personalization page in settings app

Windows 10 includes a bunch of personalization settings that let you change your desktop background, windows colors, lock screen background, and more. Here is what you need to know to get your computer looking exactly how you want it.

We’re going to be talking about the Personalization settings Windows makes available at Settings > Personalization, so you might as well go ahead and fire that up now. There are other ways you can customize your computer’s look, though, such as configuring folder options , or customizing the Start menu, Taskbar, Action Center, and icons however it makes sense to you.

Change Your Windows Background

The first set of options—those you find in the “Background” category on the Personalization settings page—let you control your desktop background and they should look pretty familiar to you if you’ve been using Windows for a while.

To use a picture as your background, choose “Picture” from the “Background” drop-down menu. Just like in previous versions, Windows 10 comes with a few pictures to choose from, or you can click “Browse” and locate your own picture.

background options in settings app

Once you choose a picture, you can decide how your picture will fit on your desktop—whether it fills, fits, stretches, tiles, and so on. If you’re using multiple monitors, you can also choose a “Span” option that displays a single picture across all your monitors.

choosing a fit for your image

If you want to rotate through a set of pictures for your background, choose “Slideshow” from the “Background” drop-down menu. To create a slideshow, you’ll need to select a folder from which Windows can draw pictures. You can’t select individual pictures–only folders–so go ahead and set up a folder with your favorite background pictures before selecting this option. After selecting your folder, you can also specify how often Windows changes the background picture, whether it shuffles the pictures randomly, and how the pictures should fit your desktop.

slideshow settings for desktop background

And if you prefer to keep things simple, you can use a solid color as your background. Choose “Solid color” from the “Background” drop-down menu and then choose one of the offered background colors.

choosing a solid color background

If you want a little more control, you can also click the “Custom Color” button on that last screen. In the popup window, use the controls to select the exact color you want, and then click “Done.”

custom color picker

Unfortunately, the Personalization screen only lets you select one background, no matter how many monitors you have. If you do have multiple monitors, you can set a different background picture for each monitor by using File Explorer. Of course, there are also third-party utilities like John’s Background Switcher and DisplayFusion, both of which can control images better on a multiple monitor setup. They also both provide more advanced tools for working with backgrounds on a single monitor.

RELATED: How to Set a Different Wallpaper On Each Monitor In Windows 10

Change What Colors Windows Uses and Where

The next set of personalization options—those in the “Colors” category—control how Windows uses color for various on-screen elements. You’ll start by picking an accent color. You can pick an accent color from the predefined pallet of colors, or you can click “Custom Color” to get exactly the color you want. Alternatively, you can select the “Automatically pick an accent color from my background” to have Windows automatically match a color based on the picture you’re using as your background.

choosing accent colors

After picking an accent color, your next step is choosing where Windows uses that accent color. Your two options here are “Start, taskbar, and action center” and “Title bars and window borders.” The first option uses the accent color as the background for your Start menu, taskbar, and action center and also highlights certain items on those elements—such as app icons on the Start menu—with the same accent color. The second option uses the accent color for the title bar of your active window.

choosing additional accent color options

Unfortunately, the Start menu, taskbar, and Action Center elements are grouped for color selection, and you can’t make them different colors. We do, however, have a quick registry hack that can at least let you keep a black background on your Start menu and Action Center. The second option uses the accent color on the title bar of active windows, though we also have another hack for you if you want to use the accent color on inactive windows, as well.

Back on the Colors personalization screen, you’ll also find a “Transparency effect” option for making your Start menu, taskbar, and Action Center transparent or not. This option does not affect the accent color if it’s used on those elements.

And finally, you can enable a dark mode for settings and apps. While this app mode setting doesn’t affect every app, we do have some tricks you might enjoy for using a dark theme almost everywhere in Windows 10.

Change Your Lock Screen

Next, we move on to the Windows lock screen settings. The lock screen, remember, is the screen you click to slide out of the way so you can get to the sign in screen where you enter your user name and password. By default, your lock screen background is set to “Windows Spotlight,” which downloads and displays a rotating set of backgrounds from Microsoft.

You can also set the lock screen background to be one of your pictures or a slideshow of pictures in a folder on your computer. It works the same way as setting your desktop background. Choose the option you want from the “Background” drop-down menu. If you select a picture, just point Windows to the file you want to use.

changing your lock screen background

If you decide on the slideshow option, you’ll first need to select one or more albums (or folders) with pictures to use for the slideshow. Click the “Add a folder” button to add new folders until you’re satisfied with your selections. You can also click the “Advanced slideshow settings” link to access some additional options.

slideshow options for lock screen background

The advanced settings let you include your camera roll as a source for pictures, use only pictures that fit your screen, and select whether to show the lock screen instead of turning off the screen when the PC is inactive. If you select this last option, you can also set the screen to turn off after a set amount of time, or not at all.

advanced slideshow settings

Back on the lock screen settings, you also have a few more options available. Turn off the “Get fun facts, tips, and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen” option if you prefer not seeing that stuff on your lock screen. You can also specify that the lock screen background picture is used as your sign-in screen background as well, though we have some other ways you might prefer to change your sign in screen background instead.

disabling extra information on the lock screen

The other two settings, “Choose an app to show detailed status” and “Choose apps to show quick status,” let you control what apps provide status information on the lock screen. You can remove apps that are already there by clicking them and then choosing “None” or change them by picking any of the preselected apps from the pop-up menu. Add another app by clicking one of the plus (+) icons and choosing apps from that same menu.

choosing apps that appear on the lock screen

And for reference, here’s where all that stuff shows up on your lock screen.

lockscreen with various options displayed

Use a Theme to Change Multiple Personalization Settings at Once

Windows 10 finally brings control of themes into the Settings app instead of the Control Panel app. Themes let you coordinate and save a desktop background, accent color, sound scheme, and mouse cursors as a set you can reload more easily.

themes settings

You can click each of the theme categories—Background, Color, and so on—to set what you want to use. These links really just take you to other places in the Settings app where you can make the changes. When you’ve got things set up the way you like, click the “Save Theme” button and give your theme a name.

If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see that Windows also comes with some preselected themes and gives you the option to download more from the Windows Store. Browse through the list and pick the theme you want to use or click the “Get more themes in the Store” link to see what else is on offer.

choosing a theme

Change Your Font Options

Windows 10 still includes the old Fonts tool in the Control Panel, but you can now also manage fonts within the Settings app. This page shows all the font families installed on your PC. It’s usually a pretty long list, so there’s a search box right up top to help out. The app displays a sample of each font and how many faces it includes.

fonts settings

You can click any font family to get more details and adjust some basic font settings, as well as uninstall the font.

details page for a font

For a more detailed explanation, check out our guide to installing and managing fonts in Windows 10’s Settings app.

Change Your Start Menu Options

Next up are the Start menu options. There aren’t a whole lot of options available right on the Start personalization screen. You can use them to control whether to show extra tiles on each column of tiles, whether things like your most-used and recently-added apps show up above your full list of apps, and whether to open the Start menu in full-screen mode.

start menu settings

We’re not going to spend a lot of time here, though, because we’ve already got a full guide to all the ways you can customize your Start menu in Windows 10. That includes what you can do on the Personalization screen as well as a bunch of other things you customize elsewhere in Windows.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu

Change Your Taskbar Options

Just like with the Start menu options, we’re not to going into detail about the Taskbar options available here because we’ve already got a full guide to customizing your taskbar in Windows 10. In short, though, this is where you’ll come to customize options like whether the taskbar is locked from moving, automatically hides when you’re not using it, uses small or large icons, and how the taskbar is handled if you have multiple displays.

taskbar settings


As you can see, while Windows 10 might not provide quite the depth of customization options you had in Windows 7, it still provides enough to get Windows looking pretty good. And hey, if you can’t get things just the way you want and you’re willing to put in a bit more work, you can always try a tool like Rainmeter, which provides near endless customization opportunity.

Walter Glenn Walter Glenn
Walter Glenn is the Editorial Director for How-To Geek and its sister sites. He has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry and over 20 years as a technical writer and editor. He's written hundreds of articles for How-To Geek and edited thousands. He's authored or co-authored over 30 computer-related books in more than a dozen languages for publishers like Microsoft Press, O'Reilly, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. He's also written hundreds of white papers, articles, user manuals, and courseware over the years.
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