Customize Your PC’s Desktop

For the artistically inclined PC user, Windows 7 has ushered in a new level of creativity and customization, far beyond the default options contained in any of Microsoft’s previous operating systems. Don’t believe me? Just right-click on your desktop and select “Personalize.” You can use choose from a variety of theme packages that completely change the look and feel of your Windows environment. And if you’re up for a little tweaking, you can adjust all sorts of visual settings to fully personalize your PC. Rotating wallpapers, desktop icons, and the color and transparency of your windows are all just a few clicks away.

Want even deeper customization? Turn to the wide world of third-party downloads to help you put more of an aesthetical kick into Windows’ than even the best Microsoft has to offer.

Rainmeter

This phenomenal all-in-one desktop customization tool allows you to literally transform the shape, look, and feel of your standard Windows desktop into a truly unique expression of your personality. But that’s a good thing. From its skins to its built-in and downloadable widgets and its smorgasbord of customization options, Rainmeter doesn’t just allow you to give your desktop a new look and feel. It basically allows you to build a brand-new desktop in place of Windows’ default setup.

But don’t stress out over all the options that Rainmeter presents. All you need to get started are themes—preset combinations of wallpapers, icons, and widgets—that you can browse through using the program’s default management tool. Simply grab some themes that interest you from Rainmeter’s forums, install the themes, and browse through them within Rainmeter itself.

When you want to start getting creative, you can take preset themes and customize them further by enabling, disabling, or configuring the widgets, or “skins,” that come with each theme. And many of these skins aren’t just for looks—system resource monitors, clocks, weather apps, and all sorts of other useful informational tools can be sliced, diced, and added to your desktop in various ways. With a few minutes of tweaking, you’ll have a desktop interface that reflects your unique identity.

DreamScene

The original DreamScene was a feature exclusive to owners of Windows Vista’s Ultimate edition that gave users to use movies as moving desktop wallpaper. It was a bit of a resource hog at times but, nevertheless, pretty cool to show off to one’s friends.

Even though that feature’s gone the way of the dodo in Windows 7, it hasn’t been eliminated entirely. You need merely grab a freeware app called “DreamScene Activator,” which will unlock the functionality for use again in all versions of Windows 7. Run the app with Administrator privileges, and you’ll be able to tap into the power of movies as desktop backgrounds with but one click of a mouse.

So where, then, do you find movies to play? My favorite site for DreamScene wallpapers is, conveniently enough, Dreamscene.org, a great repository of all kinds of movies that you can download and integrate into your Windows 7 desktop. And they don’t look like crap, either: Most movies are HD-compatible at either a 720p or 1080p resolution.

Login Screen

Is the default Windows 7 login screen a little too plain-vanilla for your taste? Change it to a customized image a little bit of Windows Registry tweaking. This advanced tweak isn’t for beginners, but it’s a brilliant way to make your PC stand out from the crowd the moment you turn it on.

Open up Windows’ registry editor (type “regedit” into the Start Menu’s “Search Programs and Files” field), and navigate over to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI\Background. You’re looking to change the “OEMBackground” value from 0 to 1. If it doesn’t exist, right-click and create a new DWORD (32-bit) Value, name it “OEMBackground,” and double-click on it to change its value to “1.”

Now, close the registry editor and navigate over to your C:\Windows\System32\Oobe folder. Once there, right-click inside the folder and create a new folder called “info.” Enter this new “info” folder and repeat the same process to create a folder called “backgrounds” inside “info.”

You need simply copy over an image – ideally one with the same resolution as your desktop and one that’s less than 256KB in size – into this “info” folder. Once you’ve done that, rename the image to: “backgroundDefault.jpg,” assuming that you’ve already toggled the option to show the file’s full name and extension within Windows Explorer as-is. Restart your computer and enjoy your new login screen!

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