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How to Set a Custom Logon Screen Background on Windows 7

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Windows 7 makes it possible to change the welcome screen that appears when you start your computer without any third-party software, but this setting is well hidden. You can set any image you like as your background.

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If you are using Windows 8 and want to accomplish the same thing, we’ve got you covered with a tutorial on changing the lock screen in Windows 8.

This setting is intended for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to customize their systems, but there’s nothing stopping you from using it yourself. All you have to do is change a single registry value and put an image file in the correct location.

Enabling Custom Backgrounds

This feature is disabled by default, so you’ll have to enable it from the Registry Editor. You can also use the Group Policy Editor if you have a Professional version of Windows – scroll down a bit for the Group Policy Editor method.

Launch the Registry Editor by typing regedit into the search box in the Start menu and pressing Enter.

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In the Registry Editor, navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI\Background

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You’ll see an DWORD value named OEMBackground. If you don’t see it, right-click in the right pane, point to the New submenu and create a new DWORD value with this name.

Double-click the OEMBackground value and set its value to 1.

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Note that selecting a new theme in the Appearance and Personalization window will “unset” this registry value. Selecting a theme will change the value of the key to the value stored in the theme’s .ini file, which is probably 0 – if you change your theme, you’ll have to perform this registry tweak again.

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Changing the setting in group policy will allow it to persist even when you change your theme, but the Group Policy Editor is only available in Professional editions of Windows.

If you have access to the Group Policy Editor, launch gpedit.msc from the Start menu.

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Navigate to the following section in the Group Policy Editor window:

Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Logon

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You’ll find a setting named “Always use custom login background.” Double-click it and set it to Enabled.

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Setting An Image

Your image file must be less than 256 KB in size. It’s also a good idea to use an image file that matches the resolution of your monitor, so it won’t look stretched.

Windows looks for the custom logon screen background image in the following directory:

C:\Windows\System32\oobe\info\backgrounds

By default, the info and backgrounds folders don’t exist. Navigate to the C:\Windows\System32\oobe folder and create them yourself by right-clicking inside the folder, pointing to New, and selecting New Folder.

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Copy your desired background image to the backgrounds folder and name it backgroundDefault.jpg.

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(I can see the inevitable question coming in the comments, so if you like this wallpaper image, you can get it here.)

The change will take effect immediately – no system reboot required. The first time you log out or lock your screen (try the WinKey-L keyboard shortcut), you’ll see your new background.

Logon screen

Third-Party Tools

You don’t have to do this by hand. There are a variety of third-party tools that automate this process for you, like Windows Logon Background Changer, which we’ve covered in the past. Windows Logon Background Changer and other utilities just change this registry value and put the image file in the correct location for you.

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To get the default logon screen back, just delete the backgroundDefault.jpg file. Windows will use the default background if no custom background image is available.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/24/13

Comments (56)

  1. coolkid3245

    umm…. Didn’t i ask about it on the forum like… 2/3 weeks ago?

  2. Odin

    there is a forum?!

  3. AlanWade

    @Odin – click on ‘Get Computer Help’ at the top and take your pick.

  4. AlanWade

    I use LogonStudio from Stardock to change mine. Does what I want it to do :)

  5. Nate

    Or… you could just replace the background image file… Like me

  6. Sakisds

    When I used Windows I had this app: http://danielnet.deviantart.com/art/Logon-Screen-164128684
    I think it works just as fine as the one you posted above but has a better interface.

  7. UltimatePSV

    I replaced mine with a SHIELD (Marvel Comics) login screen I made myself. I got the text at the bottom from a Star Trek wallpaper I found here a long time ago.

  8. Rob
  9. Harkaboy

    Old news. What about changing logon screen on W8? Anyone? [:

  10. ollalla

    @Harkaboy – it is included functionality in W8. Google it!

  11. Shane Malone

    Does anybody know if its possible to have the login screen rotate based on the contents of a folder?

  12. Nick

    Thanks for the tip! I always used the program mentioned above, but it’s fun now to know how it worked and do it myself! My next question though. How do we compress some pictures we’ve found to meet the 256 KB size restriction?

  13. mikmik

    Nate, that’s what I was thinking as soon as I saw the ‘background.bmp’ in the /oobe/background.bmp. Just use almost any image viewer/editor, like Irfanview – resize, and save as bmp.
    Okay, it’s 1024×768 and 2.6mb! Looks like the size restriction doesn’t apply, but I won’t go bigger.

    Won’t go! I need Trusted Installer permissions. Sigh, gpedit, here we come.

  14. DaFoo

    DisplayFusion is a third party app that, aside from being a mult-monitor solution, also can change the logon screen.

  15. Harkaboy

    @ollalla: I’m not talking about that logon screen (which is editable in windows), obviously. I’m talking about that actual logon screen. Where you input the password. Anyone? (Windows 8 Consumer Preview)

  16. Ole Rasmussen

    lego er Okay
    Ole Rasmussen
    vaya com dios

  17. jimkiler

    thanks for this article. While i knew this was possible to change since the Win 7 Betas i was unable to replicate until now. Other articles i found online never explained updating the registry first. Finally i can do what I knew was possible since Win 7 was released.

  18. Sahil

    Thanx for the Article..I really enjoyed my new W7 logon wallpaper.

  19. JackCrow

    Free software from Stardock – LogonStudio, does it all, plus it has a browser for more themed wallpapers, and the change is instant, any pic, jpg, png, bmp format.
    Editing it in the registry is nice, though rather useless if you have the free app that works.

  20. john

    can’t get it to work in 64-bit windows?

  21. edd

    Nice… show us the long process and then give us the option that does it all automatically.. But thanks for the post anyway I honestly never knew this was possible.

  22. Susan

    Hey guys and gals…..does this also work for Win 7 Starter Edition…i am so sick of looking at the dull screen behind my pic…

  23. Henfracar

    @ShaneMalone
    Check out National Geographic wallpaper of the day. You’ll have to google it though, I just can’t remember the URL.

  24. Budi

    how to change Windows Startup sound without any third-party software? thanks

  25. Kevalin

    @John: TweaksLogon works on 64-bit quite well. I just wish there was something that would let me do the same easily with my old XP-based computer.

  26. Budi

    yes, Set a Custom Logon Screen Background on Windows 7 is work in 64 Bit.

  27. Nate

    @Mikmik: there is this really nice registry tweak called Take Ownership that I used to change it.

  28. Mark

    I used to have a great program for this one of my computers, but my other computer had a different program that made it switch back every few days. Thanks for the tip!

  29. Mitesh

    Logon image rotator is far more good thing… it can give u diffrent images each time u logon or shutdown

  30. jimkiler

    @John, it works on 64 bit versions of Win 7, are you on Win 7?

    “can’t get it to work in 64-bit windows?”

  31. Luke

    You can also use programs to do this… but this is geekier ;)

  32. Hariks

    Added a message to the Default login background. My logon screen now has a warning message : “Hitherto shalt thou go; no further !” Font Size 72, Transparent, Font:Old English.

    Really amazing…

  33. BrooksBJ

    Hmmm, it doesn’t work for me either (64-bit Win 7 Home Premium)…

  34. shaarK

    thnks howtogeek.com ..bless u all and ur family..thanks for every tiny little help..i have improved a lot because of all of u..thanks god bless.

  35. Richard

    Hi

    Just downloaded the 1920×1200 image and ii deos not work due to being over 256 KB

  36. Erik

    I’m running Win7 Home Premium 64-bit, and I was able to change the registry setting, create the info and backgrounds folders, but I’m unable to copy an image file into the folder. It tells me the “folder is unavailable.” A quick search of the comments here doesn’t reveal anyone else having this problem, so I can’t tell if there’s been a fix for it.

  37. Narji

    Just tried it on 64-bit windows and works like a charm… After reducing the resolution 3 times… Damn camera takes photos at 6mb each :/

  38. credible

    Really very explicit and clear representation ! thanks

  39. jeorgekabbi

    very cool,thank you

  40. sheshansh

    gpedit.msc is not in my start menu..so i stuck after changing the value to 1.do enlightem

  41. Guest

    Great trick, HTG! :) I remember years ago it was possible to do this in the old Macintosh System Software — replace the “Welcome to Macintosh” box with a custom image of your own. Used to do this all the time on the LC IIIs they used to have at elementary school ;-) — I’d take a screenshot of whatever game I was playing (Oregon Trail FTW!), edit it in Claris Works to write “Welcome Home” across the top, and then save the final image as the startup screen. :-)

    Can’t remember how exactly this was done (not that it matters in the OSX days? Can’t be too sure as I don’t have a Mac now) :-( but I remember it being in one of the early David Pogue “Macs For Dummies” or “Macworld Secrets” books that I devoured as a kid. :-)

    Seeing now that Window$ enables this too (as we move into a post-Jobs era) :-( seems bittersweet when recalling this. But I guess, as the old saying(s) go(es), resistance is futile, and imitation is (almost) the sincerest form of flattery. :-P

  42. Zieg

    use tuneup utilities instead

  43. 8686

    I use display fusion to do this. Great little feature of this multi-monitor application. Might have to pay for the full program to use this feature though.

  44. Allan

    my computer came preloaded with custom gateway logon screen background

    anyway if you have a gateway computer with custom log in background the info folder already exist in C:\Windows\System32\oobe all you have to do is just go to backgrounds folder find the Gateway background image and rename if to backgroundDefault1.jpg after that get the background image that you want and name it backgroundDefault.jpg.

    If you want to go to default gateway background just delete the new background you put in and rename the gateway background image to backgroundDefault.jpg

  45. Allan

    this tutorial is very simple and does not require any software at all.

    I have Windows 7 starter and i can’t change the desktop background are there a way i can change the background using the registry.

    Chris do you know how to change the desktop background in Windows 7 starter? If you do can you show how to do it

  46. Chris Hoffman
  47. sheshansh

    i get lost at gpedit.msc i changed d value to 1 bt wat 2 do after dat…

  48. Chris Hoffman

    @sheshansh

    You can skip that part — use the registry editor OR gpedit. You don’t have to use both.

  49. sheshansh

    wen i type gpedit it shows no items match ur search….y so??

  50. sheshansh

    @ chriss hoffman i type gpedit but it shows no item match my search…do enlighten

  51. Chris Hoffman

    @sheshansh

    It’s only available on Professional editions of Windows. You don’t need it — just use the Registry Editor method. It’s one or the other, you don’t need both.

  52. NIRMAL

    nice but,i make a new things……….

  53. devilguard

    Nice article, very useful without ugly third parts!!!!

    THX!!!

  54. Jo

    Just use http://tweaks.com/software/tweakslogon/

    Faster, easy and gets it done!

  55. Pinaco6734

    To all those “program happy people” on here blasting your software faves.. correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the Whole Point of HTG supposed to be training/tips on how to do things yourself, manually, w/o the tools..?

  56. Kishan

    thx man…….. :)

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