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Using live desktop wallpaper is a great alternative to bland photos that you never get around to changing. They can help you relax, improve your mood 6 Ways Windows 10 Can Lift Your Mood 6 Ways Windows 10 Can Lift Your Mood Windows has been a reliable source of frustration. You no longer have to threaten Microsoft with the bill from your therapist. We show you how Windows 10 can help you improve your mood. Read More , or even get you hyped ahead of a big event.

Sadly, Windows no longer offers native animated wallpapers; they’ve not been included since Windows Vista. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have one though, you’ll just have to use a third-party tool. Which tool you’ll need depends on which version of Windows you have – check out our guide How to Set Live Wallpapers & Animated Desktop Backgrounds in Windows How to Set Live Wallpapers & Animated Desktop Backgrounds in Windows Live wallpapers can be added to any Windows operating system since Windows XP, although it has become increasingly harder. We show you what your options are in Windows 10, 8, and 7. Read More for more information.

Once you’ve got the necessary software installed, go ahead and download one of these eight fascinating live wallpapers.

A Word of Warning

Before we proceed, it is important to make sure that you understand exactly what a live wallpaper entails.

Sure, they can provide some pleasing eye-candy, but it comes at a cost. Battery life will suffer Is It Time to Replace Your Windows Laptop Battery? Is It Time to Replace Your Windows Laptop Battery? Laptop batteries have a finite lifespan and need to be replaced every once in a while. Windows can tell you if it's time to do that. Read More , and if you have an older machine you’ll almost certainly find that your computer’s speed will suffer Speed Up & Tweak Windows Explorer [Windows 7] Speed Up & Tweak Windows Explorer [Windows 7] For a long time now, Windows Explorer (the process on Windows that controls everything from the desktop to folder browsing) has had a poor reputation for being a clunky, slow, and arguably useless file navigator.... Read More too.

In fact, most live wallpapers will consume between six and nine percent of your processing power, with the average hovering around 7 percent. If you’ve got one of the newest Intel chips it won’t be a problem, but if you’re using a 2009 netbook you might encounter difficulties.

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That said, most third-party software comes with a pause button, so problems can be mitigated; but if you find yourself using pause too often, there really is no point in having a live desktop in the first place, you’d be better sticking to exciting screensavers Screensavers in 2015: When You Need Them and When You Don't Screensavers in 2015: When You Need Them and When You Don't Screensavers may no longer be necessary, but there are some really cool ones that are still worth using today. Read More .

1. For the Patriot: Desktop Flag 3D

A country’s flag is probably its most well-known image on the world stage. From the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes to the Nisshiki of Japan and the Auriverde of Brazil, the most famous flags are instantly recognizable.

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The Desktop Flag 3D wallpaper lets you choose from 192 different flags, each of which is given a “blowing in the wind” effect. The software also includes the United Nations flag, the Olympic flag, the European flag, the Red Cross flag, and the Jolly Roger Pirate flag, so you’re not limited to just countries.

You can choose from ten different background colors, or you can add you own photo.

2. For the Computer Geek (1): Rainmeter

Rainmeter is already a well-known piece of software in its own right, and is probably the most popular desktop customization program 8 Geeky Ways To Customize Windows To Your Needs 8 Geeky Ways To Customize Windows To Your Needs Customizing Windows might help you navigate your computer and anyone can do it. That's right – even if you feel slightly tech illiterate, you should optimize your setup. We've covered your options right here. Read More for Windows.

Its list of features is diverse and varied. For example, you can:

  • Easily monitor system data, including CPU power, battery levels, Internet connectivity, etc.,
  • add personal widgets, such as email accounts, RSS feeds, note-taking tools, and local weather forecasts,
  • control your computer’s media, and
  • launch apps.

There is a huge community around the software. Check out the Reddit page and the deviantArt repository to discover some of the latest skins.

3. For the Peaceful Person: Blue Ocean Aquarium

Nothing says peace and relaxation quite like a tropical aquarium (there’s a reason that all dentists have one!).

The beauty of the Blue Ocean Aquarium wallpaper is the diversity of the color you see on the screen; it’s bright, fun, and full of life. It features more than 25 types of real tropical fish, including Yellow Tang, Rock fish, Sea Horses, Butterfly fish, Fire-Queen Angels, and Sea Crab, as well as coral and anemone.

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It also has plenty of settings so you can get it running exactly the way you want. They include a one-click option to hide and un-hide desktop icons, a pause button, and customizable timers.

4. For the Creative Person: Make Your Own Slideshow

Although it’s not strictly a “live” desktop, Windows does offer a great way to keep your desktop looking fresh with its slideshow feature How to Set A Bing Wallpaper Desktop Slideshow In Windows 7 How to Set A Bing Wallpaper Desktop Slideshow In Windows 7 Read More .

The premise is simple – just add your favorite photos into a folder, then use that folder as the basis for your desktop images.

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To enable the slideshow feature, head to Start > Settings > Personalization > Background and select Slideshow from the dropdown menu. You’ll be prompted to select the folder you want to use (pro tip: you can choose a OneDrive folder), as well as how often you want the image to change.

5. For the Computer Geek (2): Fences

If you’re the type of user who always has a cluttered desktop Turn Your Windows Desktop From Cluttered To Useful For Free With Fences Turn Your Windows Desktop From Cluttered To Useful For Free With Fences I'd like to start this post with a small request: Hit Win+D for me. I'll wait here. Go ahead, do it. Okay, done? What did you see? Was it a hot mess of cluttered icons... Read More , this could be the answer to your prayers.

Fences is akin to a virtual desk-tidy, letting you ring-fence different types of apps, shortcuts and files so you can easily find them. For example, you could put all your design tools into one fence, or all the files relating to a project you’re currently working on into another.

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The fence areas themselves are shaded grey and are scrollable, so you can put an unlimited number of objects into each area.

Lastly, it will let you create rules – you can just add a target folder and the files within that folder will automatically be displayed on your desktop.

6: For the Science Lover: Space Wormhole

Do you dream of flying to the other side of the galaxy Your Child Can Become an Astronaut -- A Brief Guide to Launch the Dream Your Child Can Become an Astronaut -- A Brief Guide to Launch the Dream Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up, and the chances are that "astronaut" will be on the the list. Help them escape Earth's gravity with an inspirational push. Read More at the speed of light? Although Windows doesn’t quite have the required power to send you there, you can at least recreate it with this awesome background.

You can choose from six different wormhole colors, each of which offers users a slightly different graphical presentation.

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Warning: these backgrounds are bright – if you want a more mellow computer-using experience, you should give them a wide berth.

7: For the TV Lover: Sex and the City

Ok, so this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but for lovers of the hit TV series it’s amazing.

Sex in the City was a huge success when it hit our TV screens in 1998. It ran for six seasons, won seven Emmy awards, eight Golden Globes, and spawned two feature-length films. To this day, it retains a huge cult following, with hundreds of fan sites and Internet forums dedicated to the antics of Sarah Jessica Parker and Co.

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The live wallpaper has four different slideshows to choose from, though one downside is that none of the images feature group shots of the cast.

8: For the Dreamer: Dreamscene Video

With Dreamscene Video you can float away with the clouds or lie in rolling green pastures, all thanks to their awesome video desktop series.

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The package contains more than 20 videos, covering everything from gorgeous sunsets and asteroids to shoals of fish and waterfalls.

The best part: You can add your own videos!

Which is Your Favorite Live Desktop?

Have you found some cool live desktops that aren’t on our list? Perhaps you tried some of the above and loved them? Which was your favorite?

As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts. You can get in touch with your opinions in the comments box below.

  1. Zoe
    October 11, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I have Fences. I like it since it allows organization to the desktop icons. You can also double click the blank area if you want to see only wallpaper. Very useful esp if you have a lot of icons.
    I also have an older screen effect called GT Ripple. It creates a water effect on wallpaper. Worked well on XP. I haven't tried it on 7,9, or 10.

  2. Ian U
    February 26, 2016 at 8:48 am

    John's Background Switcher - pulls backgrounds from Facebook, any tag or user on Flickr, Dropbox, any RSS feed etc. etc. - different ones for each screen... tiles... mosaics... it's phenomenal and free:
    http://johnsad.ventures/software/backgroundswitcher/

    • Ryan McCallum
      March 3, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      I love this app! I've used it for years

  3. Jeff Schallenberg
    February 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Right now I'm flying through the asteroid belt with DeskScapes from Stardock:

    http://www.stardock.com/products/deskscapes/

    They have a variety of scenes, including waterfalls and Earth globes.

    • GodSponge (EB)
      May 14, 2016 at 10:58 pm

      I use a combination of Deskscapes for animated wallpapers and Rainmeter on top of that to monitor my computer's statistics.

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