Windows 10 ships with a wide range of options to customize the look and feel, with custom lock and desktop backgrounds, color accents, and a variety of settings to tweak the interface, allowing anyone to personalize the experience.

In this Windows 10 guide, we walk you through the steps everyone should know to customize the appearance and make the experience a little more personal.

How to change the desktop background

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to add some personality to your device is to change the desktop background with a custom image or collection of images.

Changing the desktop wallpaper

To change your 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 image you want to use.
  6. Using the "Choose a fit" drop-down menu, select the option that best suits the image, including fill, stretch, center, span, etc.

Quick Tip: If you're using a multi-monitor setup, you can use these steps to set a different background for each display.

Setting up a desktop slideshow

If you want to showcase a collection of pictures on the desktop, do the following:

  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 images.
  6. Use the "Change picture every" drop-down menu to select how often the image will rotate.
  7. If the order of the images is not important, turn on the Shuffle toggle switch.
  8. Using the "Choose a fit" drop-down menu, select the option that best suits the images, including fill, stretch, center, span, etc.

How to change the color accent

Windows 10 also lets you change the color accent that appears throughout the experience, including Start, taskbar, Action Center, title bars, and linkable text in apps and Settings.

Applying a color accent

To change the current color, do the following:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Select the color accent you want to use through the experience.

    • Quick Tip: If you want Windows 10 to decide the appropriate color accent, check the Automatically pick an accent color from my background option under "Choose your color."

If the color you want isn't listed, you can click the Custom color button to create a custom color using the palette, or you can click the More button to enter the RGB or HSV code.

Once you found the one you want, simply click the Done button to apply the changes.

Controlling transparency effects

Some elements of Windows 10, such as Start, taskbar, Action Center, and apps include transparency effects with blur and noise textures part of the Microsoft Fluent Design System, and using the Colors page, you can enable or disable these effects using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Under "More options," turn on or off the Transparency effects toggle switch.

Adding colors to Windows 10 elements

Windows 10 by default uses a color dark for Start, taskbar, and Action Center, and a light color for title bars. If you want to add a little more personality, it's possible to show the color accent in these elements using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Under "More options," check the Start, taskbar, and action center option to show colors in those elements.
  5. Check the Title bars option to show the color accent in title bars of apps and File Explorer.

Choosing a color 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 another part of the OS and supported apps, and it's an option more suited for a low-light environment.

You can switch between the light and dark mode using these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Colors.
  4. Under "More options," select the Light (default) or Dark using the "Choose your default app mode" option.

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

How to customize the Lock screen

Windows 10 also allows you to customize the Lock screen, the screen you slide up every time you turn on your device to get into the sign-in screen.

The options available include the ability to set a custom image, collection of pictures, Windows Spotlight, and settings to control apps notifications.

Setting up a custom Lock screen image

Lock screen uses "Windows spotlight" as the default option to show a new background every time you turn on your computer, and while this option pulls stunning images from Bing, it's also possible to set any image you want.

To personalize the Lock screen using a custom image, do the following:

  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 to locate the picture you want to use.

Setting up a Lock screen slideshow

To show a collection of images on the Lock screen, do the following:

  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.

Additionally, you can click the Advanced slideshow settings link to control other options.

For example, you can include the Camera Roll folders on your device and OneDrive. Choose to use only pictures that are best suited to fit the screen. Allow your computer to show the Lock screen instead of turning off the screen after a certain time of inactivity. And there is a drop-down menu to specify the duration of the slideshow.

On either option you choose, it's also a good idea to turn off the Get fun facts, tips, and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen toggle switch to avoid the so-called "Windows 10 ads" in the lock screen.

Quick Tip: The behavior of Windows 10 is to show the same background on the Lock screen as well as in the Sign-in screen. If you want to see a solid color background in the Sign-in screen make sure to turn off the Show lock screen background picture on the sign-in screen toggle switch listed at the bottom of the page.

Controlling Lock screen app notifications

Some apps can show details and status (such as upcoming calendar events and the number of unseen emails) on the Lock screen. To add or remove the apps that can appear in the experience, do the following:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click on Lock screen.

Only one app can show detailed status, which by default is set to the Calendar app. If you want to select another app, click the app button, under Choose an app to show detailed status, to see the available Microsoft Store apps you can pick, or select None to disable the feature.

Using the Choose an app to show quick status option, it's possible to configure up to six apps to includes status on the Lock screen. Usually, you'll see the Mail, Calendar, and Skype apps, but you can always remove, change, or add more apps to the list clicking the app or "+" button.

How to apply a theme

Although Windows 10 includes many ways to personalize your experience, the quickest way to change the look and feel is to use a theme.

A theme is just a package that can contain one or more background images, color accent, and sounds, and they're quickly acquirable from the Microsoft Store.

To get and apply a new theme on Windows 10, do the following:

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

  5. In the Microsoft Store, pick the theme you want, and click the Get button.

  6. Click the Launch button to go back to the Themes settings.
  7. Click the newly added theme to apply it.

You can check our guide detailing everything you need to know to manage themes.

How to customize the Start menu

The Start menu is an essential feature 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 Start menu, some of the options can be customized from the menu itself, and additional options can be managed through the Settings app.

Changing basic Start menu settings

You can customize almost everything you see on the menu with the options available through the Start page in the Settings app using these steps:

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

In the Start page, you'll find a number of 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 3 columns (left), Start menu 4 columns (right)

  • 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 still access your apps clicking the All apps button on the top-left, or typing a search as you open the menu.

    Start menu with all apps list (left), Start menu without all apps list (right)

  • Show recently added apps — If you're not interested in seeing the Recently added list, you can turn off this option to remove it.
  • 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 — When enabled, the Start menu will show recommendations of Microsoft Store, which many consider as ads. You can use this toggle switch to prevent seeing suggestions.

    Start menu with lists (left), Start menu without lists (right)

  • Use full screen — enables a Windows 8.1 Start screen-like experience stretching the menu across thea desktop letting to see more pinned tiles without having to scroll.

To customize the left rail button, you can click the Choose which folders appear on Start link at the bottom of the page, and then simply turn on or off the toggle switch for the buttons you want to see on the menu.

Customizing Live Tiles

Alongside the customization options available through the Settings app, you can also personalize the experience from the menu itself.

Resizing Start

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

Working with tiles, folders, and groups

The Start menu also offers the ability to drag tiles, groups of tiles, and folders anywhere in the menu.

In order to better organize your 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 that group — and yes, emojis are supported.

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

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

If the live updates isn't a feature you like, right-clicking the tile, and selecting More, you'll find the option to turn off live updates. Also, depending on the app, you will see additional options, such as options to pin or unpin the taskbar, run it with administrator privileges, and more.

A Windows 7 Start menu look

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 a menu very similar to the one found in Windows 7. However, you'll need to right-click each tile and select the Unpin from Start option, as Windows 10 doesn't offer a setting to hide the Live Tile section.

How to customize the taskbar

The taskbar is perhaps one of the features we use the most on Windows 10, and similar to the Start menu, you can customize it in a number of ways using the Settings app and with options available in the taskbar itself.

Changing basic taskbar settings

If you want to customize the taskbar experience, do the following:

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

In this page, it's possible to change many basic options, including:

  • Lock the taskbar — If enabled, you can't move or resize the taskbar.
  • 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 — App buttons in the taskbar can show status notifications, and this option lets you disable or enable the feature.

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.

In order to customize your experience even further, 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.

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

Customizing the notification area

In the bottom-right corner of the taskbar, you'll find the notification area, which can quickly get clutter with system and apps icons. However, you can customize the experience to show only the icons you need using these steps:

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

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

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

  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.

Disabling My People

My People is a new experience that makes it easier to connect with people you know, but if it's a feature you don't use, you can quickly 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.

Optimizing the taskbar space

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

For example, if you don't actively use the Cortana search box, you can remove it or show only a button to access the experience to get more space to pin additional apps.

To remove the search box, you can right-click the taskbar, select Cortana, and click the Hidden option, or you can also select the Show Cortana icon option.

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

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

Wrapping things up

Although the default options should be adequate for most users, Windows 10 provides a slew of customization settings to change the look and feel that helps to make the experience more personal without having to resource to third-party tools or hacks.

This guide is focused on changing the personalization options that most people will use, but it's worth noting that there are many other ways and features you can customize on Windows 10.

More Windows 10 resources

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