Black wallpaper on a Windows 7 desktop.

Microsoft is no longer updating Windows 7, but there’s a problem: In Windows 7’s last update, released on January 14, Microsoft introduced a bug that can replace your desktop wallpaper with an empty black screen.

As Bleeping Computer noticed, Microsoft says this bug will be fixed—but only for organizations that pay for Extended Security Updates. If you’re a home user, Microsoft will apparently not fix this bug for you. You’re on your own. Home users can’t even pay for extended security updates. Thankfully, there’s a way to avoid the bug.

Update: Microsoft has changed its mind. The company released an update to fix this problem on February 7, 2020. You can download KB4539602 from Microsoft to fix this bug on your Windows 7 PC.

Don’t Have Windows 7 “Stretch” Your Wallpaper

The bug is in the “Stretch” wallpaper option. To avoid the black wallpaper bug, you can select an alternative option like “Fill,” “Fit,” “Tile,” or “Center.”

To do so, right-click your desktop background and select “Personalize.” Click “Desktop Background” and then select an alternative option from the drop-down box. Choose anything except “Stretch.”

Selecting wallpaper options on Windows 7.

You can also simply choose a desktop wallpaper that matches your screen resolution. This is the best option for picture quality, as you’ll get an appropriately sized image for your screen. It won’t be stretched and blown up.

For example, if you have a 1920×1080 display, look for a desktop background with those dimensions. Right-click your desktop and select “Screen Resolution” to view your current screen resolution.

If you prefer stretching your background image of choice, you can open your preferred desktop wallpaper in an image editor of your choice. Even Microsoft Paint, included with Windows 7, works.

Resize the image to match your current screen resolution and save it. Set that new resized image as your desktop background. Windows 7 won’t be stretching it, so it will work normally and you won’t see a blank black background instead.

RELATED: Windows 7 Dies Today: Here's What You Need to Know

Don’t Uninstall the Buggy Update

We don’t recommend uninstalling the buggy KB4534310 update. This update contains important security fixes for Windows 7. It’s better to work around this bug than go without the crucial security fixes.

As long as you avoid the “Stretch” option, you won’t experience the black wallpaper bug. Stretching is bad for image quality, anyway.

On Windows 7, black wallpaper can also be the result of using a copy of Windows 7 that is “not genuine.”

If Windows 7 can’t activate with Microsoft, Windows will frequently revert your desktop background to a blank black image. In this situation, you’ll also see a “This copy of Windows is not genuine” message appear on the black wallpaper at the bottom-right corner of your screen, above the taskbar’s notification area.

RELATED: How Does Windows Activation Work?

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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