You don't have to put up with the default choices Windows makes for how your desktop looks. Armed with our collection of top tips, you'll be able to create a truly personalised desktop that reflects you and your personality. Read on to discover how to transform the colours, images, icons, mouse pointers and even the sounds that make up your desktop's theme.
1. Window colour
Make the colour of your windows match or contrast with your background for a stylish look
Start your customisation by changing the colour and intensity of the window colour scheme. Right-click the desktop and choose Personalize, followed by Window Colour and Appearance. Select the colour that you want and use the slider to set its intensity. If you want more options, click Show Colour Mixer and use the sliders to alter the hue, saturation and brightness of the window colour.
Use one of your own pictures to really personalise your desktop background
Right-click the desktop and choose Personalize, followed by Desktop Background. Here you can select each of the thumbnail images to see it previewed on your desktop. Once you’ve settled on the picture you want, click OK to set it as your background. Why not try one of your own photos? Click Browse and find the folder containing the picture that you want to use. Once you’ve found it, click Open. Select your chosen photo to add it to the desktop.
From Personalization, click Sounds. Here you can modify the existing sound scheme, save a new one or apply one that you saved earlier. Ensure that you're on the Sounds tab. This lists the sounds played with each Windows event. Select one of the Windows events with a sound icon next to it. Press the Test button to listen to the current sound. Click Browse and locate a new sound file (you can create your own using Sound Recorder, which is built into Windows, or download files from a site like Freesound). Once selected, click OK.
4. Modify the mouse pointer
Use a custom mouse pointer set to change the way you select items on your desktop
Right-click the desktop and choose Personalize > Change Mouse Pointers. Select the scheme that you want to use. You can modify individual pointers by selecting one in the current scheme and clicking Browse. Replace this with any static cursor file with the extension .CUR or an animated cursor file with the extension .ANI. Download free cursors from the Open Cursor Library.
5. Change icons
An effective way to achieve a new look is by switching the icons for your most commonly used programs, especially if these are already displayed on the desktop. There are a few alternative icons available for Windows items and often for third party programs as well. To alter a desktop shortcut icon, right-click it and choose Properties. Press the Change Icon button to see the list of available icons for that shortcut. If there aren’t enough icons in this list for you, click Browse and look for any other icon files.
6. Design your own icons
You can even create icons from your own photo collection
Create your own icons with IcoFX Portable. Before importing your image, you need to resize or crop it to 256x256 pixels in a separate image-editing application like Paint.NET. Once done, open IcoFX and choose File > Import Image. Browse to your image. When the New Image dialog opens make sure 256x256 is selected under Size before clicking OK. Choose Icon > Create Icon From Image. Now choose the resolution and colour depth of each of the icons that you want to generate from this picture. If in doubt, stick with the defaults. Click OK to generate each file.
You can save the changes you make to your desktop, including window colour, sounds and background image, to a special theme file. Themes make it easy to quickly switch between different customisations. To do this, choose Theme from the Personalization dialog and click Save As to back it up. Provide a name and location and click Save. This will now be added to your list of themes in the drop-down box.
8. Account picture
In Windows 7 choose Start > Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety > Change Your Account Picture. In Windows 8 move the mouse to the bottom-right corner, choose the Settings charm, followed by Change PC Settings > Personalize > Account Picture. You can choose one of the available pictures or opt to browse for your own image. Click Change Picture to confirm. Try to use a square picture where possible so that its proportions look right when applied as your user picture.
9. Start screen and lock screen
Change the lock screen in Windows 8 to showcase a more eye-pleasing alternative
To change the Windows 8 start screen or lock screen, select the Settings charm, followed by Change PC Settings and Personalize. Choose Lock Screen and then select the image that you want to use or click Browse and find the picture file that you want. Choose Start Screen and select the picture that you want to use. You can change the colour scheme for the background colour and tile colour by selecting one from the choices below this. To make more radical adjustments to the start screen, install Windows 8 Start Screen Customizer.
10. Windows 7 logon screen
You can change the background image for the Windows 7 logon screen using Tweaks.com Logon Changer for Windows 7. Once installed, launch the program and choose Change Logon screen. Browse to the image you want to use and click Open. Click Test to see it previewed.