Personalizing Windows Vista
On your computer’s hard drive, these default background images are stored in the
%WinDir%\Web\Wallpaper folder. If you examine the properties of these images,
you’ll see that each has a keyword tag. Windows Vista uses the keyword tag to group
these images into named sets.
You can create background images to use as Windows wallpaper as well. You must
create these background images as .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .dib,or.png files. If you add
images in these formats to the %WinDir%\Web\Wallpaper folder and add a tag to
each image, the images will be available as part of the Windows wallpaper and orga-
nized into the named sets according to your keyword tags. Although working with
images and applying keyword tags to images are discussed in Chapter 9, the key thing
you need to know in terms of adding new wallpaper or even using your own images
from a different location is that you should optimize every background image you
use. If you don’t do this, you risk seriously impacting your computer’s performance.
In case you’re wondering why this may be so, let me tell you the cautionary tale of an
experienced pro (me) who added a picture of his kids to the desktop background and
suddenly found his computer’s performance was moderately degraded. This is what
My digital camera takes high-resolution pictures—most do these days—and its pic-
tures are about 4 MB in size, on average. By adding an unedited picture to the desktop
background, I was forcing the operating system to swap in 4 MB of extra data every
time the operating system displayed the desktop.
Now you may be thinking, “4 MB is no big deal; my computer has gigabytes of RAM.”
Well, the problem wasn’t system memory (RAM) but graphics memory. Most comput-
ers use both dedicated and shared graphics memory. The dedicated memory on most
computer video cards is relatively meager, in contrast to shared memory, which is part
of RAM, so swapping in and out 4 MB is a big deal. Also, the image was sized at 3,072
x 2,304 pixels when the screen size I was using was 1,600 × 1,200 pixels. This means
that not only did the graphics card have to manage this large picture, but also Win-
dows Vista had to resize the image to fit on the screen.
The solution to the problem was fairly simple: I opened the image in my photo editor,
resized it to 1,600 × 1,200 pixels, and saved the resized image with a new name to the
Pictures folder in my profile. The resized image was 1 MB, and my computer was
If you examine the default images Windows Vista uses for wallpaper, you’ll find that
most are less than 2 MB in size. In fact, the Vista images, some of the most visually
stunning wallpaper images, are the most highly optimized. You’ll find that they are
available at a standard screen ratio of 1,600 × 1,200 and with a widescreen ratio of
1,600 × 900.
You can set the background for the desktop by completing the following steps:
1. Right-click an open area of the desktop and then select Personalize.
2. On the Personalization page in the Control Panel, click Desktop Background.
This displays the Desktop Background page, as shown in Figure 3-12.