Changing User Account Pictures and Logon Wallpaper

Update June 20, 2009: John Savill has added an FAQ for changing the logon wallpaper.

  1. Copy the JPEG to the %WINDIR%\system32\oobe\info\backgrounds folder and rename it backgroundDefault.jpg. You may need to create the “info\backgrounds” folders if they don’t already exist. Also, the image must be less than 256KB in size.
  2. Change the value of the DWORD entry “OEMBackground” found in HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI\Background to “1”. You may need to create this registry key if it doesn’t already exist.
  3. That’s it – no reboot required.

The good news: Creating and adding a custom User Account Picture is easy. I found this page at RU3K but at the time of writing the site is not responsive. The short of it is take any image you wish to use, crop it to 128×128 pixels, and then save it as a Windows Bitmap file (BMP) into the “C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\Default Pictures” folder. Now you can change the picture for your user account to the one just created. Bit depth shouldn’t matter but the default ones that come with Windows are 16-bit while the one I created is 8-bit.

Also: If you’re particularly fond of a user account picture from Windows XP then you’ll need to copy it as they’re not included with Windows 7. The default XP pictures can be found in “C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\Default Pictures”. Because I like to keep things organized, I renamed the files with an “xp_” prefix after they were copied over.

The bad news: Changing the wallpaper background for your profile is easy but not so for the default background also known as the logon screen. Up until Vista you could simply modify the registry key “HKU\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop\Wallpaper” (REG_SZ) to specify the Windows Bitmap file and set “TileWallpaper” (REG_SZ) to indicate whether the image should be tiled across the screen or not.

With Vista and W7B this key is no longer used and may not even be in the Registry. Creating the missing key has no effect. Instead, the logon background is embedded in the file “imageres.dll” as a series of binary resources sized for different screen resolutions. Another website I came across described how you could take ownership of the the DLL file, back it up, use a resource editor to modify the images in the DLL, and then activate it. It is possible to do this but requires a lot of time to set up multiple images – especially when you want to change the wallpaper on a whim – and more importantly modifies a system file. This is not an exercise for the faint of heart.

RU3K led me to a piece of free software called LogonStudio Vista from Stardock. The software works very nicely letting you build a collection of wallpapers that you can apply when and as you need. It also works nicely with W7B and is visually attractive. You drag and drop an image into the program’s window and it automatically resizes the image for different screen resolutions. All you have to do then is click Apply and you’re done.

I’ve used it without any problems with my only complaint being it does not support tiling images. To do that, I had to create a large enough canvas (1920×1200)and copy/paste the images myself. But once done, I dragged it into LogonVista and had my background.

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~ by bwsd on February 24, 2009.

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