Is there a way to change the desktop wallpaper in Windows 7 Starter Edition? I wanted to do that on my new netbook, just to find out that there is no "Customize" option in the control panel. Microsoft obviously wants to keep the netbook users rather rigidly from customizing their machines.

It isn't even possible to edit the picture itself in the C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\ directory, due to lack of rights. From what I can tell only the user "Trusted Installer" would have enough rights to do so...

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    Small note, if this is against the license agreement and someone who cares finds out, you could be in trouble...
    – RCIX
    Commented Dec 27, 2009 at 2:34
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    Interesting.. and disappointing. I just read the EULA of windows 7 starter. I thought blocking the user via software from changeing the background would be all Microsoft does. But apparently RCIX, you're right. They ban it also by license.. Here's the respective snippet (hope I don't break any agreements by posting this one here... ;P) Commented Jan 9, 2010 at 21:40
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    "Unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation, you may use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways. You may not • work around any technical limitations in the software; • customize the desktop background;" (C:\Windows\System32\license.rtf; Paragraph 8) Reverted the Desktop back to the original... Commented Jan 9, 2010 at 21:41
  • Does the EULA specifically state no changing the desktop background? There is not "Technical Limitation" on doing this, you are simply by-passing the user interface to implement the same functionality that was left out.
    – user116507
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 19:29
  • @V.Schreiber - I understand "technical limitation" as "we, Microsoft, HAD TO completely remove the wallpaper API functionality because of technical reasons -> such us, to make the delivered software (MS Windows 7 Starter) smaller". Just removing the wallpaper settings from GUI is NOT a "technical limitation" but a "commercial idea".
    – IceCold
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 12:07

8 Answers 8


Resetting permissions on the file and overwriting will not work, as shell32.dll has code which compares the image with a SHA-256 hash. The only option other than tampering with the files yourself in a hex editor is using Stardock MyColors, though you must use an entire theme.

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    You're right about resetting the permissions. I tried this one and managed to overwrite the image, just to end up with a black desktop background. Unfortunately, changing the wallpaper with myColor doesn't work very well. I can do it, if I apply a complete theme for all icons and design elements in windows. Applying just a single wallpaper has no effect. In other words I can choose between the free themes from myColor or the standard Windows set. Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 14:29

Nope, Windows 7 starter will not let you change the background. You'll need to upgrade to Home Premium or higher

EDIT: I take that back, there is a way to do it, but you'll need to use a third-party tool like Windows Blind in order to do it. I wouldn't recommend it, however, because most netbooks are short on resources already. A third-party theme manager would just take up more of those resources

  • Netbooks have quite enough resources to do stuff. Any stuff you do on one uses up some of the resources. If you want changing your wallpaper to be among the stuff you do with some of those resources then go for it. I did and my netbook is still quite usable. I recommend it if it's something you want to do. Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 6:47

the simplest answer, without adding more downloaded-app cruft, without sending more money to Redmond, is

  1. regedit, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Control Panel/Desktop

    1a. the usual warnings, back up the registry / registry key before changing stuff

  2. temporarily change the permissions of the key to allow you to edit it; right-click the 'Desktop' key => permissions, give 'full control' to 'Everyone'

  3. Edit the subkey Desktop/Wallpaper to contain the full pathname of the new wallpaper image file jpg, such as C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\mypicture.jpg

  4. Edit as necessary, Desktop/TileWallpaper=1 to tile; my Desktop/WallpaperStyle=2 although that may be non-essential

  5. change the permissions of the Desktop/Wallpaper key to 'read only' for 'Everyone' it sounds as though some people had unresponsive computers when omitting that reversion, although I must say I simply got 'no background image'

  6. restart the desktop, simplest is to return to the password screen rather than restarting windows

  7. Laugh at the EULA when it's quite clear that no jury in the world would think of depriving someone of for instance a picture of their family as desktop background :) it could even be said that Microsoft trying to prevent that is in itself offensive

As far as I know, there's no hash key comparison happening, although you need to set the registry key permissions right to make it work

more details at answers.microsoft.com

you may need to change the permissions of C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows, I seem to have 'special permissions' as well as read/write permissions, for admin


From here:

"You can use Stardock MyColors to change Windows 7 Starter wallpaper. It entirely bypass that restriction."

This site also has some workarounds. Basically, find the file:


and as an Administrator, reset the permissions and overwrite.

  • Except the file will have to have the same SHA-256 hash as the existing one. It's possible :)
    – Phoshi
    Commented Nov 18, 2009 at 18:47

Does this program help you change the Wallpaper ?

Wallpaper Changer for Windows 7 Starter

Microsoft had the great idea to forbid changing the wallpaper in the Starter Edition of Windows 7, so that people would buy more upgrades. But that's really annoying. I mean - you have got a nice netbook with Windows 7 installed, and now you probably want to customize it and add a cool wallpaper! Who wouldn't? But - oh no - there is no way to do that! Crap, isn't it?

I was annoyed too, but I started investigating, thinking and trying, I simply wanted to find a way to change the wallpaper without installing a huge software like Talisman Desktop Pro, which eats up a lot of performance.

And I was successful! I finally figured out a solution and created a little tool which does everything for you, so I can share that solution with everyone suffering from the same problem! I don't want you guys to be as frustrated as I was!

  • Mh. The program starts correctly, but applying a wallpaper has no effect. But then, I changed the wallpaper with Sopan's program first. Maybe that overwrote some settings, this tool needs to funciton. Anyway: Thanks for the link. Maybe someone else could try to see if this wallpaper changer works with them. Commented Dec 12, 2009 at 13:17

One of the simplest things that you can do would be to just purchase a Windows Anytime Upgrade package from Microsoft. For $79 USD you can take your starter edition and bring it up to Home Premium with out having to do a complete install of anything. You should then have a much nicer experience with Wnidows 7 and not have to muck around in the registry or get frustrated because you can't do something.

Students have an even sweeter deal, they can upgrade to Windows 7 Premium for only $29.99 until January 3rd of '09. Goto the website win741.com and click on buy to see the full details.

Hope this helps you.

  • 1
    Hi Chris. Thanks for the info about the Anytime Upgrade. But being a student, those $80 are quite a lot for the functionality I'm looking for. Right now, I'm still curious about other possible solutions. But L'll keep it in mind if I run into more limitations of that kind. Commented Nov 14, 2009 at 17:17
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    Do you work for Microsoft?
    – gadgetmo
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 15:33

Download Oceanis_Change_Background_W7.exe, there is also an explanation on how to use it.

  • BioniX Wallpaper Changer will do the same thing out of the box. Additionally it doesn't require to restart your Windows AND it also does not have that old bug related to Updates: "Oceanis program no longer works properly after installing some Windows Updates".
    – IceCold
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 11:53

BioniX Background Wallpaper Changer will do this for you (yes, even on Windows 7 Starter). Even more, you can have extra functionality that is not available on Windows Pro such as:

  • animated desktop wallpapers (GIF/AVI),
  • day/night wallpapers,
  • automatic background color detection (when the wallpaper is 4:3 and your screen is 16:9 for example),
  • stripping of wallpapers directly from online web pages,
  • dynamic web cams as wallpaper,
  • etc.

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