Windows 10 Compresses Your Wallpaper, But You Can Make Them High Quality Again

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By default, Windows 10 compresses JPEG pictures you use as your background, reducing it to around 85% of the original quality. If you’re bothered by the compression artifacts this often introduces, here’s how use high quality images instead.

We’re not really sure why Windows 10 compresses background images. It’s not like doing so saves tons of disk space, and using better quality images doesn’t really use up any system resources. It may have something to do with syncing them between PCs that share the same Microsoft account, but even then, not much space is be saved by compressing them. The really interesting thing is that background images used for your lock screen and sign in screen don’t appear to be compressed at all. Here’s how to replace your compressed wallpaper image with a full quality image in File Explorer, and how to turn off compression altogether in the Windows Registry.

Option One: Replace the Compressed Image with a Full Quality Image

No matter how you set your wallpaper–Control Panel, right-clicking an image in File Explorer, and so on–Windows uses a compressed version that often introduces unwanted compression artifacts. As far as we can tell, this even happens with wallpaper changers like DisplayFusion.

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Windows saves the compressed version of the background image to the following directory:

C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Themes

There, you’ll see a file named simply “TranscodedWallpaper” that has no file extension.

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If you don’t do a lot of wallpaper switching and aren’t comfortable diving into the Registry to turn it off (see the next section), you can easily replace that compressed image with a high quality version using these steps:

  1. Rename the TranscodedWallpaper file to something like TranscodedWallpaper_old. Do this instead of just deleting the file so that you can recover the compressed image easily if you need to.
  2. Find the original image and create a copy of it.
  3. Rename the copy of the image to TranscodedWallpaper.
  4. Drag the new TranscodedWallpaper file to the Themes folder.

That’s all you have to do to trick Windows into using a high quality, uncompressed image. If you prefer turning off compression altogether, then read on.

Option Two: Turn Off Compression in the Windows Registry

To turn off wallpaper compression in Windows 10, you’ll have to make a minor change to the Windows Registry.

Standard warning: Registry Editor is a powerful tool and misusing it can render your system unstable or even inoperable. This is a pretty simple hack and as long as you stick to the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. That said, if you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading about how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And definitely back up the Registry (and your computer!) before making changes.

Open the Registry Editor by hitting Start and typing “regedit.” Press Enter to open Registry Editor and give it permission to make changes to your PC.

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In the Registry Editor, use the left sidebar to navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop

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Next, you’ll create a new value inside the Desktop key. Right-click Desktop and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the new value JPEGImportQuality .

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Double-click the new JPEGImportQuality value to open its properties dialog. Switch the “Base” setting to “Decimal” and then enter a value between 60 and 100 in the “Value data” box. The number you choose designates the quality of the image, so set the value to 100 to use full quality images with no compression at all. Click “OK” when you’re done

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You can now exit Registry Editor. You’ll need to restart your computer and then set a new image to be your background for the changes to take effect. And any image you set as your background from now on will not have any compression applied.

Download Our One-Click Registry Hack

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If you don’t feel like diving into the Registry yourself, we’ve created a couple of registry hacks you can use. The “Turn Off Wallpaper Compression” hack creates the JPEGImportQuality value and sets it to 100. The “Restore Wallpaper Compression (Default)” hack deletes that value from the Registry. Both hacks are included in the following ZIP file. Double-click the one you want to use and click through the prompts. When you’ve applied the hack you want, restart your computer and set a new background image.

Wallpaper Compression Hacks

RELATED: How to Make Your Own Windows Registry Hacks

These hacks are really just the Desktop key, stripped down to the JPEGImportQuality value we talked about in the previous section and then exported to a .REG file. Running either of the hacks sets that value to the appropriate number.  And if you enjoy fiddling with the Registry, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make your own Registry hacks.

Walter Glenn is a long time computer geek and tech writer. Though he's mostly a Windows and gadget guy, he has a fondness for anything tech. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.