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Windows 10 Settings menu: The Personalization tab

How to customize the look and feel of your Windows 10 device.

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Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Why even have an operating system if you can't make it look exactly the way you want? If you want your Windows 10 device to reflect your personality (visually, at least), you're going to spend a lot of time in the Personalization tab in the Windows 10 Settings menu.

The Personalization tab is where you can change your desktop wallpaper, the accent color that appears throughout Windows 10 and the look and feel of your Start menu. It's not as robust as I'd like it to be -- the Themes section, for example, simply takes you back to the Personalization window in the Control Panel -- but it has several useful settings for tweaking the way the operating system looks.

Background

The Background section, as you might have guessed, is all about your PC's desktop wallpaper. Here, you can choose what type of wallpaper you'd like (a picture, a color or a slideshow of pictures from a designated folder).

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Each "type" of wallpaper has its own options -- if you choose a picture, you can pick the photo you want to display as well as how it fits on the screen (fill, fit, stretch, tile, center or span), and if you choose a slideshow, you can choose the folder you want the pictures to come from, as well as how often to cycle the photos.

Colors

In the Colors section, you can choose the accent color for Windows 10. This color will show up on your taskbar, Start menu and as part of your window borders.

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET


Windows 10 supplies 49 colors for you to pick, or you can check the box next to Automatically pick an accent color from my background if you want your accent color to match your desktop wallpaper. (This is a nice option if you have the desktop slideshow enabled, because the color will change as the wallpaper changes.)

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

In the latest build of the Windows 10 Insider Preview (Build 14342), there's also the option to choose your app mode -- a light or dark theme that will appear throughout the OS.

Lock screen

In the Lock screen section, you can customize your lock screen -- the screen you see before you type in your password to log in to Windows 10. If you'd rather not have a lock screen at all, you can disable it using this guide.

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

At the top of this section, you'll see a preview of what your current lock screen looks like. You can change the background style by clicking the drop-down menu under Background and choosing a type (either Windows Spotlight, picture or slideshow). If you choose Windows Spotlight, there will be no additional options and the lock screen will display changing images from Bing.

If you choose Picture, you'll see five of the most recent lock screen pictures, as well as a Browse button that you can click on if you want to search for a picture on your PC. If you choose Slideshow, you'll be able to choose a folder or album for your slideshow -- the Pictures album is the default, but you can choose any folder by clicking Add a folder.

There's also an option to turn on (or off) "fun facts, tips, tricks, and more" from Windows that will appear on your lock screen.

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Next, you'll see app settings. Here, you can choose one app that will show detailed information on the lock screen, and up to seven apps that will show a "quick status" (similar to a notification on your phone) on the lock screen. To change apps, click the app's button and choose a new app from the drop down menu. To remove apps from the lock screen, click each app's button and choose None.

At the bottom of this section, there's a link to Screen timeout settings (part of the System tab) and to Screen saver settings, which is a Control Panel window.

Themes

As I mentioned earlier, the Themes section just provides a link to Theme settings, which opens up the Personalization window from the Control Panel.

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

This section also has a few Related settings links -- Advanced sound settings, Desktop icon settings, and Mouse pointer settings.

Start

This section relates to the Start menu/screen. Here, you can choose to show more tiles on the Start menu (you'll see tiles in rows of four medium tiles, instead of three medium tiles), turn off Start menu ads, and choose whether to show most used and recently used apps in the Start menu.

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET


If you click Choose which folders appear on Start, you can customize which folders and features you'll see in your Start menu -- File Explorer, Settings, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, HomeGroup, Network and Personal folder.

Taskbar

In the latest version of the Windows 10 Insider Preview, a taskbar section has been added to the Personalization tab. You'll reach this section if you right-click on the taskbar and click Settings.

Screenshot by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Here, you can lock your taskbar, automatically hide it, turn small taskbar buttons on or off, and turn Peek on and off. You can also choose to replace the Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell in the secret Start menu. And you can turn taskbar button badges on and off.

You're also able to configure the taskbar for multiple displays -- choose to show the taskbar on all displays (or not) and choose which taskbar buttons appear on which displays.

Editors' note: This How To post was originally published on February 24, 2015, and was updated on May 23, 2016, to reflect new information regarding Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 14342.