If you have not read this page before continue reading it, from top to bottom, as normal. Otherwise you can click on a subject below to get near/on the subject you was reading before. Taskbar Icons & Settings is the next section - It is also linked at the bottom of this page.

Change Desktop Background          Show / Hide Icons          Display Themes

In this section I will show you how to change the Appearance (Screen Resolution/Size, Background and Theme) of your Desktop so that you can use a picture of your choice for the background, for example, and have more screen space to work with (if your Graphics Card supports multiple screen resolutions/sizes).

To change the appearance of your desktop you first need to launch (run/execute) the Personalization control panel. This can be done by either going to the Control Panel and double clicking on the PERSONALIZATION icon or by right clicking on an empty area of the desktop and then selecting the PERSONALIZE menu-item from the Options menu that appears. In this example I will use the quickest and easiest method, which is the Options menu. However. Regardless of which method is used, either method will open the Personalization control panel (window).

Fig 1.0  Right click on an empty area of the desktop - Select PERSONALIZE.....

Fig 1.1  .....or Click the PERSONALIZATION control panel.

Fig 1.2  Click on the DISPLAY link to continue

When the Personalization control panel (window) has opened look to the left window pane and you will see some links at the top and bottom of it. Click on the link called DISPLAY, which should be the first link at the bottom, to go to the Display control panel - You could go to the Display control panel directly by clicking on the DISPLAY Control Panel but in this example I am familiarising you with the Personalization control panel.

The reason why I am taking you to the Display control panel first, instead of changing the desktop background first for example, is because I will show you how to change the Screen Resolution (Desktop Screen Size). There is not much point changing the desktop background first, by clicking on the DESKTOP BACKGROUND link, because the background will either be shrunk or expanded according to the screen resolution (the desktop's screen size). Therefore, change the desktop screen size first and then find/use a background picture that will suit that desktop screen size. Obviously, if you do not need to change your desktop's screen size simply ignore this example and jump to Fig 2.0 instead.

When you have clicked on the DISPLAY link (above) you will be taken to the Display control panel (below), where you then need to click on its ADJUST RESOLUTION link (located towards the top of the left window pane).

Fig 1.3  Click on the ADJUST RESOLUTION link to continue

Clicking on the ADJUST RESOLUTION link takes you to the Resolution control panel, where you then use the RESOLUTION Slider button to either lower (shrink) or higher (expand) the desktop's screen size.

Fig 1.4  Drag the slider button and then release the left mouse button when you are happy with the resolution (desktop screen size)

In this example I am going to set the resolution (slider button) to a desktop screen size of 800 x 600, from its original resolution of 1280 x 800. Although in this day and age Computer Monitors/TVs are becoming larger and wider, sometimes you need to drop down to 800 x 600 for example if you are a website designer or someone who needs to know what a photograph, for example, will look like on a desktop screen size of 800 x 600.

Fig 1.5  Click on the APPLY button to view the desktop screen in its new resolution (size)

Sliders work by dragging (moving/sliding) them, just like you would drag a window. So in this example I started off at 1280 x 800. To drag you simply move the mouse pointer over the slider button and then click the left mouse button. Keep the left mouse button clicked (held down) as you then move the mouse pointer (slider button) up or down. When you are happy with the resolution (desktop screen size) release the left mouse button.

Unfortunately, as you drag (slide) the slider button up or down the desktop screen will not automatically change size - Not until you click on the APPLY button (Fig 1.5 above). Doing that will change the desktop screen to its new size (i.e. 800 x 600) and then bring up the following message requester, whereby you need to click on its KEEP CHANGES button to keep the new desktop screen size. If you want to cancel, for whatever reason(s), either leave the message requester alone or click on the REVERT button to revert back to the previous desktop screen size (i.e. 1280 x 800).

Fig 1.6  Click on the KEEP CHANGES button to accept the new desktop screen size (resolution)

Although the LOWest resolution is normally a desktop screen size of 800 x 600 the HIGHest resolution depends on how good your computer's Graphics Card is and/or how good your Monitor/TV is. For example. My laptop's HIGHest resolution (above) has a desktop screen size of 1280 x 800 whereas my previous laptop's HIGHest resolution only had 1024 x 768. And although a HIGHer resolution sounds better it is not always suitable to set your desktop to its HIGHest resolution. Why? Because web pages and documents can look too small and/or out of place/position. There is also the matter of resources used (i.e. memory). The HIGHer the resolution the harder your graphics card has to work, because it has more dots/pixels to draw for example.

In this section I have mentioned Resolution and Desktop Screen Size as if they are the same thing, to make it easier for you to understand, but in reality desktop screen size is one element of a monitor's/tv's resolution. Meaning. Resolution also consists of the Number Of Colours used on a desktop screen, for example, as well as how many pixels/dots the screen uses (how big the desktop screen size is). Even the control panel hides many of the advanced features of resolution away from you, for various reasons. So with desktop screen size and resolution just stick to the basics and think of them as the same thing (ignorance is bliss sometimes!).


The need to change your desktop's resolution may not be of your choosing. A piece of software (i.e. a Game or Website) may have forced it upon you, by stating that it cannot display its screens or documents properly because your desktop's resolution is too LOW. With the desktop background it is different. Changing your desktop's background is your choice and a purely cosmetic choice.

Fig 2.0  Click on the DESKTOP BACKGROUND link to continue

To change the desktop's background begin by clicking on the DESKTOP BACKGROUND link, at the bottom of the Personalization window (Fig 2.0 above), to open the Desktop Background window (below). With the Desktop Background window open you then have two choices. Either click on a Windows Wallpaper picture (displayed in front of you) and use it as your desktop background or click on the PICTURE LOCATION drop-down menu for more choices.

Fig 2.1  Either click on a picture (wallpaper) or click on the PICTURE LOCATION drop-down menu for more choices

If you decide to use a Windows Wallpaper picture, clicking on that picture will instantly change the desktop's background to use that picture. To view more pictures move the scrollbar, on the right of the picture-display area, up or down; or press the UP/DOWN keyboard keys. Clicking on the CANCEL button will undo any desktop background changes you made, during this session of using Desktop Background only, and then go back to the Personalization window. This is good if you decide you do not like any of the Windows Wallpapers.

As said; If you want more choices click on the PICTURE LOCATION drop-down menu and then select another choice. You can also use the BROWSE button next to the PICTURE LOCATION drop-down menu to find a picture of your own choice.

Windows Desktop Backgrounds (Wallpapers)

These are the default background pictures (known as Wallpapers) supplied with Windows 7. If you scroll up/down the preview pane (Fig 2.1 above) you will see more, categorized, sample Windows Wallpapers.

Pictures Library

These are your pictures, that live inside your Picture Library (PICTURES folder), which must be in the Wallpaper .jpg file format and dimensions - This means the size must match that of a Windows Wallpaper picture and the picture file itself must be in the .jpg format. Your picture might need to be 1024 x 768 in size for example, depending on your monitor's/tv's dimensions (desktop screen size/resolution), and may then be stretched or shrunk in order to fit those dimensions (i.e. in order to fit a desktop screen size of 800 x 600).

Top Rated Photos

These are the pictures found in your Sample Pictures sub-folder, whose parent folder is the Pictures folder.

Solid Colors

These are a set of predefined colours that when clicked on instantly change the desktop's background into that colour. You can define your own colour by clicking on the MORE link. This will bring up the Windows 7 colour selector/definer.

Fig 2.2  Click on a colour or click on the MORE link to choose your own colour

If you scroll down to the bottom of the Desktop Background window, when using any of the Picture choices, you will see the PICTURE POSITION drop-down menu (below). It has options on it that allow you to FILL up the screen, FIT onto the screen, STRETCH to fit the screen, TILE or CENTER the desktop background with a picture (as exampled by the icons to the left of each Position option). In this example I have chosen to Tile my own picture by selecting the TILE option.

Fig 2.3  Select a PICTURE POSITION option to see how it looks as a Desktop Background

If you want to use a picture from a Flash Drive for example as your desktop background picture you can do so using the BROWSE button. Either BROWSE your flash drive directly or copy pictures from it first, into the Pictures folders for example, before clicking on the BROWSE button.

And if you get bored with the same picture you can always use the SELECT ALL option to tick all the picture files within a folder for example. Doing this will give you the option to rotate, every 30 minutes for example, another one of those pictures - Use the CHANGE PICTURE EVERY drop-down menu for more Time options.


Going back to the Personalization window. If you want the system Desktop Icons shown or hidden (Computer, Username, Network, Recycle Bin and Control Panel) click on the CHANGE DESKTOP ICONS link (located in the top-left corner) to open the Desktop Icons Settings window and then tick the icons you want shown, and untick those you want hidden, before clicking on the OK button.

Fig 3.0  Click on the CHANGE DESKTOP ICONS link (located in the top-left corner) to continue

Fig 3.1  The Desktop Icons Settings window - Untick (Hide Icons) or Tick (Show Icons) and then click on the OK button

In the above example I want all the system desktop icons shown, so I have put a tick next to each icon's name, but if I never use a network (i.e. two computers attached to each other via an ethernet cable) I could leave the Network icon (icon name) unticked. Under normal circumstances though you might only want the Computer, User Files and Recycle Bin icons shown (if any at all). Anyway. When you have chosen which icons to show (tick) and/or hide (untick) click on the OK button to update the desktop.

If you cannot see any icons on your desktop at all, including the system desktop icons and normal software shortcut icons, it could be that you have switched off the SHOW DESKTOP ICONS setting. This setting is unrelated to the Desktop Icons Settings window and is deactivated, and activated, by right clicking on the desktop.

Fig 3.2  Click on SHOW DESKTOP ICONS sub-menu menu-item to continue

Fig 3.3  The desktop icons can be seen on the desktop

To have the desktop icons shown on the desktop; Right click on an empty area of the desktop to bring up its Options menu and then hover over the VIEW sub-menu to display its sub-menu menu-items. If the SHOW DESKTOP ICONS sub-menu menu-item is unticked (Fig 3.2 above) you need to tick it in order to see the desktop icons on the desktop. From the VIEW sub-menu move the mouse pointer over to the SHOW DESKTOP ICONS sub-menu menu-item and then left click on the SHOW DESKTOP ICONS sub-menu menu-item (Fig 3.2 above). Your desktop icons should then appear on the desktop. Fig 3.3 above shows the SHOW DESKTOP ICONS sub-menu menu-item ticked, which means that setting is now switched on (desktop icons are viewable on the desktop).


With the Personalization window still open, click on a Windows Theme to preview that theme - A Theme is a Desktop Background plus a set of Sounds, Icons and other elements to help you personalize your computer. For example. Some themes use the Windows 7 AERO feature (i.e. Transparent windows) while others are very basic, perhaps for disability (ease of access) reasons, and are known as High Contrast themes.

Fig 4.0  Click on a Windows Theme to preview it

The Basic themes, and High Contrast themes to some degree, are only of real use if you want/need to reserve system resources such as Memory and Graphics. Downgrading to the WINDOWS CLASSIC theme for example can save you megabytes/gigabytes of memory depending on your computer, its graphics and so on. Saying this though, a good percentage of computers these days come with plenty of memory and other resources whereby you should not really need to downgrade.

Fig 4.1  Click on a Windows Theme to preview it

You can change a theme's Colour by clicking on the WINDOWS COLOR link, which takes you to the Windows Color And Appearance window (above), and then select a colour. In this example I have chosen a Orange color but as you can see it has turned the window frame more of a brown colour. This is because the window is over a dark desktop - So it transparency is not bringing much light. The orange will become lighter though if the window frame is over a lighter background.

You can also change the intensity of a colour, using the COLOR INTENSITY slider button, and much more. However. Even though the personalization window and desktop background windows offer more advanced features, as an Absolute Beginner do not wonder too much into those features. Some of them are very advanced. The options I have shown you above should be adequate enough.


If after experimenting with the above display options, and after clicking on the appropriate APPLY and/or SAVE CHANGES buttons, you do not like your changes you can always revert back to a Windows Theme you do like (by following the above steps again). Therefore, why not experiment? Saying this, three things to keep in mind when changing display settings are "How is my software going to react to these changes?", "Will the font size be too big?" and "Will web pages display properly with my changes?".