A friend of mine has his Windows 10 system set up to use Windows Spotlight images for his lock screen background. These images are stunning photographs that are automatically downloaded from Microsoft Bing and randomly displayed as the background for the lock screen. He said that he enjoys many of the images and would like to use them for the desktop background, where they would be available for prolonged viewing, but he hasn't been able to find the folder in which Windows 10 stores them. ("You can only look at the lock screen for so long and then you have to get to work," he quipped.)
I explained to him that the image files are buried deep in the operating system's folder structure, are cryptically named, and do not have file extensions. I then showed him where to find them, how to copy them, and how to rename them so that he could use them. The procedure isn't difficult, but it is pretty tedious, and my friend was discouraged at the prospect of performing all the steps required. He asked me if there was a better way.
I told him I had heard about a Windows Store app called SpotBright that will perform this procedure. I've never used the app, so I couldn't really vouch for it, but I presented it to my friend as an option. Without my endorsement, he wasn't interested, though, and asked me if the operation couldn't be handled easily with a simple batch file. Well, it was actually more of a challenge than a question. So I accepted.
Of course, you could perform this operation with a batch file or even a PowerShell script, but then you would have to work from a command line. Since I knew that I could easily tap into the Windows user interface with a Windows Script Host/VBScript file, I chose that route. With a little bit of work, I had a basic but functioning script. My friend was pretty impressed with my handiwork, since the script immediately displayed the Windows Spotlight images files in File Explorer.
After some fine tuning, polish, and a name, I decided to present my script here so that TechRepublic readers could check it out.
In this article, I'll discuss setting up Windows Spotlight images for the lock screen background in Windows 10. I'll then show you how the Spotlight Image Finder script works. As I do, I'll describe the Windows Spotlight images files.
Enabling Windows Spotlight
If you've already been seeing various Windows Spotlight images on your lock screen background, you should be ready to go. If you still see the default image, a beach cave, as your lock screen background, you need to enable the Windows Spotlight download operation to take advantage of this technique.
To begin, click the Start button and select Settings. In the Settings window, click the Personalization tile and then select the Lock Screen tab. Now, even though Windows Spotlight may already appear in the Background list, select it anyway, as shown in Figure A, to ensure that it is enabled. After that, just close the Personalization window.
It may appear that Windows Spotlight is already set, but select it anyway to be sure that it is enabled.
To continue, lock your system by pressing Windows key + L. As soon as you do, you'll see the lock screen, and it should be showing a new image. You should also find the Like What You See? prompt icon in the upper-right corner of the screen. If it doesn't appear immediately, go get a cup of coffee and then try locking your system again later. It is usually a pretty quick turnaround, but sometimes it takes a little while before new images begin downloading in the background.
When you see the icon, hover your mouse pointer over it and you'll see the available responses, as shown in Figure B.
When Windows Spotlight downloads new images, it will present you with this prompt.
If you select Not A Fan, a new image will appear instantly. If you select I Like It, Windows 10 will look for similar images to download into the Window Spotlight collection.
Windows 10 will download groups of images that match your preferences on a regular basis, but as a part of this update process, it will also remove existing images. So if you see a new image on your lock screen background that you like, you'll want to grab it as soon as possible before it gets removed.
SEE: Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Microsoft has fixed Edge browser's biggest problem, but it's still not good enough
Taking a look at the source
Just so you have an idea of what happens behind the scenes after enabling Windows Spotlight, let's look at the cryptically named files buried deep in the operating system's folder structure. To begin, you need to enable the Show Hidden Files setting in File Explorer. To do so, launch File Explorer and select the View tab. Then, select Options on the far right end of the toolbar. When the Folder Options dialog appears, select the View tab. Scroll down the Advanced Settings list, select Show Hidden Files, Folders, And Drives (Figure C) and click OK.
To manually find the Windows Spotlight images, you must first configure Windows 10 to display hidden items.
The next step is to navigate to your user folder:
This PC > C: > Users > [Your User Name]
Then, navigate the remaining path:
AppData > Local > Packages > Microsoft.Windows.ContentDeliveryManager_cw5n1h2txyewy > LocalState > Assets
When you do so, you'll see all the files that make up Windows Spotlight, shown in Figure D. Sifting through the Assets folder can be a tricky mess. But using Spotlight Image Finder script makes quick work of it.
The Assets folder appears to be a mess!
The Spotlight Image Finder script download consists of a readme file and one VBScript file:
To ensure a safe download that won't raise the ire of your AV program, I changed the VBScript file extension to txt. To run the file, you'll have to rename the extension back to vbs.
Running the Spotlight Image Finder script
After you've downloaded the script and renamed the file extension to vbs, just double-click the SpotlightFinder.vbs file and you'll see the splash screen shown in Figure E. It will remain displayed for a few seconds. In the background the script is accessing the Assets folder, copying all the files to a subfolder in the Pictures folder, and renaming them with a jpg extension.
The splash screen appears briefly.
In a moment, Spotlight Image Finder will display the folder containing the Windows Spotlight images, as shown in Figure F. As you can see in the Address bar, the Spotlight Image Finder creates a folder called SpotLightPictures in the Pictures folder. It then creates a folder with the current date as the name and copies all the files to that folder.
You discover that not all the files contain images.
As you look through the folder you'll find that not all the files in the folder are images. You'll also see that some of the images are small icons and others are formatted for Windows Phone screens. If you use the Large Icons or Medium Icons views, you can sift through the images easily. You can delete the files that don't display images. You can just as easily delete the icon files and the phone formatted images, leaving only the full screen pictures behind. Figure G shows these images using the Extra Large Icons view.
After you remove excess files, only the full screen files are left behind.
After you run Spotlight Image Finder once on a particular day, the script won't create additional folders that day. Instead it will display the message shown in Figure H.
The Spotlight Image Finder will create only one folder per day.
It will then open the SpotLightPictures folder so that you can see that day's folder, as shown in Figure I. This precautionary measure will prevent you from inadvertently filling up your hard disk with copies of the Windows Spotlight images. If you want to run the program more than once on any particular day, you can either rename or delete that day's folder.
When the SpotLightPictures folder appears, you can see the existing folders.
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What's your take?
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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.