problem:

Right-click an empty area of your desktop; then choose Properties > Settings tab.

In the Screen Resolution box (bottom left), note the number of pixels (for example, 1024 × 768).

Find the icon or thumbnail of the image you want to use for wallpaper, and hover the pointer over it till its file information pops up.

Dimensions will be its size in pixels (for example, 1600 × 1200)

If the image’s dimensions are larger than your computer’s screen resolution, Windows fills your screen with the center portion of the image, and the edges go wherever leftover pixels mysteriously go. This result may be fine with you; the edges of an image are often the least interesting part. But if you want the uncropped image to be your wallpaper, make a new copy, using the Resize function of your favorite graphics program to shrink it to the same size as your screen—or at least come closer.

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