Windows 11 Desktop CustomizationSource: Windows Central

On Windows 11, you can customize many settings to change the desktop's appearance and other elements to make the experience a little more personal or quickly refresh the feel to avoid the same look every day.

Although the experience is not as customizable as on Windows 10, you can still change the desktop background with a personal picture or a theme from the Microsoft Store. You can switch between the dark and light color modes or use a custom accent color across the desktop. You can organize your favorite apps in the Start menu. And you can change the alignment of the Taskbar, decide what items appear in the experience, tweak the system tray settings, and a lot more.

In this Windows 11 guide, we will walk you through the different ways to customize the appearance to make your computer experience a little more personal.

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How to change background on Windows 11

On Windows 11, the quickest way to make the desktop look different is by changing the background image, configuring a slideshow, or choosing a solid background color. If you are using the virtual desktops feature, it's now possible to set a custom background for each desktop.

Change desktop wallpaper

To change the desktop background on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

    Settings BackgroundSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Personalize your background" setting, select the Picture option.
  5. Click the Browse photos button.

    Choose custom backgroundSource: Windows Central

  6. Select the background image to use on the desktop.
  7. Click the Choose picture button.
  8. (Optional) Use the Choose a fit for your desktop image setting and select the Fill option to ensure the image covers the entire screen. Other options include Fit, Stretch, Tile, Center, and Span.

Alternatively, you can also right-click an image and select the Set as desktop background option to apply the image as the new desktop background.

Configure desktop slideshow

To set a slideshow on the desktop, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

    Settings BackgroundSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Personalize your background" setting, select the Slideshow option.
  5. Click the Browse button.

    Slideshow backgroundSource: Windows Central

  6. Select the folder with the images to show on the desktop.
  7. Click the Choose this folder button.
  8. Use the Change picture every setting and select how often to rotate images. Options include one, 10, or 30 minutes, one or 6 hours, or one day.
  9. (Optional) Turn on the Shuffle the picture order toggle switch.
  10. (Optional) Use the Choose a fit for your desktop image setting and select the Fill option to ensure the image covers the entire screen. Other options include Fit, Stretch, Tile, Center, and Span.

Once you complete the steps, the desktop will rotate the collection of pictures in the background at the intervals you specified in the settings.

Configure desktop solid color

To apply a solid color on the Windows 11 desktop, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

    Settings BackgroundSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Personalize your background" setting, select the Solid color option.
  5. Select a background color.

    Solid color backgroundSource: Windows Central

  6. (Optional) Under the "Custom colors" setting, click the View colors button.
  7. Create a custom color.

    Create custom background colorSource: Windows Central

  8. Click the Done button.

After you complete the steps, the desktop will show a solid color background.

Configure background per desktop

On Windows 11, it's also possible to set a different background for each virtual desktop to make it easier to differentiate between them.

To set a different background per desktop (not monitor), use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

    Settings BackgroundSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Personalize your background" setting, select the Picture option.
  5. Right-click the image, select the Set for desktop submenu, and select the desktop to apply the background.

    Set wallpaper per desktopSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, each virtual desktop will include a different desktop background.

Configure background per monitor

You can also set a different background image per monitor. However, the option won't be available while using virtual desktops.

To set a custom background per monitor on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

    Settings BackgroundSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Personalize your background" setting, select the Picture option.
  5. Right-click the image, select the Set on monitor (N) option.

    Set wallpaper per monitorSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to apply another image to the remaining displays.

How to change colors on Windows 11

Windows 11 lets you choose different colors for elements across the desktop. You can choose between the light or dark mode, or you can select a custom accent color that will appear in the Start menu, Taskbar, Notification Center and Quick Settings, title bars, borders, and apps.

Enable light or dark color mode

To switch between the dark or light system on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

    Settings BackgroundSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Choose your mode" setting and select the Light or Dark color mode option.

    Change Windows 11 color modeSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the desktop experience (including Taskbar, Start menu, and apps) will switch to the color mode you selected.

Configure custom color mode

To apply a custom system color mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

    Settings BackgroundSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the Choose your mode setting and select the Custom color mode option.
  5. Use the Choose your default Windows mode setting to decide if Start, Taskbar, and other elements should use the light or dark color mode.

    Windows 11 custom color modeSource: Windows Central

  6. Use the Choose your default app mode setting to decide whether apps should use the light or dark color mode.

After you complete the steps, the custom color mode will apply on Windows 11, depending on your configuration.

Enable or disable transparency effect

Some elements like the Start menu, Taskbar, Quick Settings, Notification Center, and apps can show semi-transparency effects, and in the "Colors" page, you can decide whether or not to use these effects.

To configure transparent effect on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Colors page on the right side.

    Colors settings pageSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the Choose your mode setting and turn on or off the Transparency effects toggle switch.

    Windows 11 transparency effectSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, transparency effects will be available according to your selection.

Configure custom color accent

To apply a custom color accent to your Windows 11 experience, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Colors page on the right side.

    Colors settings pageSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Accent color" setting and select the Manual option.

    Accent color manual optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Select a custom accent color.
  6. (Optional) Click the View colors button for the Custom colors setting.
  7. Create a custom color.

    Custom color accentSource: Windows Central

  8. Click the Done button.
  9. (Optional) Use the "Accent color" setting and select the Automatic option to allow the system to use a color based on the colors of the current desktop background.

After you complete the steps, system icons, links, buttons, and many other elements will reflect the new automatic color.

Show accent color on Start menu and Taskbar

If you want the Start menu, Taskbar, Notification Center and Quick Settings, and other elements to use the same color scheme, instead of the system color mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Colors page on the right side.

    Colors settings pageSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Accent color" setting and select the Manual option.

    Quick tip: You can also use the Automatic option.

  5. Select a custom accent color.
  6. Use the "Choose your mode" setting and select the Dark or Custom option.

    Choose your modeSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: If you use the custom option, make sure to use the Dark option for the "Choose your default Windows mode" option.

  7. Under the "Accent color" setting, turn on the Show accent color on Start and taskbar toggle switch.

    Show accent color on Start and taskbarSource: Windows Central

  8. (Optional) Turn on the Show accent color on title bars and windows borders toggle switch to show the accent color in borders and title bars (except in File Explorer).

Once you complete the steps, the Start menu, Taskbar, and other visual elements will now use the color accent you selected in the settings.

Show accent color on title bars and borders

To enable accent color for title bars and borders, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Colors page on the right side.

    Colors settings pageSource: Windows Central

  4. Turn on the Show accent color on title bars and windows borders toggle switch to allow the accent color to show in borders and title bars.

    Show accent color on title bars and windows bordersSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the accent color will show in the application's border frames and title bars (except in File Explorer).

How to change themes on Windows 11

A theme is a package that includes one or more background images, accent color, mouse pointer customizations, and in some cases, sounds, and you can get them from the Microsoft Store (most of them are free, and others are paid).

Change themes

To change the desktop theme, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Themes page on the right side.

    Windows 11 ThemesSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Current theme" setting, select one of the available themes.

    Windows 11 select themeSource: Windows Central

    Quick note: Windows 11 comes with six default themes with different wallpapers and settings, including Windows (light), Windows (dark), Glow, Sunrise, and Flow.

Once you complete the steps, the theme will apply to your computer.

Download themes

To get new themes for your Windows 11 desktop, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Themes page on the right side.

    Windows 11 ThemesSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Current theme" setting, click the Browse themes button.

    Windows 11 browse themesSource: Windows Central

  5. Select the Windows 11 theme from the Microsoft Store.
  6. Click the Get (or Install) button.

    Microsoft Store download themeSource: Windows Central

  7. Click the Open button.
  8. Select the newly installed theme to apply it.

After you complete the steps, the newly downloaded theme will be reflected on the desktop and across the experience.

Contrast themes

As part of the accessibility experience, Windows 11 also offer four different high contrast themes. Although these themes are reserved for individuals with low vision, anyone can use the themes.

To switch to one of the contrast Windows 11 themes, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Accessibility.
  3. Click the Contrast themes page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Contrast ThemesSource: Windows Central

  4. Under the "Contrast themes: setting, select one of the available themes, including:

    • Aquatic.
    • Desert.
    • Dusk.
    • Night sky.

    High Contrast ThemesSource: Windows Central

  5. (Optional) Use the Left Alt key + Left Shift key + Print screen keyboard shortcut to enable or disable the contrast theme.

Once you complete the steps, the Windows experience will switch to the high contrast mode.

How to customize Start menu on Windows 11

On Windows 11, the Start menu is an essential component to launch apps and find virtually anything on your computer, including apps, settings, and files, and you can customize it in many different ways.

Change Start settings

To customize the Windows 11 Start menu settings, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Start page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Start settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Turn on or off the Show recently added apps toggle switch.
  5. Turn on or off the Show most used apps toggle switch.
  6. Turn on or off the Show recently opened items in Start, Jump Lists, and File Explorer toggle switch.

    Start menu settingsSource: Windows Central

When enabling the recently added or most used apps options, the Start menu will show these items in the "Recommended" section and the "All apps" list.

Add or remove Folders on Start

To add or remove quick access to different locations like Documents, Downloads, etc., through the Start menu, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Start page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Start settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Select the Folders setting.

    Start menu foldersSource: Windows Central

  5. Turn on or off the items to appear next to the power button in Start.

    Start Folders itemsSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the quick access buttons will appear next to the power button in the Start menu.

Pin apps to Start

To organize the Pinned section of the Start menu, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for the name of the app in Windows Search.
  3. Right-click the app and select the Pin to Start option.

    Pin to Start optionSource: Windows Central

  4. (Optional) Right-click the app from the "Pinned" section and select the Move to top option to position the item in the top-left corner.

    Start move to topSource: Windows Central

  5. (Optional) In the "Pinned" section, drag the item to your desired position.

If you don't want a particular app in the Pinned section or want to get rid of it, right-click the app and select the Unpin from Start or Uninstall button. If this is a Microsoft Store app, the app will be removed without further steps. If this is a classic app, you may need to continue with the on-screen directions to complete the uninstall process.

Customize Recommended section on Start

The "Recommended" section is where you will find suggestions of recently opened files and installed apps. This area holds up to six items, but you can click the More button to access more content (if applicable). Although you cannot remove this feature, you can customize it to make it more comfortable.

Remove Recommended items

To remove items from the Recommended section individually, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Under the "Recommended" section, right-click the item and select the Remove from list option.

    Recommended remove from list optionSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the item you selected will be removed from the Start menu.

Disable Recommended section

To prevent content from showing in the Recommended section, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Start page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Start settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Turn off the Show recently added apps toggle switch.

    Disable Start menu RecommendedSource: Windows Central

  5. Turn off the Show recently opened items in Start, Jump Lists, and File Explorer toggle switch.

After you complete the steps, the Recommended section will no longer show any items. However, since you disable recently added apps and opened items, the recently added apps list will no longer appear in the All apps list, Jump Lists for apps in the Taskbar, and the Quick access page in File Explorer will no longer show recently opened items.

How to customize Taskbar on Windows 11

The Taskbar on Windows 11 isn't as customizable as in previous versions, but you can still manage various settings to adjust the look and feel. You can change the alignment of items, remove the system items you don't use, and manage various settings from the system tray.

Change alignment of icons

To align the Taskbar buttons and Start menu to the left, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Click the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  5. Use the "Taskbar alignment" setting and select the Left option.

    Taskbar Alignment LeftSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the Taskbar items, including the Start menu, will shift the alignment to the left. If you want the items centered, use the instructions outlined above, but on step 5, select the Center option.

Add or remove system app icons

To customize the system app icons that appear next to the Start menu, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Taskbar items" setting and turn off the items you don't want to see in the Taskbar, including:

    • Search.
    • Task view.
    • Widgets.
    • Chat.

    Hide Taskbar ItemsSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the system app icons you disabled will no longer appear in the Taskbar.

Add or remove corner icons

To decide the icons that appear in the system tray, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Taskbar corner icons" setting and turn off the items you don't want to see in the system tray, including:

    • Pen menu.
    • Touch keyboard.
    • Visual touchpad.

    Taskbar corner iconsSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, only the icons you enabled will appear in the system tray of the Taskbar.

Change corner overflow settings

To show or hide items from the Taskbar overflow, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Taskbar corner overflow" setting and turn off the app icons you don't want to see in the system tray — for example, OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, and Windows Update Status.

    Taskbar corner overflowSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, only the items enabled will appear outside the overflow flyout.

Show or hide app badges

To decide whether apps should display badge counters for unseen messages, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Click the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  5. Check or clear the Show badges (unread messages counter) on taskbar apps option to enable or disable the unseen messages counter.

    Disable badget counter Source: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the badge counter will appear, depending on your configuration.

Enable Taskbar auto-hide

To hide the Taskbar automatically on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Click the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  5. Check the Automatically hide the taskbar option.

    Windows 11 Automatically Hide TasbkarSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the Taskbar will hide automatically as you move the mouse pointer away.

Show Taskbar on all monitors

To allow the Taskbar to appear on all monitors, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Click the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  5. Check the Show my taskbar on all displays option.

    Show my taskbar on all displaysSource: Windows Central

This option is only available when you have multiple monitors connected to the computer.

Enable or disable desktop button

To disable or enable the option to show the desktop on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

    Windows 11 Taskbar SettingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Click the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  5. Check or clear the Select the far corner of the taskbar to show the desktop option.

    Disable desktop button in TaskbarSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the button to show or hide the desktop will no longer be available in the Taskbar.

Customize Quick Settings flyout

To add or remove items from the Quick Settings flyout, use these steps:

  1. Click the network and volume button.

    Quick tip: You can also use the Windows key + A keyboard shortcut to open the flyout.

  2. Click the Edit Quick Settings (pen) button.

    Quick Settings editSource: Windows Central

  3. Click the Add button.
  4. Select the item you want to add.

    Add and remove Quick Settings ItemsSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Unpin button to remove an item from the list.
  6. Click and drag an item to the position you want.
  7. Click the Done button.

After you complete the steps, Quick Settings will have the options in the order you like them.

How to customize Lock screen on Windows 11

You can also customize the Lock screen, which is the screen that slides up every time you need to get to the Sign-in screen on Windows 11.

Set custom image on Lock screen

To use a custom image on the Lock screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Lock screen page on the right side.

    Lock Screen settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Personalize your lock screen" setting and select the Picture option.

    Lock Screen custom imageSource: Windows Central

  5. Click the Browse photos button.
  6. Select the custom image.
  7. Click the Choose picture button.
  8. (Optional) Clear the Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen option.

Once you complete the steps, the Lock screen will show the image you selected in the settings.

Set slideshow on Lock screen

To use a custom slideshow on the Windows 11 Lock screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Lock screen page on the right side.

    Lock Screen settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Personalize your lock screen" setting and select the Slideshow option.
  5. Click the Browse button.

    Lock Screen SlideshowSource: Windows Central

    Quick note: Windows 11 adds the local Pictures folder and Pictures folder from OneDrive by default. You can use these locations, or you can remove them to add other folders.

  6. Select the folder with all the images.
  7. Click the Choose picture button.
  8. Click the Choose this folder button.
  9. (Optional) Clear the Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen option.

After you complete the steps, the Lock screen will rotate the pictures from the folder you selected in the settings as you start the computer.

Set Windows Spotlight on Lock screen

The Windows Spotlight feature is the default experience for the Lock screen, but if you were using something different or want to revert the changes, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Lock screen page on the right side.

    Lock Screen settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Personalize your lock screen" setting and select the Windows Spotlight option.

    Windows SpotlightSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, you will see new fresh images from Microsoft Bing every time you are on the Lock screen.

Configure apps notifications on Lock screen

To view notifications from apps on the Lock screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Lock screen page on the right side.

    Lock Screen settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Use the "Lock screen status" setting and select the information you want to see — for example, weather, mail, or calendar.

    Lock screen status optionsSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the Lock screen will show notifications of the app you specified.

Disable background on Sign-in screen

Windows 11 use the same background on the Lock and Sign-in screens, but you can disable this behavior if you only want to show a solid color background.

To disable the Sign-in screen background, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Lock screen page on the right side.

    Lock Screen settingsSource: Windows Central

  4. Turn off the Show the lock screen background picture on the sign-in screen toggle switch.

    Disable Lock screen image on Sign-in screenSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the Sign-in screen will show a solid color background.

Things you can no longer customize on Windows 11

Although you still have many different ways to customize the look and feel of Windows 11, a lot has changed in this version, and there are many customizations you were able to use in the previous version, and now, they are no longer available.

Here's a list of visual and functional customization options that Microsoft has removed from Windows 11.

Taskbar

  • The Taskbar is now locked at the bottom of the screen, which means you can no longer place it at the top or either side of the screen.
  • Removes the option to show labels and keep apps instances separate.
  • Ditches support to drag and drop files to open them with the running application.
  • Removes the option to make icons larger or smaller.
  • You can no longer adjust the height of the Taskbar.

Start menu

  • The Start menu removes support for Live tiles.
  • Drops menu resize support.
  • Full-screen mode is gone.
  • You can no longer create groups of apps.
  • You can no longer organize apps into folders.

More Windows resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources:

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