How to personalise Windows 8

You can make your Windows 8 PC look unique -- not just with live tiles, but with colours, background patterns and lock-screen wallpapers.

David Gilson
David Gilson has always revelled in tech and started writing about it in 2009. He covers the smartphone world and is rather partial to a spot of BASH scripting. David is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
David Gilson
3 min read

The touch interface of Windows 8 is a massive departure from the desktop of Windows 7, but you don't have to be just another brick in the wall.

You can make your Windows 8 touch interface look unique to you, and not just by your selection of live tiles, but with colours, background patterns and lock-screen wallpapers. Here's our guide on how to personalise Windows 8.

Windows 8 personalisation Settings


All of the settings concerned with changing the way your Windows 8 device looks can be found in one place. Launch the charms bar (see our 50 Windows 8 tips, numbers 23-27, on how to do this) and select Settings. Alternatively, just press Windows+I. At the bottoms of the Settings bar, click the link that says 'Change PC Settings'. Once the Settings app opens, check you're in the Personalisation section -- it's at the top of the list on the left.

Windows 8 personalisation Lock-screen wallpapers

Lock-screen wallpapers

The Windows 8 lock-screen settings are the first section of the Personalisation section. The first thing to do is to set your wallpaper. You'll find that Windows 8 has a limited number of built-in wallpapers, but you can select any image on your drive via the 'Browse' button.

You can make things even more interesting by searching the Windows Store for 'lock screen' and choose from several apps that will change your wallpaper on a daily basis. I can recommend Chameleon, Bing My Lockscreen and Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Windows 8 personalisation Lock-screen apps

Lock-screen apps

Windows 8 lets you choose up to seven apps that will show notification counts on the lock screen. These are in the lock screen personalisation settings below the Wallpaper section. Simply click on each slot and choose from the list of compatible apps on offer.

There's an eighth slot that shows detailed information -- for example, choosing Calendar lets you see all the details of your next appointment. See the 'Choose an app to display detailed status' line, and again choose from the list of compatible apps.

Windows 8 personalisation Start screen

If you're feeling adventurous, you can add an extra row of notification slots by launching RegEdit, navigating to 'HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShell\Grid' and edit the value of 'Layout_MaximumRowCount' to a value between 1 and 9.

Windows 8 personalisation Account picture

Start screen

The Start Screen section of the Personalisation settings offers 25 colour schemes and 20 of what Microsoft calls 'tattoos'. Tattoos are artistic patterns of varying styles whose colours are influenced by the chosen colour scheme.

If you want to break out of the 20 tattoos offered by Microsoft, this free program uploaded by a DeviantArt user lets you use any image you like. (Please note that neither I or CNET can guarantee its efficacy or safety, although I had no problems.)

Windows 8 personalisation Sign-in options

Account picture

The final section of the Personalisation settings lets you set a picture as your login avatar. You can select an image file or use the Camera app to take a new photo on your webcam.

Windows 8 personalisation Arrange tiles and groups

options

Windows 8 lets you log in with your Microsoft account password, but this isn't the only way to sign in. If you click on the 'User' section of the Settings app, you'll find the Sign-In section. Here you can choose to set a four-digit PIN or to select a photo on which you'll draw, with finger or mouse, gestures to unlock your device.

If you want to disable the lock screen altogether, type 'gpedit.msc' into the Start Screen, and navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Control Panel > Personalization. Then open 'Do not display the lock screen' and select the Enable option.

Windows 8 personalisation final

Arrange tiles and groups

On the Star Screen, you can create a new group of tiles by dropping a tile into the vertical transparent bar that appears whenever you drag a tile between two groups.

To move or rename an entire group of tiles, zoom out by either pinching on your touchpad or clicking the '-' symbol in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Once zoomed out, you can move an entire group by dragging and dropping. To name (or rename) a group, just right-click the group and select 'Name Group' from the toolbar.