Okay, I fully admit that my reasoning behind making this tutorial is completely selfish. I’m tired of having to look up six different sites just to find the instructions to change my Logon Screen, User Account Picture, Library Icons, Drive Icons, and Start Menu Orb. So I now have everything in one place. We’ll start with the easy ones first.
Change the Windows 7 Start Orb
There’s a nifty program on DeviantArt called the “Windows 7 Start Orb Changer”. It’s very quick and easy to use, and doesn’t actually need to install, so you can run it from almost anywhere. Best of all, it already comes with a number of start orb images so there’s very little you need to do to make this work.
- Download the program, here.
- Double-click the EXE to run. (You may need to right click and go to Run as Administrator, depending on your computer’s settings.)
- Click “Run” to allow the EXE to run.
- Click on the orb icon to the right of the text “Select & Change Start Button”.
- This will open a window that you can use to browse to the location you have saved your start orbs.
- Select the start orb bitmap you want to use and press “Open”.
- Your desktop will refresh and show you the new start orb icon. (Occasionally you may need to refresh manually or restart to see the changed image.)
If you want to make your own start orbs, it’s fairly simple. To get transparency, you’ll need to use an Alpha channel on your bitmap image. In the below screenshot, the black is the parts that are transparent, the white is the parts that are visible, and gray indicates varying degrees of opacity. The image size is 54x162px and it is saved as a bitmap.
Windows 7 Library Icon Changer
This is another great tool from DeviantArt that allows you to make very quick customization changes to your computer without needing to actually install anything, and without needing to modify your registry to do it. Download the “Replace Librarie Icons” program to get started.
- Click the program to run it. (You may need to right click and go to “Run as Administrator”, depending on your computer’s settings.)
- Click “Run” to allow the program to run.
- Select the library (Music, Videos, Documents, Downloads, etc) on the right side of the screen, and press the “Select new icon from file” button on the bottom right.
- Navigate to the location where you have saved the new .ico files to be used, select the icon, and press “Open”.
- Repeat for all other library icons you’d like to change.
Changing Default Drive Icons
As you can see from the above screenshot, I’ve also changed the icons for the drives (C:, D:, etc) on my computer. This one is a little more complicated, and involves a registry edit so you may want to hold off on doing this tweak until you feel more comfortable with your computer. Breaking your registry is something you don’t want to do. Use the below tweak at your own risk.
Press the start orb and in the search box, type “Regedit” and press enter. Your registry editor should now be open, and it will look something like the below screenshot. Navigate to the following path:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer > DriveIcons
You probably won’t have all the drive letters there by default, as I do in my above screenshot. I had to create them.
- Right click on the “DriveIcons” folder and go to New > Key.
- Type the letter of the drive icon that you want to change, like: C
- Right-click the newly created “C” folder, and go to New > Key.
- Type in “DefaultIcon” without any spaces, capitalizing the “D” and the “I”.
- In the right side of the registry editor screen, right click the “(Default)” and go to “Modify”.
- In the “Value Data” box, type in the full file path to where your new icon is located. In my case, I saved them in the C:\Windows\Web\Icons folder inside a subfolder, so my file path was “C:\Windows\Web\Icons\Drives\drive-u.ico”
- Press “OK”.
- Repeat for all other drive letters you want to create/modify the icons for.
- Close registry editor and restart to see your changes.
One important thing to note: in Windows 7, you must use icons that are 256x256px. Smaller icon images will not work. There are usually icons that are created at that resolution specifically for this purpose – make sure you’re downloading and saving the right ones.
Changing the Windows 7 Logon Screen
The default logon screen is the swirly bright blue background image that you see when you start your task manager, lock your screen, and/or where you input your password to access your computer. This involves another registry edit to work, so use this tweak at your own risk.
This part has two steps – creating the OOBE folder on your computer, and editing your registry. We’ll do the folder part first.
- Make sure “hidden files and folders” are visible, first. Hold down the “Alt” key while a folder is open to view the menu options for it, and go to Tools > Folder Options.
- Click the “View” tab and go down to the “Hidden files and folders” option. Select the radio button for “Show hidden files, folders and drives” and press “OK”.
- While you’re here, you may as well un-hide the file extensions for known file types. That will make it easier for you to see if you’re choosing a bitmap or jpg or png file. In the same “View” tab of the “Folder Options” window, go down to “Hide extensions for known file types” and un-check this box. Click “OK”.
- Now navigate to C:\Windows\System32\oobe – if this folder doesn’t exist, create it in this location.
- Inside the “oobe” folder, if one doesn’t already exist, create a folder named “Info”.
- Inside the “Info” folder, create a folder called “Backgrounds” if one doesn’t already exist.
- Create (or choose) an image file of the same resolution size as your screen, making sure that it is no larger than 256kb in size. You may want to use an image resizing program like this to resize your desired image.
- The image file name should be “backgroundDefault.jpg” and it should be in your C:\Windows\System32\oobe\Info\Backgrounds\ folder.
- The folders and images are usually already there, branding the computer you purchased. In my case, it was a hideously neon green “ACER” background image. You might already have something similar on your computer. In that case, you just need to replace the “backgroundDefault.jpg” with an image of your own choosing.
Now that the image file is there, we need to edit the registry to make Windows recognize it and use this image instead of the default blue logon screen.
As with before, make changes to your registry at your own risk. I am not responsible if you break stuff.
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\
- Right click the “OEMBackground” name and go to “Modify”.
- Change the 0 to a 1 and press “OK”.
- Close the registry editor.
Since we already created the folder and the file for the logon screen, you should now be done. Click on the start orb and press “Lock” to see the new image. In some cases, you may need to restart your computer to see the updated logon screen.
Changing Windows 7 Default User Account Picture
If you’re as OCD as I am, when you get new User Account Picture images that you want to use, you’ll want to save them in the same location as the default user account pictures to minimize the need to navigate between folders just to change your picture. Additionally, you can use this method to change the default user account picture for any new accounts created on your computer, or the picture for “Guest”.
In Windows 7, the User Account Pictures are stored in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\. The default picture for guests is called “Guest.bmp”. The default standard administrator picture is called “User.bmp”. All other pictures are inside the “Default Pictures” folder in the “User Account Pictures” folder.
User account pictures should be 128x128px in size, and the default pictures are in .bmp format – although you can use a .bmp, .jpg, .png or .gif file for your new image. Once you have the image ready in the location you’d like for it to be in, now you need to change your user account picture.
- Click on the Windows start orb and go to “Control Panel”.
- Click on “User Accounts and Family Safety” on the top right of your control panel screen.
- Under “User Accounts”, click the “Change your account picture” link.
- This will now automatically open the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\ folder location, displaying all applicable images in this area.
- You can either choose one of the images here, or you can select a different image by clicking on the “Browse for more pictures…” link on the bottom left of this window.
- When the desired image is selected, press the “Change Picture” button and your user account picture will now be changed.
There’s a lot of other tweaks and edits that can be made to your computer, and usually with just as little effort. Always be careful when making any changes to your computer’s registry, and happy customizing!