Home > Active Directory > How to Set Windows 7’s Login Wallpaper with Group Policies

How to Set Windows 7’s Login Wallpaper with Group Policies

With Windows XP, you could set your own login background colors and/or wallpaper by modifying the values found in the following registry location: [HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop].
Windows 7 no longer reads this registry key.  Instead you’ve got to complete the multi-step process described in this article.
Login Background for Windows XP
While the steps to set a login wallpaper are not complicated, one challenging limitation is the fact your background wallpaper needs to reside on the workstation’s hard drive.  Interestingly, this is not true for the user’s wallpaper, as there are GPO settings to point to a network location.
So when I had a customer ask me to set their login wallpaper, I had to think of how I wanted to accomplish their request.  We could possibly write a script, and as much “fun” as that might be, I’d rather use something more controlled.  Something that would allow me to easily change the configuration later as well as be decipherable to the customer after I leave.
The answer?  Group Policy – Preferences, that is!
So before we jump in to the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), let’s identify what we’re trying to do.  If you haven’t already, you may wish to read the above link, otherwise you’re about to be lost.
We want our policy to:
  1. Copy our wallpaper file to the user’s workstation.
  2. Instruct Windows to use our file instead of the default %WinDir%\System32\oobe\background.bmp file.
With the new (ok they aren’t that new anymore) Group Policy Preferences that Windows 7 has built-in, we can copy our wallpaper to the user’s computer, while reserving the right to pull it off if the computer leaves the scope of the GPO.  To copy files, open GPMC and follow these steps:
1. Navigate to: Computer Configuration\Preferences\Windows Settings\Files clip_image001
2. Right-click the “Files” node and select:

New > File
3. Select Replace

4. Type in the UNC path for your source file.
     •In my example I used:
     •Remember this file needs to be <256K
     •Also understand the permissions on this share need to allow the workstation’s computer account READ. If you leave the usual “Authenticated Users” you’ll be fine.
5. For the Destination File, type this exact text (without the quotes, and no line breaks):
6. Click the “Common” tab

7. Select “Remove this item when it is no longer applied”. This will ensure your file is removed if:
     •The GPO is deleted or disabled
     •The workstation is moved to another OU where the policy is not linked
     •The policy is filtered out
     •You update your policy to send a new wallpaper file
8. Optionally: Select Item-level targeting to specify only Windows 7 computers. This will ensure your file isn’t sent to versions of Windows that wouldn’t make use of it anyway. clip_image005
Now we need to instruct Windows to render this image when the login screen is displayed.  If you read the above article, you’ll remember the OEMBackground registry key.  The good news is, we don’t need that key because there is actually a setting to enable it in GPMC already.
In the same Group Policy Object, navigate to:
Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\System\Logon.
Once there, select “Always use custom logon background” and set it to “Enabled”.  This has the same effect of setting the registry manually.
Once you’ve completed these steps, close the Group Policy Management Editor and link your policy to an OU – you’re done!
This policy may take two refresh cycles (e.g. reboots) to take effect.  This is because the wallpaper file is not yet present when the “always use custom logon background” setting is first applied.  But once the file has completed copying you’ll see your image at logon.
If you would like to consider multiple screen resolutions, please consult this link.
Before we close, I should point out, this can work for Server 2008 R2 as well.  I have not tested with Vista or Server 2008.
Finally, here are some geeky, but not too over the top wallpapers:  Smile
Login Background for Windows 7
  1. Mike
    March 11, 2011 at 12:22 am

    Now I might be crazy, but I cannot find the “Always use custom logon background” as a part of a GPO I created on my Windows 2008 R2 DC. I have found it on the local GPO on a Windows 7 PC. Is it something I’m missing or should I see that missing policy on my DC?

  2. Mike
    March 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Check that it was a GPO issue on my network. A fellow admin configured a central store of Policy Definitions and never updated with the R2 admx files. After I did that I had the setting and it is working great.

  3. August 9, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I have a question about a default theme, i have logged to a laptop -pre domain and i have saved a custom theme file ( screensaver installed, aero colour and taskbar colour etc) yet, when i choose ‘ Force theme’ it doesn’t work,! i have tried to put it in the resources folder, in a shared folder, in a server folder.

    Driving me nuts!

  4. August 12, 2011 at 4:25 am

    Thanks again Mike.

    I think i know why this isn’t working, I’m using a Server 2008 STD machine, and lots of these rely on the 2008 R2 ADMX files… i can manage them from my win7 enterprise sp1 box.

  5. John
    September 15, 2011 at 10:06 am

    In Group Policy I first had to create a new folder before “%windir%\system32\oobe\info\backgrounds” before this would work. This is because the folder does not exist by default, and the file creation policy will not create the folder, and thus it will not insert the image file.

    • September 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      Interesting and thanks for the share. I’m not sure why that would be. I did not have to do that in my testing or production rollout.

  6. September 27, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Wow, this is great. I’m used to just getting Free Desktop Wallpaper by browsing through the net. Thanks for this post, it has stimulated my desire to try it by myself as well.

  7. November 2, 2011 at 5:34 am

    here is a nice simple tool for windows 7 management lot more options
    changing aero color automatically with wallpaper is the most interesting one

  8. January 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Any way to make this work on Sever 2003?

  9. Raul Roca
    January 27, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Hi Mike, first of all thanks for you help.

    I have a couple of questions:

    1) I see you are copying the new background file from a network server, but I am also doing it and it does not work. The file server is in the same domain and the user has access. Could be this because Computer Configuration applies before the user log on so there is no domain services?

    2) Do you know if your procedure works with x64?

    Thanks & Regards

    • January 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      Raul, the file share needs to allow the *computer account*, not the user.

      This procedure requires no additional/different steps when using x86 vs x64

      • Raul Roca
        January 30, 2012 at 5:31 am

        You learn something new every day ;)
        Thanks Mike

  10. Tammy
    April 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Any of you experts know how to get the logon background on a remote desktop connection for windows 2008 R2? I’ve been banging my head for days. The logon background is there for local logon. I messed with the Remote Session Environment in gpedit.msc and disabled “enforce removal of remote desktop wallpaper” and enabled “always show desktop on connection” and still, a plain green screen appears. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks.

  11. May 29, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for such an amazing instruction!

  12. November 18, 2012 at 9:04 am

    i self monu singh as a system admin ,

    this good good policy for screen logon change………

  13. zuhaib
    January 22, 2013 at 1:47 am

    policy not working, I follow all steps as describe. please do the needful

  14. sebus
    February 11, 2013 at 7:56 am

    While this works OK, the amount of time added to the process (before login is even displayed) is just not worth it. To copy 2 files > 500K in total & I have Please wait for almost 2 minutes… Rather copy them with ZCM (Zenworks Configuration Manager)

  15. tbaba
    May 15, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    I cant find the “always use custom logon background” in windows server 2008wSP2 in default domain poilcy. do i have to upgrade to 2008R2wSP1?

    • May 16, 2013 at 8:56 am

      You don’t have to upgrade, but perhaps use Win7 RSAT so you can see the new template.

      • tbaba
        May 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm

        OK, but the environment is about 200 Windows 7 professional desktops. WIll win 7RSAT give me all the features that R2 has especially concerning compatibility with windows 7 workstations and the mutiple policies I have to put in place?

      • Mike
        May 17, 2013 at 8:43 am

        Yes, if the ADMX template is available. See here for more: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=6243

  16. July 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    For Windows 8 and 2012: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2787100

  17. Jason
    November 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Hey Mike,

    Is there any way to setup a GPO that will allow a wallpaper shuffle? or allow user to pick a wallpaper from approved list? We have four approved wallpapers. I can push out one wallpaper and users can see the other three put gpo is restricting them from picking another. Any help is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks – Jason

    • November 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      This post is about the “wallpaper” applied behind the ctrl+alt+del screen. Short of frequently deploying new settings, no, there is no mechanism to rotate the image. If you’re talking about once the user logs in, yes, there is a lot of documentation on building “theme” files and deploying them to your users.

  18. damian
    December 5, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Thank sfor the issue but on some computers, you have to add a registry value

    With GPO, go in computer configuration, then administration templates, the registry and made
    this registry value in this place

    key DWORD 32 bits OEMBackground. get 1 as value. oembackgroundHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\System

    and it will works for all stations.

    Sorry for my english

  19. Osman
    January 21, 2015 at 10:17 am

    hello All,
    it failed because am getting a black screen my, please help

  1. April 19, 2012 at 6:54 am
  2. May 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm
  3. January 28, 2013 at 5:51 am
  4. May 27, 2013 at 10:18 pm
  5. November 27, 2013 at 6:27 am
  6. April 23, 2015 at 5:23 am

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