Windows 10's new default light desktop background

If you use an unactivated copy of Windows 10, you know that you can’t change your desktop wallpaper using the Settings app. But there’s a workaround to change the desktop background on an unactivated copy of Windows 10.

What Happens When You Don’t Activate Windows 10

Microsoft lets you download and use Windows 10 without activating it, but this comes with some restrictions. The entire Personalization menu in Settings is disabled, which means that you can’t change various appearance options for your PC.

Luckily, Settings isn’t the only way to change the Windows 10 desktop background. You can use alternative methods (such as those described below) to change your wallpaper on an unactivated Windows 10 copy.

Of course, we recommend paying for a Windows 10 license if you use it. That will get rid of the “Activate Windows 10” watermark and give you access to the normal Personalization options. You can upgrade to a genuine, activated version right from the Activation screen in Windows 10’s Settings app. (You’ll find it at Settings > Update & Security > Activation.)

Tip: Want the classic Windows 10 wallpapers you’re used to? It’s easy to get the old default background back.

Change the Windows 10 Desktop Wallpaper Using File Explorer

You can use the built-in File Explorer utility to set any image on your computer or external storage as the desktop background.

To use this method, open the folder that contains your wallpaper with File Explorer.

When you see your wallpaper, right-click it and select “Set as desktop background.”

Change the desktop wallpaper using File Explorer

If you’d like to use one of Windows 10’s stock wallpapers, head to the following folder using File Explorer:


Check out various folders there, find the wallpaper that you want to use, right-click on the wallpaper, and select “Set as desktop background.”

Windows 10 stock wallpapers

Change the Windows 10 Desktop Wallpaper Using Internet Explorer

You can use a web browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox to set any image on any website as your desktop wallpaper.

That way, you don’t need to download the wallpaper first and then use the File Explore method to set it as the desktop background. You can do this entire task from within your browser.

Keep in mind that Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge don’t offer this option. You need to rely on either Internet Explorer or Firefox to do this.

To do this in Internet Explorer, open the “Start” menu, search for “Internet Explorer,” and click the browser in the results.

Warning: We recommend avoiding Internet Explorer, which is being phased out in favor of modern browsers like Microsoft Edge. However, Internet Explorer still has this feature, while Microsoft Edge doesn’t.

Launch Internet Explorer

Open the website where your wallpaper is located.

Note: Your image must be in one of the following file formats: JPG, JPEG, BMP, DIB, PNG, JFIF, JPE, GIF, TIF, TIFF, or WDP.

Once you see your wallpaper, right-click it and select “Set as background.”

Set a desktop background using Internet Explorer

You’ll see a prompt on your screen. Click “Yes” in it to confirm your action.

Change the Windows 10 Desktop Background Using Firefox

If you prefer to use Firefox, here’s how to use this browser to change your Windows 10 desktop wallpaper.

Launch Mozilla Firefox and navigate to the web page where your desired wallpaper is located.

Right-click your wallpaper and select “Set As Desktop Background.”

Set a desktop wallpaper using Firefox

You’ll get a box that lets you define how the wallpaper appears on your desktop. If you see that your wallpaper isn’t covering the entire screen in the preview, click the “Position” dropdown menu and select “Stretch.”

Desktop wallpaper options in Firefox

This will make your wallpaper cover your entire screen. Then, click “Set Desktop Background.”

How to Go Back to the Default Windows 10 Desktop Wallpaper

Since Windows 10 gives you access to all the stock wallpapers, you can open this wallpapers folder and set the original wallpaper as your desktop background.

To do this, open a File Explorer window and head to the following folder:


Find the original wallpaper, right-click it, and select “Set as desktop background.”

Revert back to the original Windows 10 desktop wallpaper

You’re all set.

Do you know that you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free using a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 key? Microsoft doesn’t officially advertise this, but it still works in our experience, and from what we’ve heard from readers. There’s no guarantee that this will work for everyone in the future, but you can give it a try and see whether it works. If it does, you’ll be able to further customize the appearance of your PC.

RELATED: You Can Still Get Windows 10 for Free With a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Key

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Mahesh Makvana is a freelance tech writer who specializes in writing how-to guides. He has been writing tech tutorials for over a decade now. He’s written for some of the prominent tech sites including MakeUseOf, MakeTechEasier, and Online Tech Tips.
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