Wallpaper Deployment Troubleshooting

 Hello AskPerf! Deepak Kumar here to discuss an emerging issue we’ve been seeing on the front lines that surround Wallpaper deployment to Windows Desktops. We’re going to primarily focus on Windows 7, and may sprinkle a little XP in. With that said, let’s dig in!

Lots of customers like to force Customized Wallpaper to their user’s machines. Whether this be mandatory or a start screen for new users. When configuring the policies to be applied, it is extremely important to not overlook the fine print on what they actually accomplish. Here are the policies that control Desktop Wallpaper:

User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Desktop | Desktop | “Desktop Wallpaper”

Specifies the desktop background (“wallpaper”) displayed on all users’ desktops.

This setting lets you specify the wallpaper on users’ desktops and prevents users from changing the image or its presentation. The wallpaper you specify can be stored in a bitmap (*.bmp) or JPEG (*.jpg) file.

To use this setting, type the fully qualified path and name of the file that stores the wallpaper image. You can type a local path, such as C:\Windows\web\wallpaper\home.jpg or a UNC path, such as \\Server\Share\Corp.jpg. If the specified file is not available when the user logs on, no wallpaper is displayed. Users cannot specify alternative wallpaper. You can also use this setting to specify that the wallpaper image be centered, tiled, or stretched. Users cannot change this specification.

If you disable this setting or do not configure it, no wallpaper is displayed. However, users can select the wallpaper of their choice.

Also, see the “Allow only bitmapped wallpaper” in the same location, and the “Prevent changing wallpaper” setting in User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel.

Note: This setting does not apply to remote desktop server sessions.

User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Control Panel | Personalization | “Prevent changing desktop background”

Prevents users from adding or changing the background design of the desktop.

By default, users can use the Desktop Background page in the Personalization or Display Control Panel to add a background design (wallpaper) to their desktop.

If you enable this setting, none of the Desktop Background settings can be changed by the user.

To specify wallpaper for a group, use the “Desktop Wallpaper” setting.

Note: You must also enable the “Desktop Wallpaper” setting to prevent users from changing the desktop wallpaper. Refer to KB article: Q327998 for more information.

Also, see the “Allow only bitmapped wallpaper” setting.

After you set one or both of the above policies, you deploy them out to your users. There may be times when the Wallpaper does not display. If that occurs, follow these steps:

Step 1

Determine which nodes/machines do not see the Wallpaper which was deployed. Categorize these machines by the following:

  • Operating System (Windows XP, Vista, 7)
  • The OU they participate in

Step 2

Confirm that your policies are set correctly. If some machines in the OU do not see the Wallpaper, then chances are the policy did not get applied. To confirm that the policy got applied, simply capture a “gpresult /z” output from the machine/machines in question, then check the policy.

Step 3

Is the Wallpaper accessible? Can the user access the JPG or BMP locally and/or on your network share? Obviously, the correct permissions should be validated if the Wallpaper resides on a network share.

Step 4

Is the registry key set correct? Since Wallpaper is a user specific setting/policy, you should check if the following registry location reflects the Wallpaper file/path you specified in your policy:


[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]


Step 5

Have you checked the Wallpaper style? Interestingly enough, this becomes a primary suspect when dealing with an OU that contains a mixture of Windows XP and later Operating Systems. In Windows 7, you can find Fill and Fit as two additional wallpaper styles compared to Windows XP. See the screenshots below:


Windows XP does not have the option to Fill or Fit Desktop Wallpaper. So, in a mixed OS environment, this is something you will want to keep an eye out for. The obvious fix is to select any other style, excluding Fill or Fit. The registry location for this setting is as follows:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]

WallpaperStyle = 10 (Fill), 6 (Fit), 2 (Stretch), 0 (Tile), 0 (Center)

Step 6

Some users may be smart enough to set their wallpaper via Image Preview. Why does this occur? Well, because the policy “Prevent changing desktop background” prevents users from changing the wallpaper via Desktop Background in Personalization. Image Preview uses a different method, thus by passing the policy. To get around this, you will need to Enable the “Active Desktop Wallpaper” policy noted in http://support.microsoft.com/kb/327998.

If all else fails

If your Desktop Wallpaper still does not show, then try the follow options:

  • Check the following hotfix – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/977944
  • Check the Application and/or System logs for any application crashes
  • Login to the same machine with a different user account and check behavior
  • On Windows XP & Vista, you will not see GPO Wallpaper via RDP connection; however, this is now available in Windows 7
  • Use the Process Monitor tool to collect the logs while you attempt to apply desktop

As you can tell, there are many road blocks that can cause Desktop Wallpaper to not appear correctly. Following the steps above should help resolve any Wallpaper issues you encounter in the future.

Additional Resources:

-Deepak Kumar