Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Group Policy is the center of administration for Microsoft Active Directory (AD) domain service. Administrator can set up specific configuration and policy and enforced them on the targeted users or computers that are member of the domain structure. One of the common practices in an organization or company is using Group Policy is to push a standardized desktop background for their employees, usually for branding purpose and to provide a professional look for their managed computers. In this post, we are going to demonstrate the way to change Windows desktop background using Group Policy.

How to Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

This demonstration is using a Windows Server 2012 R2 as the Domain Controller and a Windows 7 Ultimate as the client machine. The topology is as follows:

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Details:

  • AD and DNS service has been preconfigured
  • Client machine has been joined to the domain
  • Policy will be applied at the user level
  • Wallpaper image file is stored in the local drive of the Domain Controller server
  • Target username is “Arranda Saputra” resides within an OU named “MustBeGeek” with structure as shown below:

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Follow the step by step below to set wallpaper using Group Policy:

1. Creating the Group Policy Object
On the Group Policy Management console, expand the forest and domain, right click on Group Policy Objects and select “New”

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Give name for the new policy object. In this example, the policy name is “Wallpaper Policy”

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

2. Editing the policy object
The newly created policy will be listed on the Group Policy object list. Right click on it and select “Edit”

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

An editor window will show up. On the left pane, go to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Desktop > Desktop. On the right pane, double click on Desktop Wallpaper setting.

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Change the option to Enabled, and then specify the wallpaper location and the wallpaper style. In this example we are specifying a local path because the image file for desktop wallpaper background is stored in the local drive of the Domain Controller server, and the wallpaper style that we used is “Fill”.

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Once configured, click OK and close the editor window.

3. Applying the policy object
Back to the Group Policy Management console window, right click on “MustBeGeek” OU and select “Link an Existing GPO”

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Select the Wallpaper Policy and click OK

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Verify that Wallpaper Policy is now listed under the “MustBeGeek” OU

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

4. Check the result on client machine
Once the client machine has received the policy update, the wallpaper will changed. Policy update is a process that happens periodically in the background so it doesn’t require any action from the user. However, in this demonstration we want to expedite the process so we will force the policy update to run right away by opening CMD and use command gpupdate /force.

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

To verify the policy has been applied, user can run command gpresult /r on the CMD. Find the policy named “Wallpaper Policy” under section “Applied Group Policy Objects”.

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Polic

After the policy applied, notice that the desktop background wallpaper has been changed.

Change Windows Desktop Background Using Group Policy

Conclusion

With Desktop Wallpaper Group Policy, desktop background will be consistent for all targeted users and cannot be changed unless it is configured via the Group Policy. Sometimes, if the client machine is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, the Desktop Wallpaper Group Policy setting cannot be applied correctly (either background does not change or just goes to blank). When it happens, install this hotfix on the client machine: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/977944.

And that’s how you change Windows desktop background using Group Policy.

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Arranda Saputra

Arranda Saputra

CCNA, CCDA, VCP6-DCV, MCSA Administering Windows Server 2012
An IT infrastructure practitioner with main specialization in network engineering. Cisco is his first love, but he also enjoyed working on virtualization with VMware and system administration with Windows Server.