Setting a unique background on each of your multiple monitors was a simple trick in Windows 8, but the menu is buried to the point of being invisible in Windows 10. But it’s still there if you know where to look.
New: Set a Wallpaper in the Settings App
Since we originally published this article, Microsoft added a better solution to Windows 10.
To change desktop backgrounds individually for each monitor, head to Settings > Personalization > Background. Under Choose Your Picture, right-click a background image and select “Set for monitor 1,” “Set for monitor 2,” or whichever other monitor you want to use it on.
To add additional images to this list, click “Browse” and select a wallpaper you want to use. Windows will set it as your default on all desktops. Right-click the wallpaper icons and choose which monitor you want to use each on.
When to Use This Trick (and When to Use Third Party Tools)
First and foremost, we want to make the best use of your time–both in reading this tutorial and down the road when you’re using our advice to mix up your wallpapers. With that in mind, consider the following two scenarios.
Scenario one: You infrequently change your desktop wallpaper, but you would really like to have a different background on each monitor. In this scenario, the solution in this article (which is quick and uses Windows’ built-in setting) is a perfect one as it’s light on system resources.
Scenario two: if you want to use multiple and different wallpapers on each of your monitors, and you want a high degree of control over that, then the standard wallpaper options in Windows 10 probably won’t cut it. If you’re a wallpaper junkie or really need fine-tooth control over the backgrounds, then we strongly recommend the venerable (and still quite useful) John’s Background Switcher (free) or the Swiss Army Knife of multimonitor management, DisplayFusion (the features relevant to wallpaper management are available in the free version).
If you find yourself in scenario one, though, let’s take a look at how to set a custom wallpaper on each monitor in Windows 10. (And if you’re in a customize-all-the-things mood, be sure to check out how to customize your Windows 10 login and lock screen, too.)
How to Select Unique Wallpapers for Different Monitors in Windows 10
There are two ways two go about selecting multiple monitor wallpapers in Windows 10–neither particularly intuitive. For each method, we’ll use a handful of Game of Thrones wallpapers to demonstrate. For frame of reference, here’s what our current desktop looks like, with the default Windows 10 wallpaper repeated on each of our three monitors.
It’s nice wallpaper, as far as stock wallpaper goes, but a tad boring. Let’s mix it up.
The Easy, but Imperfect Method: Change Your Wallpaper With the Windows File Explorer
The first method isn’t intuitive, because it relies on you selecting the images in Windows’ File Explorer and knowing how Windows will handle your multiple image selection. Select your images in the File Explorer, using Ctrl or Shift to select multiple images. Right click on the image you wish to assign to your primary monitor while the images you want to use are still selected. (Note, this is primary as in the monitor Windows thinks of as the primary monitor per the Settings > System > Display menu in the Control Panel, not necessarily the monitor you consider the primary/important one.) In the right-click context menu, select “Set as desktop background”.
Windows will set those images as your desktop wallpapers. Below, you can see that the image we clicked on (the red wallpaper with the House Lannister crest) is on the center monitor. The two other wallpapers, for House Stark and House Baratheon, are more or less randomly placed on the secondary and tertiary monitor.
This is a particularly inelegant solution because you have no control over where the images on the non-primary monitors will be placed. It also has two other irritating shortcomings: if the images are not the exact resolution of your monitor, they won’t work, and they will randomly rotate positions every 30 minutes.
With those shortcomings in mind, know that we’ve shown you this method entirely in the name of thoroughness and education and not because we think you’ll prefer it. Let’s look at a much better method.
The Complicated, but Powerful Method: Change Your Wallpaper With the Personalization Menu
Update: The command here no longer brings up the traditional Control Panel interface, but you can now use the Settings > Personalization > Background window to accomplish the same thing.
When Windows 8 came out, one of the first things multi-monitor users noticed is that there were a bunch of new menu options, including a very easy to use multi-monitor wallpaper selection tool built right into the Personalizations menu in the Control Panel. Inexplicably, that option vanished in Windows 10.
You won’t find it in Settings > Personalization > Backgrounds where it used to be–there you can only set a single image as your background regardless of how many monitors you have. Further, you won’t find it where it used to reside in Windows 8, in Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization where there used to be a direct link to it. Strangely, even though no menus directly link to it anymore, the menu itself is just hanging out there waiting for you.
To access it, press Windows+R on your keyboard to call up the Run dialog box and enter the following text:
control /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageWallpaper
Press Enter and, by the power of command-line tricks, you’ll see the old wallpaper selection menu.
If we click on the “Browse” button, we can browse to the folder with our Game of Thrones wallpapers (or we can use the dropdown menu to navigate to existing wallpaper locations like the Windows Pictures library).
Once you’ve loaded the directory you wish to work with, here’s where you’ll finally get the per-monitor control you’ve been looking for. Deselect the images (Windows automatically checks all of them when you load the directory) and then select a single image. Right-click on it and select the monitor you wish to assign it to (again, visit Settings > System > Display if you don’t know which monitor is which number).
Repeat the process for whatever wallpaper you wish to use for each monitor. The end result? Exactly the wallpaper we want on each monitor:
If you want to further mix things up, you can always select multiple images and then use the “Picture position” drop-down menu to make adjustments to how the image is displayed and the “Change picture every” menu to tweak how often the selection of photos you have are changed up.
It’s not the most sophisticated system in the world (see some of the third party options we highlighted in the introduction for more advanced features) but it gets the job done.
Despite the menu vanishing from the Control Panel, a little command line-fu returns it, and you can easily customize your wallpapers across multiple monitors to your heart’s content.