Windows Explorer Background Images

Give this 2 minutes of your time.  I’m sure you’ll like it.  Ever get confused which hard drive you are working in?  Well, the Windows Explorer can put different backgrounds on them to help you remember.  Just create a file at the root of your drive called desktop.ini and place the following in it:








Next, find a washed-out image or create a light color in MSPAINT and put it there called background.gif. (be sure to make the file type a GIF too)  Open Windows Explorer and see your creation!  It makes me remember that I’m on my external drive instead of my internal one.

Comments (8)

  1. Anonymous says:

    A handy hint, courtesy of John Roller.


  2. vincem says:

    Very cool, thanks! Any way to get a higher resolution pix saved? e.g. When I saved as .gif the picture became very grainy.

  3. John Roller says:

    You can change the filetype to JPG if you wish.

  4. vincem says:

    that worked much better, thanks again! It was well worth the two minutes!

  5. Antony says:

    As soon as I move to a subfolder, the picture disappears. Am I supposed to copy these files to each subfolder or is there a way to make it work with all subfolders automatically?

  6. John Roller says:

    It only works at the root of the drive. I haven’t figured out how to do it in subfolders yet.

  7. lonnie says:

    Thanks for this tip; I’ve been trying to figure out how to do it without a 3rd party app for quite a while.

    I did figure out a way to do the same in sub-folders, but (by this method) it must be done 1 folder at a time:

    Right click the folder to which you want to apply the image and choose Properties–>Customize–>Change Icon

    Pick an icon from the choices if given or navigate to an .ico file. You must change the icon to make this work, although you can change it back to the original when finished.

    This creates a desktop.ini file in the folder which you can then open and modify. When you do open it in a text editor, you will see something like this:


    IconFile=%USERPROFILE%My DocumentsMy IconsXP FoldersMy PDFs XP.ico


    Now you can copy the very useful info that John provided and follow his instructions.

    I have found that any system-supported image type works as long as the filename in desktop.ini matches the image filename.

    I found that if I use a small picture, it is tiled (repeated throughout the window). I don’t like that effect, so I created a blank .jpg file the size of my desktop and saved it as folder_template.jpg which I gave a read-only attribute so I wouldn’t accidentally over write it.

    The background color can be set to anything as long as it’s light. Now open an image file and resize it to what you want to see in the right-hand explorer pane. Now cut and paste it into your template.jpg. For me, a nice effect was to use photoshop to "lasso" a section of a pic using a 30 pixel "feather" and copy / paste it into folder_template.jpg. Save it in the same folder as desktop.ini, making sure the folder name and text in the .ini file match.

    My explanation may be too long, but after you have done it a couple of times, you can do other folders in just a minute or two if you already have your image files selected.

    I do have a question, though:

    How can we customize the left-hand explorer pane ?

    Still a mystery to a non-tech professional like me, but I surely do appreciate forums (and blogs) like this. Thanks.

  8. Qvestchun says:

    I think that Explorer will ignore the desktop.ini file in the folder if that folder’s attributes aren’t set as "read-only" or "system". I haven’t figured out how to set this for a batch of folders at once though, since the attrib command in xp’s command line won’t do just folders to my knowledge. It will only do ‘all files’ or ‘all files and folders’, there’s no ‘all folders’ option that I can see.

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