Appearance customization of Windows 10 Source: Windows Central

Windows 10 includes a wide range of settings to customize the appearance to make the desktop and apps look better and reflect your personality.

For example, you can change the desktop background with a custom image or use a theme from the Microsoft Store. You can enable the dark mode or change the color accent for visual elements. You can tweak and organize the Start menu and taskbar, and you can adjust a variety of settings to change the entire look and feel of Windows 10.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to customize the desktop appearance and making the experience more personal whether you work from home or office.

How to change desktop background on Windows 10

The easiest way to personalize Windows 10 is to change the desktop background with a custom image or collection of pictures.

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Changing desktop wallpaper

To change the Windows 10 desktop background, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Background.
  4. Using the "Background" drop-down menu, select the Picture option.
  5. Click the Browse button to select the new wallpaper image.

    Change desktop wallpaper on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

  6. Using the "Choose a fit" drop-down menu, select the fit that best suits the images:

    • Fill.
    • Fit.
    • Stretch.
    • Center.
    • Span.

If you're using a multi-monitor setup, use these steps to choose a different background for each display.

Setting up a desktop slideshow

To showcase a picture collection on the desktop, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Background.
  4. Using the "Background" drop-down menu, select the Slideshow option.
  5. Click the Browse button to select the folder with the picture collection.
  6. Use the "Change picture every" drop-down menu and select how often images should rotate.

    Windows 10 slideshow backgroundSource: Windows Central

  7. (Optional) Turn on the Shuffle toggle switch to show images in random order.
  8. Using the "Choose a fit" drop-down menu, select the fit that best suits the images:

    • Fill.
    • Fit.
    • Stretch.
    • Center.
    • Span.

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

How to change system colors on Windows 10

Windows 10 allows you to change the color accent for elements that appear across the experience, including for Start, taskbar, Action Center, title bars, and links in apps and Settings.

Enable dark or light mode

Windows 10 includes two personalization modes. The light mode is the default mode and works well during daytime, and then there's the dark mode that uses a dark color scheme in backgrounds and other parts of the OS and supported apps. Also, it's an option more suited for a low-light environment.

To switch between the light and dark mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Use the "Choose your color" drop-down menu and select the Light or Dark mode.

    Windows 10 dark mode enabledSource: Windows Central

If you want to go a step further, you can use this guide to configure your computer to switch between the dark and light mode automatically.

Set custom color mode

You can also use a custom color mode on Windows 10 using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Use the "Choose your color" drop-down menu and select the Custom option.

    Windows 10 custom color modeSource: Windows Central

  5. Use the Choose your default Windows mode options to decide if Start, taskbar, Action Center, and other elements should use the light or dark color mode.
  6. Use the Choose your default app mode options to decide if apps should use the light or dark color mode.

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

If you want to use the original light color mode, you need to select the Dark mode for Windows mode and Light for default app mode.

Control transparency effects

Some elements of Windows 10, such as Start, taskbar, Action Center, and apps include transparency effects with blur and noise textures, and in the Colors page, you can enable or disable these effects.

To enable or disable Windows 10 transparency, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Turn on or off the Transparency effects toggle switch.

    Windows 10 transparency effect optionSource: Windows Central

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

Select color accent

To change the system color on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Select the color accent you want across Windows 10.

    Windows 10 color accent settingsSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: If you want to use again a previous color, you can use the "Recent colors" list.

  5. (Optional) Under the "Choose your accent color" section, check the Automatically pick an accent color from my background option to allow the system to set a color scheme based on the colors of the current wallpaper.

After you complete the steps, buttons, links, system icons, and other elements will switch to the color you specified. If you want to see Start, taskbar, Action center, and other elements to use the same color scheme, you need to enable the options at the bottom of the page.

Create custom accent color

If the color you want isn't on the list, you can create a custom one using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Click the Custom color button.

    Create custom color accent optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Create a custom color using the palette.

    Choose a custom accent color Source: Windows Central

  6. (Optional) Click the More button to use RGB or HSV codes to create a new color.
  7. Click the Done button.

Once you complete the steps, the desktop will use the custom color that you created.

Set accent color for elements

Out of the box, Windows 10 uses the dark and light color scheme for Start, taskbar, Action Center, and File Explorer. You can also use an accent color for these elements if you want to add a little more customization.

To show accent color for Windows 10 elements, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Use the "Choose your color" drop-down menu and select the Custom option.
  5. Use the "Choose your default Windows mode" option and select the Dark option.

    Windows 10 custom color mode darkSource: Windows Central

  6. Under the "Show accent color on the following surfaces" section, check the Start, taskbar, and action center option.

    Show accent color on the following surfaces optionSource: Windows Central

  7. Check the Title bars and window borders option.

After you complete the steps, instead of a dark or light color scheme, the Start menu, taskbar, Action Center, and other elements will use the color you selected.

How to customize the Lock screen on Windows 10

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.

Set custom image on Lock screen

The lock screen uses "Windows spotlight" as the default option to display different backgrounds every time you sign in to Windows 10, and while this option pulls stunning images from the cloud, you can also set any image you want.

To use a custom image on the Windows 10 Lock screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Lock screen.
  4. Use the "Background" drop-down menu, and select the Picture option.
  5. Click the Browse button.

    Lock screen picture settingsSource: Windows Central

  6. Select the picture you want to use.
  7. Click the Choose picture button.
  8. (Optional) Turn off the Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen option.

Once you complete the steps, the Lock screen will show the custom image that you selected.

Display slideshow on Lock screen

To show a collection of pictures in the Lock screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Lock screen.
  4. Use the "Background" drop-down menu, and select the Slideshow option.
  5. Click the Add a folder button to locate the folder with the images you want to see.

    Lock screen slideshow settingsSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: You can delete a source by selecting the item from the list and clicking the Remove button.

  6. (Optional) Turn off the Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen option.
  7. (Optional) Click the Advanced slideshow settings option.

    Advanced Slideshow Settings optionSource: Windows Central

  8. Select the slideshow settings:

    • Include Camera Roll folders from this PC and OneDrive.
    • Only use pictures that fit my screen.
    • When my PC is inactive, show lock screen instead of turning off the screen.
  9. Use the "Turn off screen after the slideshow has played for" drop-down menu and select when turning off the monitor.

    Advanced Slideshow Settings on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, every time you power on your device, the Lock screen will show a different image background from the collection.

Control app notifications on Lock screen

Certain apps can display information and status in the Lock screen, and you can control what app you want to see notifications.

To add or remove app notifications in your lock screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Lock screen.
  4. Under the "Choose one app to show detailed status on the lock screen" section, click the plus (or app icon) button and select an app. (Typically, you want to select Mail or Calendar.)

    Lock screen app notifications and statusSource: Windows Central

  5. Under the "Choose which apps show quick status on the lock screen" section, click the plus (or app icon) button and select an app.
  6. Repeat step No. 5 to show up to six apps with quick status on the lock screen.

Once you complete the steps, the Lock screen will display notifications for apps in the bottom-left corner of the screen.

Disable Sign-in screen background

Windows 10 shows the same lock screen background on the sign-in screen, and 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 on Lock screen.
  4. Turn off the Show lock screen background picture on the sign-in screen toggle switch.

    Show lock screen background picture on the sign-in screenSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the Sign-in screen will display a solid color as the background.

How to change themes on Windows 10

On Windows 10, a theme is a small package containing one or more background images, accent color, and in some cases, sounds, and you can choose from hundreds of them from the Microsoft Store.

To download and install a new theme on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Themes.
  4. Click the Get more themes in the Microsoft Store option.

    Get more themes in Microsoft StoreSource: Windows Central

  5. Select the theme you want.
  6. Click the Get button.

    Microsoft Store download themeSource: Windows Central

  7. Click the Apply button.
  8. Click the newly added theme to apply it from the "Themes" page.

    Customize appearance applying theme Source: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the theme will apply and update the background with a collection of images and custom accent color.

How to customize the Start menu on Windows 10

The Start menu is an essential component of Windows 10, as it's the experience where you can find your apps, settings, and files.

There are a number of ways to customize the menu, some of the settings can be customized from Start itself, and some additional options can be configured through the Settings app.

Change Start menu settings

To customize the Start menu with the Settings app, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Start.

    Start settings pageSource: Windows Central

The Start page includes several options you can customize, including:

  • Show more tiles on Start — Allows you to add a fourth column of tiles to fit up to 8 (small) tiles in a single row.

    Start menu three and four columnsSource: Windows Central

  • Show app list in Start menu — Disabling this option will remove the all apps list with only access to your pinned Live Tiles. You can continue to access the apps clicking the All apps button on the top-left, or typing a search as you open the menu.

    Start menu no app listSource: Windows Central

  • Show recently added apps — If you're not interested in seeing the "Recently added" list, you can turn off this option.
  • Show most used apps — The Start menu lists your more frequently used apps, but you can disable this option if you only want to see all the apps.
  • Occasionally show suggestions in Start — You can disable this option to prevent seeing recommendations from the Microsoft Store.
  • Use full screen — Enables a Windows 8.1 Start screen-like experience to stretch the menu across the desktop, allowing you to see more pinned tiles without scrolling.

    Windows 10 Start menu full screenSource: Windows Central

Control folders on Start

To add or remove quick folder access from the Start menu, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Start.
  4. Click the Choose which folders appear on Start option.

    Choose which folders appear on StartSource: Windows Central

  5. Turn on or off the toggle switches for the items you want to be listed in the Start menu.

    Choose which folders appear on StartSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the left rail menu will only include access to the folder you specified.

Customize Live Tiles

In addition to the customization options available, you can also personalize the experience from within the menu.

Resizing Start

You can resize the menu vertically and horizontally by stretching the edges outwards using the mouse.

Start menu largerSource: Windows Central

You can also open the menu and use the Ctrl + arrow keys keyboard shortcut to change the height and width.

Working with tiles, folders, and groups

The Start menu provides the ability to drag tiles around, group tiles together in sections, and create folders anywhere on the menu.

To better organize your app tiles, you can create a group by dragging tiles into an empty space. You can even click the header of the group to change the name to anything that makes more sense for the group — and yes, emojis are supported.

Change name of Live Tile groupSource: Windows Central

You can also create folders, which is another way to group tiles to optimize the Start menu space. You can create a new folder by dragging and dropping a tile on top of another tile. Then dropping more items into the folder will add them to the group.

Create a folder on Start menuSource: Windows Central

Live Tiles and folders include support for different sizes, which you can change right-clicking a tile, selecting the Resize menu, and choosing from one of the available sizes, including Small, Medium, Wide, or Large.

Resize Live Tile Start menuSource: Windows Central

If you're not interested in live updates, right-click the tile, and select the More menu, and choose the Turn Live Tile off option. Also, depending on the app, you may see additional options, such as options to pin or unpin the taskbar, run it with administrator privileges, and more.

Live Tile update feature disabledSource: Windows Central

Windows 7 Start menu style

In the case that you prefer a more classic look, you can always remove all the tiles to end up only with the all apps list view, which is similar to the menu style that was available on Windows 7.

Windows 7 Style Start menu on Windows 10Source: Windows Central

Windows 10 doesn't offer an option to hide the tile section, so you'll have to right-click each tile and select the Unpin from Start option to accomplish the desired look.

How to customize the taskbar on Windows 10

The taskbar is perhaps one of the essential components on Windows 10, and you can customize it in many ways using the Settings app and with options available within the experience.

Change taskbar settings

To change basic taskbar settings on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Taskbar.

    Taskbar customization settingsSource: Windows Central

In the Taskbar page, you can change many basic settings, including:

  • Lock the taskbar — When enabled, you can't move or resize the taskbar. If disabled, you can click and drag the taskbar to any side of the screen, and you drag the edge of the bar to change the height.
  • Automatically hide the taskbar in desktop mode — If enabled, the bar will stay hidden, unless you're actively interacting with it in normal mode.
  • Automatically hide the taskbar in tablet mode — If enabled, the bar will stay hidden, unless you're actively interacting with it in tablet mode.
  • Use small taskbar buttons — Allows you to use smaller buttons to reduce the footprint of the taskbar.
  • Show badges on taskbar buttons — Apps in the taskbar can show status notifications, and this option lets you disable or enable the feature.

Change taskbar location

Although you can change the location of the taskbar by just dragging it around with the mouse, this page also includes a drop-down menu to relocate the bar anywhere you like.

To change the taskbar location, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Taskbar.
  4. Use the Taskbar location on screen drop-down menu and select the location:

    • Left.
    • Top.
    • Right.
    • Bottom.

    Taskbar location on screen optionSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, the taskbar will relocate to the side of the screen you selected.

Customize taskbar visuals

The taskbar also lets you combine buttons in three different ways, including always combine and hide their labels (default), show labels and combine buttons only when the taskbar is full, and never combine and show buttons labels.

To combine the taskbar buttons, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Taskbar.
  4. Use the Combine taskbar buttons drop-down menu and select the best option for you:

    • Always, hide labels.
    • When taskbar is full.
    • Never.

    Combine taskbar buttonsSource: Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the taskbar the changes will apply accordingly.

Customize notification area

The bottom-right corner of the taskbar is where the notification area is located, and it usually gets clutter with system and app icons. However, you can customize it to show only the icons you need using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Taskbar.
  4. Under the "Notification area" section, click the Select which icons appear on the taskbar link.

    Select which icons appear on the taskbar optionSource: Windows Central

  5. Turn on the toggle switch for each icon you want to appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

    List of icons that can appear on taskbarSource: Windows Central

    Quick tip: There's also a toggle switch to alwas show all icons in the notification area, but it'll clutter the taskbar reducing the space to pin apps.

  6. Under the "Notification area" section, click the Turn system icons on or off link.

    Turn system icons on or off optionSource: Windows Central

  7. Turn on the toggle switch for each system icons (such as Clock, Volume, and Network) that will appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

    List of system icons on WIndows 10Source: Windows Central

After you complete these steps, only the icons you need will appear in the notification area.

Customize taskbar for multiple displays

If you have a multi-monitor setup, the Taskbar page also includes additional settings to show the bar on all displays, choose where apps button appear, and combine buttons on other taskbars.

To customize the taskbar for multiple displays, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Taskbar.
  4. Under the "Multiple displays" section, turn on the Show taskbar on all displays toggle switch.

    Show taskbar all monitor settingsSource: Windows Central

  5. (Optional) Use the Show taskbar button on the drop-down menu and select in which displays the buttons should appear:

    • All taskbars.
    • Main taskbar and taskbar where window is open.
    • Taskbar where window is open.
  6. (Optional) Use the Combine buttons other taskbars drop-down menu and select the best option for you:

    • Always, hide labels.
    • When taskbar is full.
    • Never.

Once you complete the steps, the taskbar will display on all the monitors according to your settings selection.

Disable My People

My People is a new experience that makes it easier to connect with people you know, but it hasn't gained popularity, and now, it's a deprecated feature.

If you have My People enabled, you can disable it using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Taskbar.
  4. Under "People," turn off the Show contacts on the taskbar toggle switch.

    Disable My People from taskbarSource: Windows Central

After you complete the steps, My People will no longer be available in the taskbar.

Optimize taskbar space

Along with the customization options available through the Settings app, you can change a few other options from the taskbar itself.

For instance, if you don't actively use the search box, you can make it smaller or remove the box to create more space to pin additional apps.

To remove the search box, you can right-click the taskbar, select Search, click the Hidden option, or select the Show search box option.

Search box in taskbar customizationSource: Windows Central

Using the same taskbar context menu, you can remove the Task View, People, and other buttons, wasting valuable space in the taskbar.

You can also check this guide for more details on how to fully optimize the space on the taskbar.

While the default settings should be more than adequate for most users, Windows 10 offers many settings to make the experience more personal without having to resource to third-party tools or hacks.

We're focusing this guide on personalizing the desktop with settings that would fit more users, but it's worth noting that there are many other ways to customize Windows 10.

More Windows 10 resources

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