Getting your PC just the way you like it

My husband can do amazing things. He poured and installed concrete countertops. He built our hens a fancy chicken coop. He handcrafted all the Douglas fir trim in our house. When it comes to technology, however, he's not quite as impressive.

It seems like there's always something going on with his PC. I tell him he's imagining things, but far too often, he just ends up using mine. "Yours just works better," he says. "Plus, it looks way cooler."

I don't know about you, but I get a little itchy when someone else uses my PC. It's not that I have anything to hide—it's just that when we get our PCs exactly right, they become incredibly personal. So I got him his own PC with Windows 7 for his birthday.

All about themes

It was incredibly easy—even for my husband—to customize Windows 7. That's because Windows 7 features a whole bunch of different themes. Each theme includes a desktop background, screen saver, window border color, and various sounds, icons, and mouse pointers.

Personalization in Control Panel
Changing your background takes just a click or two

To change the desktop theme

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Right-click the desktop, and then click Personalize (my method).

    • Click the Start button Picture of the Start button, click Control Panel, and then click Personalization (my husband's method).
  2. You'll see a variety of themes—just click one and see everything change instantly.

  3. Click Get more themes online to get different themes. For instance, did you know that different themes are shipped on the PCs that go to other countries or regions? You can download them for free. Or choose really neat photos from Bing and other companies. Also check out the Windows Personalization Gallery.

The great thing about Windows 7 is that you can use an entire theme or just part of it. At the bottom of the Personalization window, you'll see additional buttons for your desktop background, window color, sounds, and screen saver. You can change each aspect of your theme until it's exactly to your liking, then click Save changes. And if you want to save the theme for later use (or share your theme with a friend), click Save theme.

Window color and appearance options
Window color and appearance options

Create the background you want

"Wouldn't it be nice if you could play a slide show of pictures as your desktop background?" my husband asked wistfully as he booted up his PC for the first time.

Actually, you can. In fact, many themes automatically play a slide show of select images. That's why, when you click Desktop Background in the Personalization window, you'll see a group of pictures with check marks above them. This is how you choose what pictures to see.

Desktop background options
Desktop background options

Don't like one picture? Clear its check box and it won't show up. Want to see only one picture? Clear all the check boxes except for the picture you want. Want those pictures of your Boston terrier romping on the beach? Click Browse, navigate to My Pictures, and select one file for a static image or the whole folder for a slide show. Then, choose how often you want the picture to change—anywhere from every 10 seconds to once a day.

Lots of different sounds, windows, and screen savers

When I first installed Windows 7, I played with the sounds until my husband was blue in the face. What I like about the 14 different sound schemes is that they all sound like the Windows default sound scheme, but with a twist. For instance, the Sonata scheme sounds like classical violins, while the Delta scheme sounds like a banjo.

Similarly, you can customize your window color and transparency, along with your screen saver, using the buttons at the bottom of the Personalization window. After you've changed all these areas to your liking, you've essentially created a new theme. And although you don't need to save it to use your new theme, it's not a bad idea if you want to play around some more.

And really, who can resist? Certainly not me.

Making the screen more readable

I'm a laptop user. My screen is smaller than a typical monitor, which means that everything that appears on it is smaller too. One feature I really appreciate is the fact that you can adjust text size more easily. Windows 7 automatically selects the optimal display resolution for your screen, but then you can also choose how big you want your font. (In previous versions of Windows, you couldn't do this separately.) It's simple:

  1. Right-click the desktop, and then click Personalize.

  2. Click Display in the lower-left corner.

  3. Choose to display fonts at 100 percent, 125 percent, or 150 percent.

Get more Windows accessibility information, including tutorials and free step-by-step guides.

Mini programs right where you want them

We live in Seattle, where it always rains. My husband likes to keep his eye on the weather forecast just in case there's a two-minute sliver of sunshine in the day that he might possibly miss. That would be tragic. Fortunately, there are gadgets.

Desktop gadgets are customizable mini programs that display information right on the desktop. You don't have to open a new window or launch a new program because they run continuously. You can view up-to-date news feeds, your calendar, games—or, in my husband's case—the weather. To get gadgets:

  1. Right-click the desktop, and then click Gadgets.

  2. View available gadgets.

  3. Drag gadgets anywhere onto your desktop.

    Gadgets on the Windows 7 desktop
    Gadgets can be moved to where you want them

Putting the "personal" in personal computer

These days, my husband has a desktop slide show set up with surfing pictures, while I have pictures of my chickens (in the coop he built). He uses the Sonata sound theme, while I stick with Windows Default.

He has about 40 gadgets on his desktop, all of which are completely necessary to his happiness. I have two. Far be it for me to complain—he's gotten his new PC just the way he wants it.

Best yet, he's not using mine anymore.

About the author

Zia Munshi is a freelance writer and copywriter who has written for a wide variety of publications and companies, including Microsoft and MSN. She especially loves writing about technology because it gives her an excuse to buy all the latest gadgetry and software. She lives in Seattle with her husband, dog, and flock of 13 chickens.