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Change Default Wallpaper Folder to My Pictures on Windows XP

Have you ever wondered why Windows XP had such terribly ugly wallpapers to choose from? On top of that, there’s no way to easily change the list of backgrounds to a folder you might actually use… like your My Pictures folder.

There’s a fairly simple registry hack you can do to make Windows look in a different folder, but if you want to get rid of Blue Lace 16 you’ll also have to delete it manually. (The standard warnings about registry editing apply here)

With a name like “Bliss” you would think I would be less tired of seeing this:

image

Change Wallpaper Folder

Open up regedit.exe using the start menu Run box, and then navigate down to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion

image

On the right-hand side you should see a value called WallPaperDir, which defines the folder Windows uses to populate the list. If the key does not exist, then you can create a new string value with the same name.

Double-click to change the value, and then paste in the full path to your My Pictures folder. (Note that you could specify any path here if you wanted to.)

image

The change should be immediate, the next time you open the Desktop panel… but you’ll notice a number of default images still in the list. Turns out that Windows also queries the Windows folder for images…

To get rid of those, browse to C:\Windows and then look for a set of horribly ugly Bitmap files:

image

You can delete these images to make them stop appearing in the wallpaper selection list, just be careful not to delete anything else in your Windows folder or you likely won’t be able to boot anymore.

Another annoyance solved…

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/28/08

Comments (39)

  1. Dwane Arthur

    Greetings from Tenn. I just wanted to say how much I enjoy and learn from your E-mails. They are one of the few I make sure to read each time. The way you present the information is simple enough that I can understand and follow along. Please keep up your hard work.
    Thank You
    Dwane

  2. Syahid A.

    Nice. Can this hack be used on any other folders than My Pictures?

  3. Dave F

    If I’m not mistaken, I think the Microsoft PowerToy “TweakUI XP” does this too. It’s in the item called “Login” which allows you to change what’s on the .DEFAULT profile. I could be wrong, but I have used that to change the default screensaver, so I am guessing it works for wallpaper too.

  4. The Geek

    @Syahid
    Yes, you can use any filesystem path in place of that folder.

    @Dwane:
    Thanks for the compliments!

    @Dave:
    You very well could be right. I don’t have TweakUI installed on my test machine, so I’ll have to look into it.

  5. Dave F

    My bad. TweakUI lets you change the default settings for new accounts (like wallpaper). It doesn’t change the wallpaper folder. Perhaps this could be another article on H2G. ;)

  6. jd2066

    One thing to note here is that the default value for that key is %WINDIR%\Web\Wallpaper.
    That folder stores all the nice JPEG format wallpapers available in Windows XP and Vista.
    If you change it those wallpapers will no longer appear in the list.

  7. jd2066

    One correction to my post, the default path is actually %SystemRoot%\Web\Wallpaper.
    Also I recall seeing Windows XP loading images from My Pictures without a registry change.
    Not sure why it doesn’t seem to be doing it now.

  8. Ed Fiebig

    Desktop properties – Any way to make the default position STRETCH?

  9. PaladinMJ

    might not
    %HOMEPATH%\My Documents\My Pictures
    be better than a hard coded path??

  10. jd2066

    If someone is the only user of computer of the computer then hard coding the path won’t make that much of a difference.
    If the computer is used by multiple users then using path that isn’t hard coded will make it so each user’s “My Pictures” contents will displayed instead of just the “My Pictures” of the person who did the tweak. Assuming of course the all those users kept their “My Pictures” in the default location otherwise it wouldn’t work.
    From a steps perspective if this article was updated with something like “If you use the default My Pictures folder location you can use the following value” then people with a default My Pictures folder location can just copy the value from the article instead of from an explorer window. Thus saving them a few extra seconds when doing the tweak.

  11. jd2066

    I just decided to test what I remembered by setting up a virtual machine and found that at least on a new install the wallpaper list does display pictures in the “My Pictures” without any tweaks.
    See screen shot at http://imagegrotto.com/view-DisplayListWithMyPicturesNoTweak7204.jpg
    I’m not sure what all can disable that but I know at least redirecting “My Pictures” to a network drive does.
    This article should be updated to say it’s only needed if the builtin ability to list images from “My Pictures” disappeared somehow to use this tweak.

  12. The Geek

    @jd2066

    That’s interesting… it didn’t work on my test VM. I’ll do some testing of my own and update the article.

  13. just had to say

    Thx for this nice tip :)

    @jd2066 and anyone
    Btw, I was reading the user comments, and in my opinion, this tip is very useful, you just need to know how to use it in each personal way, so, jd2066 I think you took the title “Change Default Wallpaper Folder to My Pictures on Windows XP” to much at heart, altho it’s nice to know that windows takes the “my pics” folder as “default”, I really don’t think this article needs an update just because windows automatically puts the images from the “my pics” folder… let’s say the title was “Change Default Wallpaper Folder to Whatever Folder you like the most on Windows XP”… for example, what if you like to keep your images in a complete diferent partition and organized folder, I for sure wouldn’t copy or move the images to the “My pics” folder just because Windows _wants_ me to… I rather put Windows working the way I want and like it ;)

  14. Thomas

    Hi Guys,

    was just looking at all these helpful tips, now how about the reverse process? What if by default my Windows XP is including the pictures in the My Pictures folder and I don’t want it to? How do I remove that?

    Thanks

  15. jd2066

    @Thomas: From what I can tell you can’t. From my tests the only time Windows XP doesn’t display pictures from the “My Pictures” folder is when the “My Pictures” folder is redirected to a network location.

  16. Sue

    Wow that’s really helpful. I have a folder in My Pictures for my desktop wallpaper and I was wondering how I could just automatically have those show up in the desktop preferences without having to manually browse for them.

  17. deyamag

    welldone, thanks.

  18. Settle for better

    No. You’re all wrong.

    Sorry… This is not needed at all + not to mention dangerous!

    Now follow my steps… (Skip steps 4,5+9 if you have no files in your ‘My Pictures’ folder).
    1. Delete the default Wall Paper folder.
    Only the Wall Paper folder.
    2. Open ‘My Documents’.
    3. You should see the ‘My Pictures’ folder there. If you don’t; no worries (Create a new folder labeled ‘My Pictures’ folder; ONLY LABELED ‘My Pictures’. Other names may not work).
    4. Click ‘My Pictures’ Drag you mouse in a corner of the inside of the folder around all of your files. This creates a box round your files + folders. :D
    5. Right click + cut files from the context menu to load them into the clipboard. DO NOT DO ANY THING ELSE!
    6. Close every thing.
    7. Click Start>Run + Input the path C:\Documents and Settings\’Your User name’\My Documents.
    8. To simply things right click the taskbar + click show the desktop. I don’t care how you do this but create a create a shortcut of ‘My Pictures + put it on the desktop.
    9. Right click the folder + Click Paste.
    10. Your files are now safe. Right Click the folder + click ‘Properties’. You should see a box where you can input the target path. :D Delete every thing + Input Path of you Wall Paper folder.
    11. Move the shorcut to the ‘My Pictures’ folder.
    12. Go to Display settings in Control Panel to make our next task easier…
    13. Click the Desktop tab… click BROWSE + Go to the ‘WINDOWS’ folder.
    14. Lastly delete all the pics.

    We must stop modifying our registries – As tiring as this is to write…. I don’t like doing that (personally) + it is unneccessary + dangerous!
    It’s a been pleasure to write this. If you have any trouble with this e-mail me.

  19. Settle for better

    Excuse me… Don’t forget to create an other Wall Paper folder after deleting the Old 1.

  20. Deyaa Addeen Fahmy Shedeed

    As Ed Fiebig said, Is that possible ?

  21. Settle4better

    Completely possible. I reed through this + actually thought I could do better as you do + found yes that is totally possible.

  22. Settle4better

    Sorry friend, I was thinking you meant some thing else but as far as I kno’ yes.

  23. Muz

    Greetings,

    Wondering if you have a tip in here for keeping your view preference for ALL folders when you exit an revisit. It max’s out for XP?
    I know there is a registry hack for this somewhere..

  24. Trigger

    This should save me a lot of time. Great work, man.

  25. Rotohoober

    Thanks!

  26. Al M

    I bought some XP Pro computers at an auction but one has a state logo at the Ctrl/Alt/Delete screen and I have tried different things to remove it. This was on a domain and was an imaged pc. Can you help?
    Thanks

  27. jd2066

    @Al M: Are you refering to the wallpaper displayed behind the standard Login Screen which asks for a name and password? If so then there are two options to remove it:
    1. Goto Control Panel -> User Accounts and enable the welcome screen. The welcome screen will display a list of users and have it’s own blue background which is can’t be changed unless you use Stardock LoginUI and I don’t think the State would have used LoginUI to do it.
    2. If you want the classic login screen, download Tweak UI and use it to copy your current wallpaper to the login screen and replace the state logo one.

  28. Jake

    For some reason, when I go into the browse (which I’ve set to My Pictures), it goes into a sub folder under My Pictures.
    I’ve made sure that the registry has nothing after it to make it go into that folder, but it continually does.
    Does anyone know why and if so how do I fix it?
    Thanks.

  29. AlbinoRhino

    There is absolutely no need to edit your registry. All you have to do is navigate to C:\WINDOWS\Web\Wallpaper and copy/paste your preferred wallpapers into that folder. Delete the ones you do not want to have that come stock with your computer.

  30. Mehdi TENSI

    Nice trick. Uhm, but a freeware wallpaper changer utility maybe more usefull. ;)

  31. Selena

    I’m on my old desktop and it’s a different language. I’d like to make a new folder in my pictures to put pictures in. I don’t understand the language that much, what do I do?

  32. Norbert

    I wanted to download a picture from my documents/my pictures to my control panel/desktop display and ended up downloading an entire file of pictures instead of just one. How do I delete the pictures I don’t want from my desktop display? I have a Windows XP Dell computer. Can you help me?
    Norbert

  33. Benjamin

    Thanks for the info on changing the wallpaper directory.

    I have blue background on my icon texts, which looks nagging. I have tried every possibilities that are seen in the web, and nothing seem to help me out to make it transparent.
    Tried to check shadow in advance/ performance tab
    Tried to see if any web/ lock web is enabled

    How can I get those background removed, and moreover the desktop wallpaper section is grayed out. Want to make it active.

    Please help and email me to benzmar at gmail dot com.

  34. kev

    The solution for the blue background (weirdly) does have to do with a web lock for the desktop. I’ll spell it all out, though I’m sure you’ll already understand most of the steps:

    1. Right-click a blank area on the desktop, and then click Properties.
    2. On the Desktop tab, click Customize Desktop
    3. Click the Web tab (if you find no such tab, see my comment below*) and remove the check in the box that says “Lock Desktop Items”, apply & close.
    4. You may need to refresh the desktop (use F5) to see the change.

    If you ever want it back, undo that change. Note that you can set the color of the text background by doing step 1, followed by Appearance tab > Advanced, then scroll the drop-down list on the left to reach the item called “desktop” and choose your preferred color from the palette drop-down on the right where it says “color 1″. Then click OK, and OK again.

    * If no web tab is there, then there is a lock on web content for the desktop. There may be another way to undo that but this works for me: Download and install the free utility “TweakUI” (originally distributed by Microsoft). Open it and Tick “Explorer” in the left pane to see a list on the right that includes a box to UNcheck called “Lock web content”. There is no downside to leaving it set that way that I have seen, but you can re-lock it, if you want, after resuming and finishing the 4 steps above.

  35. TITI

    HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

  36. Muhammad Ahsan

    i cant under stood the regedit step can u define it step by step…..????

  37. Chrissy

    Hey I occasionally get this problem where I try to change my desktop wallpaper and the minute I click the “desktop” tab, the little box/desktop wallpaper changer freezes and crashed. I know that the problem is that the bit where “default wallpapers” come up (e.g. (None), Ascent, etc), instead of loading the few default ones, my computer tried to load ALL my images (which is like over 1000 pictures), so it crashes and I can’t change my wallpaper unless I wait like 10 minutes for it to load up all the pictures. I say this happens ‘occasionally’ because I’ve never found a solution to this yet it goes away after some time and then comes back :S I don’t know if I’ve been ‘causing/solving’ this problem subconsciously, (i.e. pressing some buttons or changing some settings without being aware of doing so) but I was hoping maybe someone here can help out ’cause it’s really annoying :S

  38. menu changer

    nic changer of xp computer

  39. Mani

    Hi !
    Can someone help me to make my desktop as usual since i am getting and able to see 2 wallpapers running around my desktop which i could see when i hit refreshing button.

    thanks in advance.

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