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Wallpaper Broken After Vista to Windows 7 Upgrade

Windows 7I recently had the pleasure (ahem) of upgrading the operating system on a Compaq Presario C700 Laptop computer from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Ultimate. Aside from the process taking a few hours total, it went pretty smoothly, or so it seemed…

After I was finally able to log in, I found something strange; the desktop wallpaper wasn’t there. Now I have upgraded a few other computers in this manner and had not seen this before, so naturally I turned to Google.

There were many related results in Google, most of which mentioned changing or checking a system policy restriction setting that prevents users from changing the wallpaper. In this case, the settings were all set to allow the wallpaper… so I kept digging.

Finally I came across this thread on the Microsoft web site.

In short, the change I made which fixed the problem is an errant registry key, namely the one at
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Control Panel\Desktop Once the Wallpaper string value was deleted, I was able to change the wallpaper to any image.

Note that this change requires manual editing of the Windows registry, and is not for those who are not comfortable performing “operating system surgery”. By performing the instructions below, the user assumes any and all risk that may result.

Now, here are the steps:

  1. Click on the Windows Start orb and then click Run….
    Start -> Run
  2. In the Run box, type regedit.
    Run Regedit
  3. Allow any UAC prompt that comes up.
  4. Navigate to the following key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Control Panel\DesktopBackup Desktop Key
  5. With the Desktop folder selected in the left pane, right-click on it and select Export. Give it a meaningful name and make sure that “Selected branch” is selected at the bottom of the dialog box. A good place to save this is on your desktop. Note I have created a folder just for such backups.
    Export Save Dialog
  6. Once the backup is completed, right-click on the Wallpaper string value in the right hand pane and select Delete. Confirm the deletion and then close the Registry Editor. Delete Wallpaper String Value Now you are ready to try a new wallpaper.
  7. To test a new wallpaper, right-click on the desktop background (not on any icons or the taskbar) and select Personalize. Once the dialog opens, choose an image for the background and click on any of the images or themes in the dialog to use the image(s).

Hopefully this solves your desktop wallpaper issue as well.


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