How to Change Your Desktop Settings

When you get a computer with Windows on it, it has a basic look. It has certain desktop wallpaper, it has certain icons, it utilizes certain sounds, and so on.
Published: Oct 11, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan

This question submitted by Randy Johnson, Tom Paxen, Jennifer Conner,Patty Gray, and numerous others

When you get a computer with Windows on it, it has a basic look. It has certain desktop wallpaper, it has certain icons, it utilizes certain sounds, and so on. Most people, however, like to be able to customize their computer so it look the way they want it to. There are a number of things you can do to alter the way Windows looks, sounds, and feels. For this example I'm going to use Windows XP, but the process is very similar with all other versions of Windows.

The Desktop

Some of the very first shareware programs written for Windows were"wallpaper changers." These would change your desktop wallpaper everyday or ever week, depending on what you wanted. To change your wallpaper yourself, here's what you do. Using the standard Start menu that comes with Windows XP you'd click:

Start ... Control Panel...Appearance and Themes...Change the desktop background

You can also right-click on the desktop and select Properties.This is the most direct way to change things like wallpaper no matter what version of Windows you have.

The main tab of this dialog is called Display Properties and it has several tabs. Select the tab labeled "Desktop" and you'll see a small picture of your current wallpaper. You'll also see a list of available wallpaper. These selections are located in the Windows directory, but you can pick any BMP or JPG file that's on your computer.Select a new background. You can also decide how it's going to be displayed. You'll note a drop-done menu called "Position". From here you can pick Center, Tile, or Stretch. Make a selection, click "Apply", and you're done. Note that the other tabs under "Display Properties" will let you change other aspects of Windows. So, don't click "OK" yet.


Another tab is labeled Appearance and it lets you change the wayWindows appears. You can pick from the "style" of windows and buttonsthat you want and you can pick a color scheme. Color schemesrange through a variety of colors -- from red to green to blue. Pick theone you want. Note that you also change the "Font Size" if you want. Youcan pick from Normal, Large, or Extra Large. On this same tab there area couple of extra buttons -- Advanced and Effects. If you click on theEffects button you'll see you can elect to have shadows under menus,show the content of windows while dragging, select a transition effect,and more. The "Advanced" button lets you change the appearance in avariety of areas, like icons, desktop, active title bar, icon spacing,and many more. Experiment -- you can't hurt anything.


The Settings tab lets you alter the way Windows is displayed on your monitor by letting you alter the screen resolution. The lower your screen resolution, the larger everything is on your desktop. So, for example, I use a screen resolution of 1152 X 864. If I changed it to 800X 600, all the things on my desktop would be quite a bit larger. You can see what your resolution is currently set to and change it. If you make a change Windows will display it and give you the opportunity to accept it or go back to what you had. On this tab you can also select the"Color Quality". Some options, like color quality and resolution will depend on your graphics card and monitor.

Screen Saver And Themes

There are a couple of other tabs here that I want to make note of. One is the Screen Saver tab and this is where you can select a screensaver. You can select one of the screen savers that comes with Windows,or one that you've downloaded an installed. Decide how long you want the computer to be idle before the screen saver comes on and preview it. In the early days of computers screen savers were very important. Many simply turned the screen black, but this stopped a process called burn-in where an image could become a permanent part of the screen.Today screen savers are somewhat less important because many monitors will turn themselves off, but screen savers come in a huge variety. The other tab is for Themes. Themes are available for download or you can purchase a product like Microsoft Plus! that delivers themes.


Another part of the "desktop" is the sounds that are used. Like so many things sounds are a matter of personal preference. Some people use few,if any, and others use lots. I, for example, use quite a few sounds because I generally have multiple things going. The sounds let me know what's going on even if I can't see a certain window. To change your sounds, using the default Windows XP start menu you'd click:

Start - Control Panel - Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices - Change the sound scheme

As you'll see, you can add sounds to a wide variety of system events.From the sounds when Windows starts to the sound made when you empty the Recycle Bin, you have a lot of choices. Windows comes with some default sounds or you can use any .WAV format sound file. You can find a widevariety of sounds online including clips from movies and TV shows. If you go in and change a number of sounds you can save it as a "sound scheme." In this way you can have different sound schemes for different people or for different moods, it's up to you!

Other Choices

Beyond all the things we've discussed here, there are also software programs that will help you further customize Windows. These programs offer something similar to "skins" that will not only customize the way Windows looks, but every program you run. Some of these "looks" are very high tech and many are exotic. I've evaluated a number of such programs and a couple you might want to look at include:

I hope this helps you to customize Windows to be exactly the way you want it to be.

I'd like to thank Randy Johnson, Tom Paxen, Jennifer Conner, Patty Gray, and numerous others for asking this question.

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can submit it via email by clicking HERE. You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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