How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop
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You just upgraded to Windows 10 and you’re wondering how you can make it your own. With these few tips, you can turn your desktop into a virtual Windows experience!

But before we can begin working on the full experience of the desktop, we have to change some of the lovable, but avoidable features that come with a freshly installed Windows 10 Operating System.

1. Change Logon and Logoff Sounds on Windows 10

The first noise often heard from your desktop is the dreaded Windows 10 default sound. Remember, we’re re-purposing your desktop to become your own complete experience; give your computer its own sound.

Changing the Logon sound is fairly simple. First, pick your logon sound. Choose a sound file that is small in size and short in length. The particular file format shouldn’t matter, but .wmv (Windows Media File) typically works best.

By default, Windows 10 settings limit sound customization. You can find these sound options under right-click Desktop > Personalize > Themes > Advanced Sound Settings.


In order to allow the customization of Logon and Logoff sound functions, press Windows key + R, type regedit, then go to  the following registry key:


Double-click ExcludeFromCPL and set Value to 0. Do the same with the Windows Logoff entry.


Now go back to the sound options and you will see the Windows Logon option. Click on the option and select Browse underneath to replace the default Windows sound with a sound of your liking.


After doing so, Apply > OK to change the sound. You may do the same with the Logoff sound function.

2. Change the Accent Color

The easiest option you can change to adjust the overall feel of your desktop is changing the accent color. This is different from changing the lock screen or desktop background; changing the accent color will also change the program window and tile background colors.


Change the accent color by right-clicking Desktop > Personalize > Colors. Simply click on the color your prefer and you’re good to go. You can find this setting and many other ways to customize Windows 10 10 Quick Ways to Customize & Personalize Windows 10 10 Quick Ways to Customize & Personalize Windows 10 Not all of Windows 10's default settings will float your boat. We show you all the possible ways to customize Windows 10 in a simple, step-by-step guide. Read More  in the Personalize window.

3. Change the Lock Screen and Desktop Background

The Logon screen comes in two parts with Windows 10: the Logon picture and the lock screen wallpaper background. Change the Logon picture by accessing the Accounts setting under Windows key + I > Accounts > Your email and accounts. Under Your picture, click the Browse button to pick the picture you’d like to see when you first log onto your computer.

change_logon_pictureYou can change the actual background of the lock screen under right-click Desktop > Personalize > Lock screen > Background > Choose your picture > Browse. This will open up your PC files; select the picture you’d like to have as your background and click Choose picture.


If you do not have your lock screen enabled, or do not have a password set on your Windows 10 computer, you will still receive the default Windows background. You can also choose not to show any picture in the sign-in screen by toggling the Show Windows background picture on the sign-in screen off. You can even choose to bypass the login screen altogether Under the Hood: 6 Hidden Windows 10 Features You Can Unlock Under the Hood: 6 Hidden Windows 10 Features You Can Unlock Windows 10 is full of secrets and surprises. Some new features are just not very well known, yet. Here are six tips for customizing your Windows 10 experience. Read More , if you so desire.


To change the actual desktop background picture, right-click Desktop > Personalize > Background > select Picture > Browse.  Select the picture you would like to use as your desktop background.

If you’re unsure about where to get the best wallpaper backgrounds, simply Google search some wallpaper keywords and select Images > Search Tools > Size > Large. This option will lead you to high quality, high resolution images without relying on a wallpaper client or Website. Remember that the desktop background isn’t just for artistic purposes either; it can be used to maximize productivity Get Things Done! 5 Ideas To Make The Best Productive Use Of Your Desktop Get Things Done! 5 Ideas To Make The Best Productive Use Of Your Desktop People love their desktops! Whether you're on a Mac, Windows or Linux computer, the desktop is an open space that isn't pre-defined by a rigid structure. Unlike the interfaces of mobile devices or Windows 8's... Read More as well.

4. Tame Your Start Menu

Now we can focus on the most important part: the desktop. The first step is to tame your Start Menu which, by default, comes with some excess programs and features. This can be done through right-click > Unpin from Start.


If you’re like me and prefer a minimal Start Menu, Unpin all tiles and press the Windows Key to restart the menu. Do this only once and you can enjoy a clean start menu forever after.


You can also choose to pin the programs you enjoy onto the start menu along with pinning Steam programs 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu The Windows 10 Start Menu combines classic elements with modern tiles. Tiles can add a lot of creative freedom. We'll give you tips and reveal tricks for customizing the entire Start Menu to your preferences. Read More to it as well.

5. Remove all System Programs from Your Desktop

If you prefer a clean desktop with no system programs you can remove said programs under right-click Desktop > Personalize > Themes > Desktop Icon Settings.


Uncheck all programs and click Apply. This should completely rid the Desktop of any lingering System files.

Optional: I prefer hiding the taskbar when working or browsing the Internet on my computer, as it wastes precious screen real estate. Auto-hide the Task bar by right-clicking taskbar > Properties > Check Auto-hide the taskbar > Apply > OK.

6. Organize Your Programs with Docking Software

Now that we’re working with a blank Desktop canvas, we can start painting. Keep in mind this simple rule when customizing your desktop: it should be as functional as it is beautiful. This means keeping the functionality relatively simple and easy to use. One such method is using simple docking software like RocketDock.

You can choose from numerous docking programs 3 Multifunctional Docks To Replace Your Windows Taskbar 3 Multifunctional Docks To Replace Your Windows Taskbar Docks take what the taskbar does and make it better: beautiful, effective, and fun to use. Once introduced for the Mac, docks have long been available on Windows. Let me show you the best ones. Read More  to manage your most used programs, but I’ve found RocketDock to be a simple and effective dock RocketDock + Stacks Docklet: Not Just A Dock, But A Complete Desktop Organization Solution [Windows] RocketDock + Stacks Docklet: Not Just A Dock, But A Complete Desktop Organization Solution [Windows] RocketDock has been one of the best choices for a Mac-like dock in Windows for years. That's why it's on our Best Of Windows Software page. In fact, you've probably heard of it. But there's... Read More requiring minimal setting changes to use regularly.


Basic RocketDock settings you should change include:

  • Running at startup — right-click > Dock Settings > General > Check Run at Startup
  • High Quality Icons — right-click > Dock Settings > Icons > Quality > Select High Quality
  • Position — right-click > Dock Settings > Position > Screen Position > Select Position
  • Layering — right-click > Dock Settings > Position > Layering > Select Layering

You can also install many themes for RocketDock, but I prefer the preset theme Simply. You can change the RocketDock theme under Right Click > Dock Settings > Style > Theme > Select Theme.

To insert programs into RocketDock, right-click the dock and select Insert > File. Find the file in the Programs folder and double click the file you wish to add. You can also Insert > Path as well to access regularly used folders.

7. Customize Your Desktop with Rainmeter

Rainmeter is one of the best and longest standing Windows customization programs How to Customize Windows 10: The Complete Guide How to Customize Windows 10: The Complete Guide You decorate your office – why not your computer? Find out how to make Windows look just the way you want. Make your computer your own, with free tools. Read More out there, and it’s completely free to use. Along with the ability to add real-time computer monitoring items to your desktop, you can also download and add beautiful clock and weather applications directly onto your desktop for ease of access.

Rainmeter uses specific program files called Skins to add aesthetic and functional applications to your computer.


Simply download the Skins onto your computer and double click them as you would an executable file to install.Then find the Skins in your Rainmeter application and double click to have it appear on the desktop. Spend some time customizing the colors and size of the application and you should have a beautiful Rainmeter desktop in no time.


The desktop pictured above is a perfect example of functional and aesthetic Skins for Rainmeter; the clock to the left replaces the smaller and hidden system clock on the task bar and the digital VU (Volume Unit) meter located on the bottom automatically converts any sound coming from your computer into a visual volume meter.

8. Ingrain Cortana Into Your Daily Routine

Windows 10 even comes equipped with a personal virtual assistant, Cortana. Activate the Hey Cortana feature under Cortana & Search settings > Toggle Hey Cortana On and you will be free to ask Cortana anything with the phrase Hey Cortana.


Although underused, Cortana can work to accentuate your desktop experience How to Make Cortana Organize Your Life How to Make Cortana Organize Your Life Your life is so complex, you deserve a personal assistant. Meet Cortana, your virtual assistant ready to serve at the tip of your tongue. We'll show you how to effectively delegate tasks to Cortana. Read More by playing music for you, opening certain programs through voice command, and even helping you make difficult decisions. With present and future updates, Cortana is steadily growing from a supposed novelty item to a staple of the Windows 10 experience.

9. Become Comfortable with Key Commands

Cortana isn’t the only built-in feature in Windows 10 that can contribute to your overall desktop experience; simple keyboard commands Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More can turn Windows 10 into an efficient tabulating machine.

Here are some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts to use on your desktop:

    • Windows key + TAB — This shortcut will bring up the Switcher UI for Windows 10, which will allow you to choose and open any of the programs open on your desktop. Switcher UI also allows you to create another virtual desktop so you can switch between your open work and entertainment applications.


  • Windows key + CTRL + D — A subset key of the Switcher UI; this shortcut will automatically create a new virtual desktop to customize and use.
  • ALT + TAB — This shortcut will bring up the Windows Flip function. Like the Switcher UI, it will allow you to switch between applications on your desktop without the need of the taskbar. Hold the ALT key down while pressing TAB to switch between applications without the need of a mouse.
  • F11 — This shortcut will automatically full size any browser tab you happen to have open, which is particularly useful if you are writing and would rather not be tantalized by other tabs open in your browser.


There are too many keyboard commands to count, all with their own individual purposes. Luckily, Microsoft has provided their community with a complete list of Windows keyboard commands for you to peruse.

Personalization, Galore!

Like keyboard commands, many other rograms and features allow you to tweak Windows 10 as you see fit. With a couple of hours of work and a little know-how, you can truly own a desktop which looks, sounds, notifies, and responds like no other.

What favorite tweaks and programs do you use to make Windows 10 your own? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credits:house painter by maradon 333 via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Application Dock, Wallpaper, Windows App Launcher, Windows Customization.

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  1. eMcE
    September 25, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Well.. Windoze is a crap in thema "real custommizing", but with some patience we can have some very nice results ;)
    This is mine Win10 AN edition now:
    Fully debloated (all mobile and unused by me apps are removed), telemetry is completly disabled. I enabled aero and transparency for entire system - incl. modern apps. Changed normal start menu vs. some win-seven-like, changed orb, added transp. to the taskbar, replaced explorer with seven-like one. Changed icons.
    Todo is: chaneging some white backgrounds to dark ones, chaneging fonts to some better aligned with the eintire look. And packing all those in some "easy to use" app/installer for the future ;)
    After all those changes the system works fine and stable. No hangs, no some bsod's etc.

    • Blacktape
      June 24, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      where would I find information on the mods you do? I like your look. :)

  2. Shawn
    May 2, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Lucinite Panels

  3. Anonymous
    March 28, 2016 at 2:12 am

    What? No mention of UXTheme Patcher, which lets you use any of thousands of (unsigned) Windows 8/10 themes?
    I prefer the look of Windows 7, so I applied one of those (from DeviantArt) to my sole Windows 10 laptop...not perfect, but a LOT better than the bland, flat Windows 8/10 UI.

    • Christian Bonilla
      April 12, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      The UXTheme (and UXStyle) Patcher almost deserve an article in themselves!

  4. Anonymous
    March 26, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    I use Rainmeter, Fences by Stardock to organize/hide my icons, and John's Background Switcher to switch between my huge collection of wallpapers. I'm kind of addicted to my background changing every few hours. I even have a blog where I collect wallpapers [].

  5. Eric Stoick
    March 26, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I have mine set to NOT ask for my pin when it wakes up, but it is still doing it. I have tried setting it to always ask then reboot and tried setting it to never, and reboot. It is still asking for my pin. I should not that I had to refresh the pc because of a browser redirect. Since the refresh it is doing as described. Also when you are making changes you don't have to hit apply then ok, IF you are only making one change. Just hit ok and it will stick! But if you are making multiple change in the same setting you just hit apply and go to your next setting. When you are done with the last setting just hit ok and the window closes. Thanks!

    • Anonymous
      March 26, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      Eric, I also had this problem. What I found was the problem is that if you change this setting through the fancy new settings menu, it won't take for some reason. You have to change it through the old Control Panel. Right click on the Start button, click Control Panel, then go to Power Options. On the left side you should see a blue link that says 'Require a password on wakeup'. Click that and then click the 'Don't require a password' option under Password protection on wakeup. It might be greyed out, in which case look towards the top and you'll see a link that says 'Change settings that are currently unavailable'.

  6. Kenny
    March 25, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    I still can't get the logon and logoff sounds to work.

    • Christian Bonilla
      March 25, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      By work, do you mean there's absolutely no logon or logoff sound or it isn't changing to your liking?

  7. Ralphy
    March 25, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop? Delete M$ from your system. Best way yet.

    • Anonymous
      March 28, 2016 at 2:10 am

      Unfortunately, a lot of people don't have that option - a work PC, a program that's not available for Linux or Mac OS, or *gasp* they want to play a game or two...

  8. Ron S
    March 25, 2016 at 1:46 am

    #3 I don't like having picture desktop backgrounds because it make it harder to see icons I put on desktop. So I go with solid colors. BUT, I also don't like the bland, limited pallete of colors that MS provides.

    Simple fix, find the color you like, house paint "color chip" web sites are a good place to find a rainbow selection of colors.

    Make a large screen cap of the color

    Use the screen cap of the desired color as a "photo" background.

    I'm happy again.

    I haven't yet looked at the skin app you suggested. I am hoping that it has a skin that includes wider application Window borders, like older apps. The 1 pixel wide borders in Win10 are a PITA to hit the exact spot to resize the window.

    • Christian Bonilla
      March 25, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      This is a great tip, thanks!

    • Anonymous
      March 26, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Alternatively, there are many attractive, yet minimal wallpapers you could use on your desktop. Just google image search something like "minimal desktop wallpaper", and it should come up with plenty of options that won't clash with your icons.

      • Christian Bonilla
        March 26, 2016 at 10:57 pm

        I was just going to mention - I've been a long time user of which provides a wide array of color options to suit any desktop program and addition.

    • Anonymous
      March 26, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      If you are looking to change the window borders, your best bet is something like WindowBlinds by Stardock. It's a paid program unfortunately, but there are thousands of skins that you can download for it to make Windows look completely different. Rainmeter, which is mentioned in the post, can't actually change the look and feel of Windows itself. It's more for adding additional widgets and useful info to your desktop.

  9. Yodi
    March 24, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    This is great! Thanks!

    • Christian Bonilla
      March 26, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      No problem, thanks for the positive feedback!

  10. Anonymous
    March 24, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    I'd love to be able to add the Desktop option to the Alt-Tab again (for when the program you want isn't running) - but that goes back to windows 8

    • Christian Bonilla
      March 25, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      It seems Windows 10 separates this function into Alt-Tab and Win Key + D. Unfortunately, I've yet to activate the Win8 alt-tab without using a third party software.