How to change wallpaper in Windows 11 without activation

It is very easy to change wallpaper in Windows 11 without activation. While you'll find the Settings app blocked, there are at least three built-in methods that work regardless of the activation status.


Windows 11 has a variety of personalization options. You can change the theme, make apps use the light or dark style, and much more. It allows you to change the desktop background to a static image, a slideshow, and even use Windows Spotlight with stunning pics downloaded from the Internet. Also, the Personalization section of the Settings app includes options to customize the taskbar and the Start menu.

Unfortunately, if Windows 11 is not activated, none of those options are available. This can be an issue of you run a lab PC or a virtual machine. If you want to change your desktop wallpaper to something neutral or apply some unified look, you will need to use a workaround.

Change wallpaper in not activated Windows 11

To change wallpaper in Windows 11 without activation, do the following.

  1. Press Win + E to open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the folder that contains your wallpapers.
  3. Right-click the image you want to set as your desktop background and select "Set as the desktop wallpaper" from the context menu.Windows 11 Change Wallpaper Without Activation
  4. Alternatively, you can click the "Set as wallpaper" button in the toolbar.
  5. Finally, you can select multiple images and once, then right-click them and  select "Set as the desktop wallpaper". Windows 11 will use them for the desktop slideshow.

You are done. This is the fastest method to change the desktop background in the non-activated Windows 11.

Using the Photos app

The Photos app also allows you to change the desktop background without activating the OS first. The app is preinstalled in Windows 11, so it is always at your fingertips.

To change the desktop background in not activated Windows 11 with Photos, do the following.

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Browse for an image you want to use as the Desktop background.
  3. Click the three dot button on the toolbar to open the menu and select Set as > Set as background.Change Desktop Background In Not Activated Windows 11
  4. The Photos app will set the image as your desktop wallpaper.

Moreover, if you have activated Windows Photo Viewer, it will also allow you to change the desktop background.

Simply open the image in Windows Photo Viewer, right-click it and select "Set as the desktop background" from the menu.Windows Photo Viewer Method

Microsoft Paint is one more option to use on non-activated system.

Change the desktop background in Windows 11 without activation with Paint

  1. Open Microsoft Paint (mspaint.exe).
  2. Now, click File > Open (Ctrl + O) and select the image you want to apply as your wallpaper.
  3. Again, in the File menu, select Set as desktop background.Windows 11 Change Wallpaper Without Activation From Paint
  4. Select the image position, e.g. Fill or Center for your image on the Desktop.

You are done.

Finally, the last method you can use is the "Desktop background" dialog of the classic Personalization panel. It also allows you to change the wallpaper without first activating the OS.

The classic Personalization method

You can also use the classic "Desktop background" dialog, part of the classic "Personalization" option of the Control Panel. While Microsoft has removed the latter from the legacy Control Panel, all its functionality remains intact, being just hidden from the user.

The classic dialog supports changing the Desktop wallpaper with ease without activating Windows. To change the desktop background in Windows 11 via the "Desktop background" dialog, do the following.

Press Win + R to open the Run dialog, and type the following command: shell:::{ED834ED6-4B5A-4bfe-8F11-A626DCB6A921} -Microsoft.Personalization\pageWallpaper. Hit Enter.

Now, pick one of the available images to use as your desktop background.Classic Desktop Background Method

You can also browse for a custom image stored on your drive using the Browse... button.

Finally, change the image placement options using the Picture position option.

Done! That's more than enough to change the image shown on your Desktop even if you didn't activate Windows 11.

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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