This tutorial won’t make your every day computing easier or more efficient, but it will make your computer look cooler and have your friends asking, “How did you do that!?”. Today I’m going to show you how to change the default Windows login screen to almost any image your heart desires.
Before I continue, I need to offer a word of caution. In this tutorial we’ll be working with what’s called the registry. The registry is vitally important to the stability of your operating system and therefore due caution should be exercised this time and every time you work within the registry. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll be making one single change to the registry. If you follow my instructions to a “t”, the stability of your operating system will not be in jeopardy. So without further ado, let’s change that rather unattractive login screen the wonderful people at Microsoft stuck us with so you can be greeted with a custom image of your choice.
Default Login Screen
The two images shown below are the default login screen for Windows 7 Professional (as well as other flavors and editions of Windows) and the default login screen after pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL just before logging in.
The first order of business is to instruct the registry to look elsewhere for the login screen image. The default location (where the operating system looks first) for the login screen image is C:\Windows\System32\oobe\background (shown above). By the way, OOBE stands for out-of-box-experience.
To access the registry, click your Start button and type “regedit” (minus the quotations) in the Search Programs and Files text box and click Enter.
**This next part is the important part. Follow along closely.**
From here let’s navigate to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Microsoft > Windows > Current Version > Authentication > LogonUI > Background. This is where we’re going to make the one and only change to the registry.
By double-clicking on OEMBackground, we can make the change that is necessary to tell the operating system files to look somewhere else for our custom login screen image. Once you double-click on OEMBackground you should see a similar screen; the only difference is your screen shows a 0 in the Value Data field whereas I’ve already changed mine. Go ahead and change the Value Data field from 0 to 1 like so.
Click OK. Notice the Data column changed from 0×00000000 (0) to ox00000001 (1).
You can breath now and close out the registry by clicking the X in the top-right hand corner of the Registry Editor. Now we’re going to create a couple of folders, find our image we want to use, place the image in the folder, and whala, we’ll have a new login screen.
Creating Additional Folders
Navigate to C:\Windows\System32\oobe either by accessing Computer through the Start button or by opening your Start Menu and typing “c:\windows\system32\oobe” (minus the quotations) and selecting the oobe folder. Your screen should look similar to the one below if you’ve done this correctly.
If you’re screen looks similar, let’s proceed. If not, look back and make sure you typed in the folder location correctly. Click the New Folder button I’ve highlighted with the red recular (that’s not another word for a rectum; just the combination of a rectangular and circular shape). Name the new folder “Info” (again, minus the quotations).
Double-click the “Info” folder. It’ll be empty, as you just created it. Click again on New Folder and name this folder “Backgrounds” (for the fifth time, minus the quotations).
Finding the Right Login Image
You need to keep the following three things in mind. Failure to follow these “rules” will result in your custom image not showing up at the login screen.
- The image file must be in JPEG format (.jpg)
- The image file must not exceed 256 KBs (Kilobytes) in size
- The image file must be named “backgroundDefault” (minus the quotations)
Another thing to consider, but is not a “rule” per say, is the resolution of your monitor. You want the image you select to be as close to the resolution you currently have set on your monitor and display settings. If the image is smaller than your resolution, Windows will stretch the image so it fills the entire screen. As a result of the stretching, the image could look fuzzy and distorted.
Now the fun part; finding that image. Here’s the image I used for my custom login screen.
If you’ve downloaded an image you like, make sure you save it to a location you’ll remember as we’ll be cutting (or copying) and pasting it into the Backgrounds folder we made earlier. If you already have an image in mind, perhaps one of you and your sweetie, or maybe a family image already on your computer, simply navigate to its location and cut (or copy) and paste the image into the Backgrounds folder we created earlier. Like so…
If you get an error message from Windows stating, “Destination Folder Access Denied” click Continue anyway. Windows doesn’t like when a user writes a file to the root directory (the C: drive), but will allow you to do so after being warned.
Now you see my Underwater image is in the Backgrounds folder. I’ve verified it is less than 256 KBs and the resolution is equal to my display settings. The only thing left to do is rename the file to “backgroundDefault” (minus the quotations of course). Right-click the image in the Backgrounds folder and select Rename. Again, name it “backgroundDefault” (I don’t have to say it again do I?).
The Moment of Truth
If I (and subsequently you) did everything correctly, we should be able to log out and be presented with our new customized login screen. Go ahead and give it a shot. Here’s mine.
Don’t forget to leave your questions and feedback!