Make Windows 8 Sexier With These Background & Theme Tweaks

Make Windows 8 Sexier With These Background & Theme Tweaks

windows 8 background

Does your Windows 8 system look too bland with the default settings? You can customize it in a variety of ways, changing a variety of backgrounds and colors — whether on the Start screen, lock screen, or desktop. Your Windows 8 system can be a subdued interface with dark colors and muted backgrounds, a tableau of bright colors and colorful flowers, or anything in between.
Microsoft has omitted some customization settings – most notably for the Start screen – but there are third-party tools that can give us access to these settings. Just as with the missing Start menu, third-party utilities give us the options Microsoft didn’t.

Change The Start Screen Background & Colors

Windows 8’s start screen is customizable. If you don’t like the default Windows 8 background and colors, you can change them to something more to your liking. Just open the Settings charm (use the Ctrl+I shortcut to quickly open the Settings charm) and select Change PC settings. In the PC settings screen that appears, select the Personalize category, select Start screen, and choose a background image and color.
Windows 8 includes a number of different Start screen backgrounds and color schemes that can be mixed and matched – you can have everything from a solid-colored dark background to a bight pink background with flowers.

windows 8 background

Set a Custom Start Screen Background & Colors

While customizing your Start screen, you’ll notice that you can’t select a custom background or color scheme. You can only select the ones Microsoft included. Luckily, some third party tools have come to the rescue. However, bear in mind that they only work on Windows 8, not Windows RT (which can’t run non-Microsoft desktop applications).
The slickest, easiest utility to use is probably Stardock’s Decor8, from the same Stardock that created the popular Start8 start menu replacement for Windows 8. It’s free for 30 days, after which it will cost you $5 – just like Start8.
Decor8 allows you to set custom background images and color schemes for your Start screen, breaking free from Microsoft’s limitations and tweaking it to your liking. You can even have the background automatically change and customize other parts of the Start screen, such as the number of rows of tiles and styles of animations.

windows 8 background wallpaper

If you’re looking for a free alternative, you might want to try something like Windows 8 Start Screen Customizer, although it’s still in beta and isn’t as well tested – it may not be as polished and stable.

Change The Lock Screen Background

Windows 8′s lock screen appears when you start your computer, log out, or lock it. Unlike the start screen, the lock screen’s background image is completely customizable out-of-the-box.
From the same Personalize pane in the PC settings application above, select Lock screen and select a custom background image. You can use one of the preinstalled ones or click the Browse button and select your own background image. You can also customize the applications that show quick status alerts on the lock screen – particularly useful for Windows 8 tablets.

windows 8 background wallpaper

Customize Desktop Window Border Colors

By default, Windows 8 automatically chooses a solid window border and taskbar color based on the color of your desktop wallpaper. However, you can also choose a custom color that will be used instead..
To choose a window border color, right-click your desktop and select Personalize. Click the Color option at the bottom of the Personalization window and select your preferred color. You can tweak a selected color’s intensity to get it just how you like it.

windows 8 background wallpaper

As with Windows 7,  you can also choose a custom desktop background – even set up a slideshow of desktop backgrounds – from the Personalization window.

Set Custom Desktop Window Border Colors

If you want to set a window border color that isn’t mentioned in this list, try Aero8Tuner. It allows you to select any color for your window borders, even ones that Microsoft didn’t provide in the list of colors you can choose.

windows 8 background

For more information about Windows 8, be sure to download our Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts cheat sheet and full guide to Windows 8!
How have you customized Windows 8′s interface to your liking? Leave a comment and share your favorite tips and tricks.

Windows Live Essentials For Windows 8

Windows Live Essentials For Windows 8 – What You Need To Know

, by Chris Hoffman

Microsoft is in the process of phasing out Windows Essentials, formerly known as Windows Live Essentials. Microsoft has included Modern-style replacements for many of the Essentials applications in Windows 8 – email, calendaring, contacts, messaging, photo management, and cloud file storage are all built in. However, some Windows Live Essentials applications have no Modern equivalent, and you may want to the desktop versions of some applications.
Microsoft has come full-circle – after including many of the Windows Live Essentials apps in Windows Vista, they were removed in Windows 7 and available as a separate installer so that Windows 7 could be a more lightweight, minimal operating system. They’re now being integrated back into Windows 8 by default.

New Windows 8 Apps

Microsoft wants the pre-installed Windows 8 apps to take the place of the older, desktop-based Windows Live applications. You’ll find the following replacements pre-installed on Windows 8:
  • Mail: Microsoft’s Mail application connects to, Hotmail, Gmail, Exchange, and IMAP accounts. It takes the place of Windows Live Mail.
  • Calendar: Windows Live Mail included integrated calendar support, but calendaring is now available in a separate application. It can sync with the calendars linked to your Microsoft account, Google Calendar, and other calendar services.
  • People: Windows Live Mail’s address book is now the People application. In addition to being an address book, it can connect to services like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to bring together your contacts in one place.
  • Messaging: The messaging application works with Microsoft’s Messenger and Facebook. It takes the place of Windows Live Messenger.
  • Photos: The Photos application takes the place of the Windows Live Photo Gallery. It can view photos on your PC or SkyDrive, import photos from a camera, and access online photo services like Flickr or Facebook.
  • SkyDrive: SkyDrive takes the place of Windows Live Mesh as Microsoft’s new online file storage service. Windows 8 includes a Modern app for viewing and managing your SkyDrive files.

windows live essentials
  • Family Safety: The Family Safety application has been replaced by integrated parental controls in Windows 8, which are also called Family Safety. Access Family Safety from the control panel to set time limits, restrict access to websites, and get reports on your kids’ computer usage.
live essentials

You may also want to install Microsoft’s Skype application for Windows 8 from the Windows Store. Skype will soon replace Windows Live Messenger entirely.
However, if you want to edit movies, write blog posts, or sync files on the desktop, you’ll still need some of the classic Windows Live Essentials applications.

Windows Essentials For The Desktop

The Windows Essentials installer package is still available for Windows 8. It will download and install the familiar Windows Essentials desktop applications on your computer, although many applications – such as the Bing Bar, Outlook Connector, Messenger Companion, Windows Live Mesh (replaced by SkyDrive), and Family Safety (Windows 8 has integrated parental controls) have been removed.
Microsoft is de-emphasizing these applications, although several have no Modern equivalent yet. You may want to install:
  • SkyDrive (desktop): Windows 8 only comes with a Modern-style SkyDrive app that allows you to view your SkyDrive and upload files in the new, Modern UI. If you use SkyDrive and want to sync files to your computer and access them in a folder – just like Dropbox – you’ll need the SkyDrive desktop application. It’s available through the Windows Essentials installer, although you can also download the SkyDrive desktop app separately.
  • Windows Movie Maker: Microsoft’s easy-to-use movie editing application still has no Modern equivalent. The desktop application works fine on Windows 8 and is available from here, along with a photo gallery application that works on the desktop.
  • Windows Live Writer: Windows Live Writer is a much-loved blogging application. It still has no equivalent in the new Windows 8 interface. If you want Windows Live Writer, you’ll need to install it from here.
windows live essentials

You probably don’t want to install:
  • Windows Live Mail: Don’t expect Microsoft to focus much attention on this program going forward – Microsoft would rather you use the Mail application in the Modern interface, the full Microsoft Outlook on the desktop, or their web interface. If you still like Windows Live Mail, you can install it and continue to use it anyway.
  • Windows Live Messenger: There’s not much point in installing Messenger – Microsoft’s Messenger service will be shut down on March 15, 2013, after which this program will no longer be available. Existing accounts will be migrated to Skype, so you’ll want to install the Skype desktop app if you’d rather not use the Modern app.

Want more information about Windows 8? Download Getting Started: Your Guide To Windows 8.
Do you still use Windows Live Essentials on Windows 8, or have you found better Windows 8-style app replacements to them? Leave a comment and let us know!