Change Default Wallpaper Folder to My Pictures on Windows XP

Have you ever wondered why Windows XP had such terribly ugly wallpapers to choose from? On top of that, there’s no way to easily change the list of backgrounds to a folder you might actually use… like your My Pictures folder.

There’s a fairly simple registry hack you can do to make Windows look in a different folder, but if you want to get rid of Blue Lace 16 you’ll also have to delete it manually. (The standard warnings about registry editing apply here)

With a name like “Bliss” you would think I would be less tired of seeing this:

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Change Wallpaper Folder

Open up regedit.exe using the start menu Run box, and then navigate down to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion

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On the right-hand side you should see a value called WallPaperDir, which defines the folder Windows uses to populate the list. If the key does not exist, then you can create a new string value with the same name.

Double-click to change the value, and then paste in the full path to your My Pictures folder. (Note that you could specify any path here if you wanted to.)

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The change should be immediate, the next time you open the Desktop panel… but you’ll notice a number of default images still in the list. Turns out that Windows also queries the Windows folder for images…

To get rid of those, browse to C:\Windows and then look for a set of horribly ugly Bitmap files:

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You can delete these images to make them stop appearing in the wallpaper selection list, just be careful not to delete anything else in your Windows folder or you likely won’t be able to boot anymore.

Another annoyance solved…

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.