Windows

An awesome tool for customizing the Windows 7 Logon screen wallpaper

Greg Shultz shows you how to use the free Windows 7 Logon Background Changer to customize your user experience.
Windows 7 Home Premium

Note: This article originally was publish on TechRepublic on February 9, 2012.

Back in February 2010, I wrote a blog titled "Change and Customize Windows 7's Logon Screen Wallpaper" that to this day continues to be a popular article. In that blog I told you that in order to make it easy for OEMs to customize Windows 7, Microsoft built the ability to change the Logon screen wallpaper right in to the operating system. Even though the technique that I explained in that article is very straightforward, it is still a manual procedure in which you must edit the registry, create folders, and copy files.

Well, I recently discovered that Julien Manici, an ingenious developer from Toulon, France, just released the final version of his free Windows 7 Logon Background Changer program that beautifully automates the entire procedure, even providing access to a nice collection of images that are hidden in Windows 7. Furthermore, the program has an awesome user interface that takes advantage of the Windows Presentation Foundation capabilities to create a very fluid selection operation -- reminiscent of the effect presented by Windows 7's Flip 3D feature.

In this post, I'll show you how to use Windows 7 Logon Background Changer. As I do, I'll tell you why I think this program is awesome.

Getting the program

Once you download the Windows 7 Logon Background Changer from the developer's site, you need to open the Zip file and either install the program or just use the executable file. If you choose to install the Windows 7 Logon Background Changer, you'll find that the program gets integrated into the Control Panel's Appearance and Personalization tool, as shown in Figure A. (This is just the beginning of this developer's resourcefulness.) Figure A

Installing the program into the Appearance and Personalization tool is a unique approach.

If you don't want to install it, just copy the executable file, Win7LogonBackgroundChanger.exe, to the folder of your choice. When you run the stand-alone executable file, you may see a Security Warning, but you can safely bypass it by clicking the Run button.

Using the program

Once you have Windows 7 Logon Background Changer up and running, as shown in Figure B, you'll be amazed at the fluidity of the selection process. (I recommend clicking the Full Screen button to get the full effect.) The first thing you'll notice is a pulsing circle emanating from the center of the screen; this is a nice effect.

Across the bottom of the screen, you'll find an amazing set of pictures that you can choose from for the logon screen wallpaper. The Windows 7 Logon Background Changer pulls these images right from within the bowels of the operating system. Yes, that's right -- they come with Windows 7. As you may know, Windows 7 ships with a host of region specific themes. When you install Windows 7, it sets up those themes specific to your region in the My Themes section of the Personalization tool. The rest of the themes are on your hard disk but are not made available.

Figure B

The Windows 7 Logon Background Changer takes advantage of Windows Presentation Foundation to create the 3D animation.

But Windows 7 Logon Background Changer reaches into the C:\Windows\winsxs folder and makes all these awesome images readily available for use as Logon screen wallpaper. (This is the second example of the developer's resourcefulness.)

The best way to cycle through the available wallpaper is to select the first image with your mouse and then use the right and left arrow keys to scroll through the images. As you do, you'll hear a pleasant sound effect and see the images rotate in a nice 3D animated circular motion to reveal the next one in the series on the flip side of the rotating image. This 3D animated effect was created by taking advantage of the Windows Presentation Foundation capabilities. (This is the third example of the developer's resourcefulness.)

Once you choose an image, just click the Apply button and the image will be configured as the Logon wallpaper, as shown in Figure C. It will take a few moments to set up the new logon wallpaper, but the orange progress bar keeps you apprised of the length of the operation. Figure C

It will take a few moments to set up the new logon wallpaper.

Of course, you aren't limited to using the images from Windows regional themes. Just click the Choose a folder button and you can choose a folder of your own images.

If you read my 2010 article, you know that the button and the text used to identify your user account on the Logon screen have shadows behind them to give them a 3D-like look, and that the default shadows configuration works well with the default Logon screen wallpaper. Depending on what image you use for your new Logon screen wallpaper, those shadows might not work so well. If you click the Settings button, you'll see that you can adjust the shadow effect, as shown in Figure D. Figure D

On the Settings page you can adjust the shadows used on the Logon screen's button and text.

Get real

Before you head to the discussion area to ask me why I am so excited about a program that performs such a simple task, let me explain.

When I first saw Window Flip3D and other cool animated effects such as the Live Taskbar in early versions of Windows 7, I was excited at the prospect that the Windows 7 developers would build more such 3D animated features into the operating system in order to really show off the capabilities of the Windows Presentation Foundation. But they never did. And then to see something as nicely designed as Windows 7 Logon Background Changer, well, it makes you wonder what could have been.

Just imagine other features in the operating system that could have been more exciting if they were programmed with a Windows Presentation Foundation-based user interface like the one in Windows 7 Logon Background Changer? For instance, take a look at the Personalization tool in the Control Panel. Imagine how different it could have been to select Desktop Background, Windows Color, or screen saver from a Windows Presentation Foundation-based user interface. How about looking at photos in the Pictures Library?

What's your take?

Have you used the manual technique to change the Logon wallpaper? Will you use the Windows 7 Logon Background Changer? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to participate in the discussion thread below.

Also see

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

20 comments
Marty-7
Marty-7

Finally got a chance to try this out. I had a problem on an older test machine not being able to run from the Control Panel (it would just hang), but the standalone executable worked flawlessly. Personally, with all the stress of IT, I really enjoy a simple little program like this that does something that makes me smile. Thanx!

crash9638
crash9638

Forget all the haters. Part of having a computer is making it your own. Just love the Win 7 logon changer program. Now my outer is truly my own. Thanks for sharing.

Kent Lion
Kent Lion

Someone obviously has way too much time on their hands. Praising an application that has the sole "purpose" of changing eye candy? Maybe that's why almost every time I use Internet Explorer now, one or more tabs crash with an apology from Microsoft, and FireFox has become so slow there's little point in bothering with it anymore. If everyone considers appearance as or more important than function, eye candy is what we're all going to get.

Gisabun
Gisabun

To automate the background is a simple thing. Just Have a batch file [or Powershell script] to create the folder if not empty, dump in the appropriate background picture(s) and use a reg file [or regadd or others] to insert the registry changes. If you don't like the long folder, create a shortcut to it somewhere. Then when you want to change the background, rename your image file to whatever it is in the reg file and dump it into the folder, overwriting the old one. [Played a simple prank on someone by inserting a less than nice picture of the guy for his start-up image!] That said, you see it on startup [if not using a password at start-up] and shut-down for maybe 30 seconds. Is there really a point to using it?

WCarlS
WCarlS

Is WPF installed by default in all versions of Windows 7? Do all versions work with this? Not every machine comes with Pro or Ultimate. As an alternative, try this (I believe this was profiled on T/R and ZDnet): Win7 Logon Screen Changer FREEware http://tweaks.com/software/tweakslogon/ The Tweaks.com Logon Changer for Windows 7 provides an easy way to customize the logon screen background with just a few clicks. Simply download the free application, run it and click Change Logon Screen. Using a feature that was originally designed for OEM computer manufactures like Dell and others to brand their computers, everyone can now safely customize their Windows 7 logon screen background. The actual process requires creating some registry keys, folders and files. To simplify the process the author created a free utility called the Tweaks.com Logon Changer that will allow you change the logon screen background with just a few clicks. The application will prompt for the location of the new background image and then install the new screen behind the scenes. Tweaks.com Logon Changer will even provide a preview of your new background on a logon screen. When you have settled on a good logon background, click the Test button to see it in action.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

If you start to download the file on a non-Win7 machine, the site alerts you that the program runs only on Win7, and then nicely asks if you want to continue the download anyway. That's really good and thoughtful work.

Horus418
Horus418

Come on you can do this with very little knowledge manually. I would have expected something a little more advanced that the inane carp (yes I know it was done on porpose, just like that was). Thanks but no thanks.

bearloads
bearloads

Who Care's??? I either have the comp off or in sleep mode for the hours I know I won't be using it, I do have some favorite Pictures for the screen when online and can change them in 20 seconds with opening the pic right clicking and choosing use as Wallpaper.... Probably just a ploy to get the very stable system a flaw or backdoor trojan horse to be exploited with code this "Professional" Hacker Executes.... Keep your friends close, But keep your Enemies CLOSER!!!!

Matt Nawrocki
Matt Nawrocki

I thought this could only be done with a simple registry hack and a file copy. This seems much easier to me. :)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you change the Windows 7 login screen background for users? For yourself? What backgrounds do you use and why?

Slayer_
Slayer_

A 32 bit app can't write to that folder, apparently NTFS can redirect 32bit programs to the syswow64 folder equivalent, which doesn't exist, so it just outright fails. You can test this by trying to CD to the folder in a DOS prompt. I was unable to on a 64 bit system.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

... what if you were on your Windows XP machine and wanted to download it to use on your other machine, running Windows 7? Wouldn't you be upset if you were prevented from downloading it? I don't believe that I have ever encountered a download that prevented me from continuing because my system didn't meet the requirements. Now, installation is a different matter. If my system didn't meet the operating system requirements, I would expect the installation to stop me in my tracks.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

If you read this blog post you would have noticed that we did indeed show how to do this manually a couple of years ago. This is just an interesting follow up.

ed
ed

This wasn't created for techies like us to use on our computers. It's for us to use to help get Great Aunt Edna more comfortable with her computer so she will try emailing her grandchildren--you know, Great Aunt Edna who is convinced she'll do something irreparable if she touches the keyboard? I doubt I'll use this for myself, but I'll probably put pictures of our daughters on the computer I'm giving my wife for Valentine's Day. My father never learned to type, but he had email correspondences with dozens (hundreds?) of people, including our congresscritters, an ex-president, and others. My mother could type, but after he was gone, she told us to retire the computer. She might have tried if she had seen the results of something like this. It's not all for us, guys. We geek-folks are not all there is.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Almost like why do people place images on the desktop when they won't be visible most of the time anyways.

Horus418
Horus418

LOL! I will have to have a go at that, brilliant idea. I love tyour thinking. lol

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

The web site does not prevent a download. It merely alerts you that the download will not run on the machine you are using for the download. I did, in fact, download the file on an XP box, and then move it to Win7.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...I did misread your comment. I mistook it as sarcasm. Must have been a long day. In any case, I'm glad that you found the program and the article helpful.