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I am in a situation where my wallpaper is locked to a specific image on my work computer via group policy. I can't change it via the Personalization settings since it is grayed out and says it has been set by the system administrator.

Anyone know some local GPO and/or registry hackery I can do to override the domain's policy? I could probably get away with logging in under a local account for this, but I want that to be a last resort.

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They call it "policy" for a reason. Even if you knew what registry value to change, the policy would be reapplied the next time your computer processed policy. – William Jackson May 23 '11 at 13:18
Any changes you make to your local GPO will be over riden by the domain GPO. – Joe Taylor May 23 '11 at 13:18
That said, do you know the location of the file that is used for the desktop background? Can you take the wallpaper you want and save it in that location? – William Jackson May 23 '11 at 13:19
As @William said, its there for a reason. Even if you do mange to get into the reg and change the key, policies tend to update every half hour or so, so this will just revert it back – beakersoft May 23 '11 at 13:24
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Even if there were a hack, GPO is rechecked and reset regularly and each time you log in.

I assume this policy was probably created as an over-reaction to potentially offensive desktop background images.

Petitioning your IT org to change this setting and simply rely on people making the right choice or getting talked to by their managers may be a more effective solution.

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Great points but this is more or less an issue because system admins like to play jokes (like setting people's wallpaper to hello kitty). I'll simply just use a local account :) – void.pointer May 23 '11 at 14:42
Ahh, those mischievous sysadmins. They are so very clever. Can't say I've never done that, but it could result in an anonymous complaint to a corporate anti-bullying line... – music2myear May 23 '11 at 14:45

I was able to get around by going to this location in the registry:


Inside, there's a key called Wallpaper. I deleted it and re-set the desktop background, and it worked.

You'll have to do that every time you log on though, as group policy refreshes itself. (It can also be set to refresh automatically.)

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I wonder if you could change the permissions on the key itself to your account being the only one with write permissions. I know this works for disabling UAC when enforced by GPO. – void.pointer May 26 '15 at 3:44
This helped me. I had to delete both Wallpaper and Wallpaper Style keys to reset the desktop background. Thanks. – digitguy Sep 11 '15 at 15:10

Easy...just do a search for the name of the wallpaper. Once you find the location that has the filename (i.e. wallpaper.jpg), simply rename that file to wallpaper-Old.jpg (or something like that). Next place either the image, or a link to an image, that you want to use in that location with the name wallpaper.jpg ( or whatever the original file's name was). This is just continuing with what W. Jackson was hinting at...

That said, do you know the location of the file that is used for the desktop background? Can you take the wallpaper you want and save it in that location? – William Jackson

This is just a workaround that does not require hacking the registry or any of the sysadmins' settings from A/D or the local machine.

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TNO! This thread is a perfect example showing why users are the greatest security risk to protected resources and end up costing business billions a year...the admin's job continues to go unappreciated! – packets May 21 '13 at 11:43
Yeah, changing a jpg is a huge security risk. If even 1 user replaces a simple jpg the entire domain is under attack and at risk of causing mass destruction on a level you've never seen before. – Nick Nov 20 '14 at 16:06

Here is a workaround if you are the local admin on your machine:

...and if you can find the image that the policy is using to set your wallpaper (in my case it was in C:\Windows\Web\wallpaper\backround.jpeg) you can change it's security permissions to deny all.

Next time you log in, the policy will not be able to overwrite the image or set it as wallpaper and hence it will default to a solid colour background. In my case I am still not able to choose a new image for the background because group policy disabled that option; I am however able to choose the Windows 7 default theme which set the background to default black.

I only wanted a black background in my case so I did not try to tinker around with the various read/write/modify permissions on the image itself. However, theoretically, you may be able to make your own image, name it the same as the default group policy background image, replace the default image with the new, change permissions on all groups, users to read only. This way the policy should fail to overwrite the image but succeed to set it as the default background. I have not tried this last bit.

This is the only solution I know off that is not temporary. All other solutions, including those that change the registry settings, will be overwritten by the policy every time you log in.

I tried using DisplayFusion and it does work but the change is temporary to the current session; DisplayFusion software will change the wallpaper to any of your chosing but every time you log out and back in and policy is re-applied, you will have to open DisplayFusion and hit OK to update the wallpaper.

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Open the image/wallpaper in your browser (IE). From there right click on the image and select set as wallpaper.

Problem is however when you log off/shut down it will revert back to the group policy set up. But you can just do the above again once you login.

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Why the "(IE)" in your answer? What if you don't use that browser? – Pierre.Vriens Jun 16 at 10:47

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