How to Change a Desktop Background

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Windows 10 Desktop

When it comes to personalizing your PC the biggest decision is what to use for your desktop background. Some people like to use a single image, while others (depending on your version of Windows) opt for a slideshow-style background that constantly changes.

Whatever your preference, here's how to change your desktop background in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 10

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Right-Click on an Open Digital Image

Change Desktop Background
Right-Click on an Open Image.

There are several ways to change the desktop background on your computer, and the way you choose may depend on which version of Windows you have.

The easiest way to make the change on any version of Windows is to open your favorite digital image, right-click on it, and from the context menu choose Set as desktop background.

In Windows 10, however, this process is slightly different since you can set an image as more than just your desktop background. When you double-click on an image in Windows 10 it opens in the built-in Photos app. Just as with other versions of Windows right-click on the image, but then choose Set as > Set as background. A small change, but one worth knowing about.

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Right-Click on an Image File

Change Desktop Background
Right-Click on an Image File.

Even if the image is not open you can still make it your background image. From File Explorer (aka Windows Explorer in Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7) right-click on the image file you want to use, and then from the context menu select Set as desktop background.

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Personalize Your Desktop

Change Desktop Background
Personalize Your Background.

For Windows XP:

Right-click an empty area on the desktop, select Properties from the context menu, then click on the Desktop Tab and select an image from the available ones listed in the scroll window.

For Windows Vista or Windows 7:

Right-click on the desktop, click Personalize, click Desktop Background and select an image from the available ones (using the drop-down menu, the Browse button or select an image in the viewer). Click "OK" when finished.

For Windows 10:

Right-click an empty area on the desktop once again and select Personalize from the context menu. This will open the Settings window. Alternatively you could go to Start > Settings > Personalization > Background. 

Either way, you'll end up in the same place. Now, select the image you want from the ones offered under "Choose your picture," or click Browse to find another image saved to your PC. 

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Windows 10 Slideshow

Slideshow background

If you'd rather see a slideshow on your desktop background instead of a single, static image navigate once again to Start > Settings > Personalization > Background. Then in the drop down menu under "Background" select Slideshow

A new option will appear directly below the drop down menu called "Choose albums for your slideshow." By default, Windows 10 will choose your Pictures album. If you'd like to change that to, say, a folder in OneDrive click the Browse button, and then navigate to your folder of choice via File Explorer. 

Once you've found what you want click Choose this folder.

One last tweak you'll want to know about is that you can set how often your slideshow changes. You can choose to swap pictures every minute or just once a day. The default is every 30 minutes. Look for the drop down menu under "Change picture every" to adjust this setting. 

A little lower down in the same settings window you'll also see options to shuffle your pictures, and to allow slideshows while on battery power--the default is to turn desktop background slideshows off in order to conserve power.

If you have a multi-monitor set-up, Windows will automatically select a different image for each display.

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Different images for dual monitors

Multi-monitor backgrounds

Here's the quick and easy way to get two different images on two different monitors. Open a folder with the two images you want, and then hold down the Ctrl button while you left-click each image. This lets you select two specific files even if they're not right next to each other.

Now right-click and select Set as desktop background once again. That's it, you've got two images ready to go. Windows 10 automatically sets these two images as a slideshow, which swaps monitors every 30 minutes--a setting that you can change as we saw above. 

Another time, we'll look at how you can set two different images on two different monitors in static mode so that they never switch.

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