How to Customize the Windows 7 Desktop
If you want to learn how to customize your Windows 7 desktop, this tutorial is for you! Change the wallpaper, font-size, sounds, screen saver, mouse click speed, colors, and more. Windows XP and Vista users: please see our separate tutorial How to Customize the Desktop for Windows XP and Windows Vista.
Author: Keynote Support
If you like video-based introduction, check out Microsoft Windows 7 Tutorial DVD - Video Training. We have reviewed this course (over 6 hours of hands-on lessons) and find it well done and a good value for our readers.
Click on a link below to go directly to the topic described.
- Change the Desktop Background
- Change the Window Color
- Change the Screensaver
- Disable or Change Sounds
- Change Font and Icon Size
- Change the Volume and Clock Settings
- Change the Mouse Settings
Change the Desktop Background (Wallpaper)
The picture on your desktop behind the icons is called the background, or wallpaper. You can choose a picture that Windows provides, or use your own image. Your wallpaper selection is made on the "Personalization window". The easiest way to get to the Personalization window is to right-click in a blank area of the desktop and click Personalization. Alternatively, you can click Start | Control Panel | Display, and click Personalization in the lower left corner.
The Personalization window contains various themes. A theme consists of a background image, window color, sounds, and screen saver; but you can customize a theme's default settings. The first group of themes (Aero) provides nice background images from which to choose.
Double-click a theme to select it. If you don't want to make any changes, exit from the window. Windows will cycle through the images in a theme if your PC is on AC power, but not on battery power unless you change the default setting (discussed below).
Click Desktop Background at the bottom of the window. Notice on the "Choose your desktop background" window that all of the images in your theme are selected. Click on an image and it will display as your background. Uncheck any image you don't like. If you want just one image versus cycling through multiple images, double-click on the image. The image will move to "My Themes" and is now your current image. You can save the theme or just exit the window.
On the "Choose your desktop background" window, you have other options. You may:
- Change the Picture position. This option tells Windows 7 how to place the image on the desktop. For a Windows-supplied background, you may wish to stay with the default of Fill. Otherwise, click the down arrow and choose from Fit, Stretch, Tile, or Center.
- Change the interval time between multiple images in a theme by clicking the down arrow by "Change picture every" and selecting a new value. The default value is 30 minutes on most systems.
- Ask Windows to Shuffle the images instead of displaying them in order by putting a checkmark in the box next to Shuffle.
- Select your own image to display as a background picture. Click Browse at the top, click on your image, and click OK. Your image should have approximately the same height-width ratio as your monitor if you want it to fill the entire desktop without distortion.
Don't forget to click Save As before leaving the "Choose your desktop background" window. After saving your changes, you are returned to the Personalization window. Your theme has been placed in the My Themes section. Click Save theme if you wish to name your theme.
To change themes, just choose a different theme in the main section or in the My Themes section. To delete a theme, right-click on the theme and click Delete. Then click Yes on the confirmation window. You cannot delete the active theme.
If you don't like any of the themes on your PC and you are connected to the Internet, click Get more themes online and follow the directions.
Change the Window Color
The setting to change the color of the windows in Windows 7 is also accessed from the Personalization window. Either right-click in a blank area of the desktop and click Personalization; or click Start | Control Panel | Display, and click Personalization in the lower left corner.
At the bottom of the window, click Window Color. Sixteen different color schemes are displayed on the "Window Color and Appearance" window - many more choices than in older versions of Windows. When you click on a color, the window changes to that color. Remove the checkmark by "Enable transparency" to see if you like that effect better. When finished, click Save Changes.
Change the Screen Saver
You may have noticed that when your monitor remains idle for a certain period of time, a screen saver - or moving image - activates. It used to be harmful to monitors to sit idle with the same image on the screen. This may still be a concern if you use an older CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor, but the flat screen and laptop monitors are not susceptible to this problem. Windows 7 comes with a very small selection of screen savers.
First, open the Personalization window by right-clicking on a blank area of the desktop and clicking Personalization. Alternatively, you can click Start | Control Panel | Display, and click Personalization in the lower left corner.
Now click Screen Saver at the bottom of the window. The "Screen Saver Settings" window displays. Click the down arrow under Screen Saver and make your selection. Click Preview to see the screen saver in action. You may also choose how many minutes should pass before Windows 7 displays the screen saver.
If you choose 3D Text, click Settings. Type your text, font, rotation, and other options. Click Display Settings to see the screen saver. When satisfied, click OK.
You can ask Windows to cycle through photos you have stored in the Pictures folder or another folder by choosing "Windows Live Photo Gallery." Click Settings to choose a folder other than Pictures and to select several other options.
Disable or Change Sounds
If you dislike the sounds that Windows makes when you do certain things, you can change them or turn them off. These changes are made from the Personalization window. The easiest way to get to the Personalization window is to right-click on a blank area of the desktop and click Personalization. Alternatively, you can click Start | Control Panel | Display, and click Personalization in the lower left corner.
Now click Sounds at the bottom of the window. The Sounds tab of the little "Sounds" window will display. If you selected a theme when choosing your desktop background, Windows will use the sounds that go with that theme. You may like the Landscape photos, but not the animal sounds that are part of the theme!
To turn off all sounds from the Windows 7 operating system, click the down arrow below "Sound Scheme" and click No Sounds.
Before changing the sound for individual Program Events, choose a different Sound Scheme. Then click on each Program Event and click Test to hear the sound. If you are pleased with the theme, click Apply and click OK.
To change the sound for some or all of the Program Events, click the first event in the Program Events box and click Test to hear the sound. For sounds you wish to replace, click Browse, double-click an item, and click Test. If you don't like the sound, repeat the process. When you are finished, click Apply and click OK.
If you don't want to modify the sounds that come with a theme by default, click Save As, type a new name, and click OK. Then click Apply and click OK to exit the window.
Change Font Size and Icon Size
If you are visually challenged, you may want to enlarge your PC's default size for fonts and icons. Right-click on a blank area of the desktop, click Personalization, and then click Display in the lower left corner. (Alternatively, you can click Start | Control Panel | Display.)
Various percentages will be displayed on the next window depending on the resolution of your monitor. All systems will show 100% and 125%. Monitors with a screen resolution of at least 1200 x 900 pixels will display 150%. When you click the radio button next to a percentage, depending on your monitor, you may see a warning that says "Some items may not fit on your screen if you choose this setting while your display is set to this resolution." After clicking Apply, Windows will prompt you to log off - you must log off and login again for the change to take effect.
If you just want to increase the font size, click Set custom text size (DPI) on the left sidebar. On the "Custom DPI Setting" window, click the down arrow and choose from 125%, 150%, or 200%. Or you can drag the ruler with your mouse and achieve huge font sizes - though this is not recommended. Click OK, click Apply, and log off and login again for the change to take effect.
Change the Volume and Clock Settings
To change the volume of your Windows PC speakers, find the volume icon in the Notification Area of the Taskbar. The icon looks like a round knob. Just click the icon once and move the volume slider up or down to increase or decrease the speaker volume. To mute the sound, click the little icon below the slider bar. When you click on anything else, the volume slider will disappear.
To change the system clock, right-click on the clock and click adjust date/time. On the Date and Time tab, click Change Date and Time or Change Time Zone, make necessary changes, and click OK.
The Additional Clocks tab allows you to set up and name two other clocks with their own time zones. To view these clocks, hover over the clock on the taskbar. Most Windows 7 system clocks are set to automatically synchronize with an Internet clock managed by Windows. If for some reason you want to turn off this feature, use the Internet Time tab.
Change the Double-Click Speed, Mouse Pointer, and Other Mouse Settings
If you don't like the size of your mouse pointer, or if you have trouble double-clicking effectively, try changing some of the settings for your mouse. Click Start | Control Panel | Mouse., and the "Mouse Properties" window will open. (If you are on the Personalization window, click Change mouse pointers and you will land on the Pointers tab of the Mouse Properties window.)
On the Buttons tab, you can select Right-handed or Left-handed. Below that is the setting for the Double Click Speed. Move the slider left or right to increase or decrease the speed. Then test your setting with the folder icon at right by double-clicking the folder to see if it opens. If it does not, adjust the speed again. Once you get the test folder to open, double-click it again to see if it closes. (Repeated double-clicking of the test folder vacillates between open and close.)
To change the mouse pointer, click the Pointer tab. On this tab you can select a different mouse pointer. For a larger mouse pointer, click the down arrow under Scheme and choose a scheme that mentions large or extra large. Then select a mouse from the Customize section.
The Pointer Options tab allows you to customize the speed of the point motion, choose to display trails, and a few other options. Click the Wheel tab if you would like to specify how many lines roll up with each notch of the mouse wheel, or specify horizontal scrolling settings.
When finished, click Apply and click OK.
We hope this article has been helpful. Cheers!
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