How to Pick a Background for Your Windows 8.1 Desktop - dummies

How to Pick a Background for Your Windows 8.1 Desktop

By Woody Leonhard

There’s nothing particularly magical about the Windows 8.1 desktop background. In fact, Windows 8.1 can put any picture on your desktop — big one, little one, ugly one — even a picture stolen straight off the web. If you have more than one picture you fancy, Windows can put together a running slide show. And if you have two monitors, side-by-side, Windows can put separate pictures on each.

Here’s how to personalize your desktop background:

  1. Right-click any empty part of the desktop and choose Personalize.

    The Personalization dialog box appears.


    If you want to use one of the built-in combinations of the Windows desktop background, window color, sound scheme, and screen saver, you can simply choose among the offered themes. Scroll down in the box on the top and choose the one you like.

    The Synced Theme (if you have one or more) that appears in the top part of this dialog box comes from other Windows 8 and 8.1 PCs, where you’ve logged on with the same Microsoft account ID.

    The Get More Themes Online link takes you to a Microsoft website that has a huge variety of themes, which will work on Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. There are some truly astounding themes for two-monitor Windows 8.1 setups, with half of the background showing in one screen and half in the other. The Nightfall & Starlight Panoramic theme is one of those gorgeous two-monitor themes.

  2. At the bottom, click the Desktop Background link.

    Remember, this is just the desktop. Nothing here changes the tiles or the background on the Metro Start screen.

    Windows shows you the Desktop Background dialog box.


  3. Select the Picture Location drop-down box and choose from many different wallpapers that ship with Windows. You can also click the Browse button and choose any picture you like.

    If you hover your mouse over a picture, Windows shows you a description of the picture, and a check box appears in the upper-left corner. If you select the check box, Windows adds that particular picture to its background slide show. You can put dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of pictures in your slide-show collection. And, at the bottom of the screen, you can change the speed of the slide show.

    Keep in mind that cycling through desktop backgrounds quickly can create noticeable delays in your daily activities. Notebook and netbook owners should avoid setting the delay to high levels because of the additional, completely unnecessary, battery drain.

    The Solid Colors category changes the base color of the desktop. The base color is what shows through if your desktop background doesn’t fill the whole screen.

  4. If your picture is too big or too small to fit on the screen, you can tell Windows how to shoehorn it into the available space.

    Use the drop-down Picture Position list at the bottom of the Desktop Background dialog box.

  5. Click the Save Changes button and then the X button to close the Personalization dialog box.

    Your desktop slide show begins immediately.

Picture Position Settings
Setting What It Means
Fill Windows expands the picture to fit the entire screen and then
crops the edges. The picture doesn’t appear distorted, but
the sides or top and bottom may get cut off.
Fit The screen is letterboxed. Windows makes the picture as big as
possible within the confines of the screen and then shows the base
color in stripes along the top and bottom (or left and right). No
distortion occurs, and you see the entire picture but you also see
ugly strips on two edges.
Stretch The picture is stretched to fit the screen. Expect
Tile The picture is repeated as many times as necessary to fill the
screen. If it’s too large to fit on the screen, you see the
Fill options.
Center This one is the same as the Fit setting except that the
letterboxing goes on all four sides.

Windows lets you right-click a picture — a JPG or GIF file, regardless of whether you’re using File Explorer or Internet Explorer or even Firefox — and choose Set As Desktop Background (in File Explorer or Firefox) or Set As Background (in Internet Explorer). When you do so, Windows makes a copy of the picture and puts it in the C:UsersusernameAppDataRoamingMicrosoft folder and then sets the picture as your background.