How to Set Live Wallpapers & Animated Desktop Backgrounds in Windows

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In the days of Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, DreamScene made it possible to set animated backgrounds for your desktop. But eight years later, in Windows 10, this is not possible.

Why has this type of customization taken a retrograde step over the past few years, and what can we do to change this?

Live Wallpapers & Animated Backgrounds: Pros and Cons

If you’ve used a live wallpaper on some other device (such as a smart TV, or an Android phone or tablet) then you’ll know that they make looking at a display more entertaining and interesting. Instead of a bland photo of some distant location you’ve never visited, your smartphone gives you something that moves – perhaps heavenly bodies in slow motion, or fish swimming.

Meanwhile, there are some who consider these backdrops to be nothing more than a gimmick, a pointless bit of eye candy.

As great as live wallpapers and other animated backgrounds are, however, they’re also a bit of a problem for many. While not an issue on devices that require a continuous power supply, live wallpapers can prove to be a big headache to anyone who expects to get good performance from their smartphone battery.

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Battery-powered devices such as laptops and Windows tablets may find that live wallpapers in Windows 10 are a drain on the power cell, leading to reduced performance and battery life. But before you worry about that, let’s look at how a live wallpaper can be setup in versions of Windows beyond Vista.

Getting Live Wallpapers into Windows

Personalization options in Windows post-Windows 7 have taken a knock. Sure, you can set backgrounds that sync to your Microsoft account, resulting in a familiar desktop on any device you sign into, and you can resize and arrange your tiles, but the desktop options have been greatly reduced.

We’ve already seen how to revive the Vista/7 Aero theme in Windows 8 and Windows 10, as well as how to bring back the sidebar and gadgets. Back in the Windows Vista days it was possible to add a live background to your Windows desktop, and while DreamScene isn’t supported natively in Windows 10, it is still a feature that you can add.

As for Windows XP users, if you haven’t yet upgraded (you really should have!), it is possible to add video wallpapers and screensavers using DreamScene XP.

Restore Animated Desktops to Windows 7

The first option is to restore the previous animated desktop wallpaper system to Windows 7.

Begin by heading grabbing the DreamScene Activator from The Windows Club and extract the contents. In the Windows 7 Dream Scene Activator 1.1 folder, you’ll find the Dream Scene Activator.chn file.

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In Windows Explorer, open File > Options > View and find the Hide extensions for known file types option, clearing the check box. Click OK to confirm, and then switch back to the Explorer window where you should right-click Dream Scene Activator.chn and change the “chn” to “exe”, so the filename is now Dream Scene Activator.exe.

Double-click this file to run, then Enable DreamScene. You can then use any WMV or MPG video as the desktop background by right-clicking and selecting Set as Desktop Background.

Stardock DeskScapes for Windows 7 and 8

Another option for users of the perennially popular Windows 7 and its less appreciated follow up is Stardock DeskScapes. This is a third party solution available for just $9.99, which also comes with a 30 day trial.

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Head to www.stardock.com/products/deskscapes/downloads.asp to get your trial copy and install it. Watch out for options to include other applications – you’ll probably want to skip this. Following installation, select the preferred option (probably Start 30 day trial) and enter your email address (or one you reserve for signups and unwanted-but-solicited emails) to proceed. You’ll be given some email preference options – again, it’s probably best to clear both check boxes before clicking Submit.

With this done, you can switch back to the app and click Proceed to begin using the trial. Here, you’ll find video backgrounds and more subtle live images. To get started, select the one you want, adjust its configuration, and set it as your background. Other live wallpaper images can be downloaded from the Stardock website.

Stardock DeskScapes can run on Windows 10, but only with Windows 8 compatibility mode selected. However, the end results are unreliable.

Add Video Wallpaper to Windows 10

An alternative to DreamScene is Video Wallpaper, which you can get by heading to the Video Wallpaper website and downloading the app. This is a ZIP file, so you’ll need to extract the VideoWallpaper_setup.exe file before running it.

This is a not a free tool (Register > Get full version, where you’ll be charged $19.95), but it does come with a free trial, which you can use to assess the software.

Once installed, click the option to run the app, in your browser head to www.wallpapers-3d.com/videowallpapers8.html (or click the Download Video Wallpapers! button), and download one or two backgrounds that you like the look of. These are WMV files, so it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that you might later create your own backgrounds.

After downloading, switch back to the Video Wallpaper app, and click the + symbol to begin adding your downloaded videos to the app. If you saved them all to a dedicated folder, click the Add videos from folder to playlist button (a + symbol and folder icon combined). Video Wallpaper will then begin “playing” the first video background, with playback determined by the options under Change Mode on the right. Here you can toggle whether the backgrounds cycle through those that you added, or just stay with the one file, add a delay, and there’s also a shuffle mode.

If you really like the app, use the Launch at Windows startup option, and if you have concerns about the impact on your battery, Sleep when the battery is in use should be checked.

Do You Really Need a Video Wallpaper in Windows?

As impressive as these tools can seem, it could be argued that they’re little more than bells and whistles, distractions from productivity that you really don’t need. Perhaps using always-updated desktop backgrounds such as DesktopEarth is a better option?

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Meanwhile, if you’re struggling with the idea of using a paid-for app to replicate a feature that was previously available in Windows, other options are available such as VLC, and Desktop Movie, which our own Yaara Lancet looked at in 2012.

Have you tried these solutions? Do you really need video wallpaper, or are you satisfied with the desktop background slideshow options in Windows 10’s Themes screen? Tell us in the comments.

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