How To Change The Windows 8 Background Colour


Having treated myself recently to a 27 inch widescreen monitor, I encountered a problem that I hadn't previously considered.  Staring at a blank screen in any editing application meant looking straight at 160 square inches of bright white.  Which, without a pair of sunglasses, actually hurts my eyes.

In all the versions of Windows that I've used over the past 20 years or so, every one has offered the option to easily change the default background colour of a window.  And most applications (though by no means all) obey this setting, rather than imposing their own background colour.  

Trouble is, Microsoft seems to have removed this most basic of customisation options from Windows 8, for reasons best known to itself.  Unless you're using one of the special High Contrast themes, there's no option on the control panel to change the default Windows background.

Needless to say, there's a workaround.  It involves editing the registry, which is Windows's central database of all settings and config data.  Not all of the data in the registry is as trivial as a colour setting, so be careful if you do this.  

To change the background colour in Windows 8, first run the Regedit registry editor.  From a command prompt, just type Regedit to do this.  Then navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER and from there to Control Panel.  Then click on Colors, and look down the list on the right hand side of the screen until you come to Window.  It will be set to 255 255 255, which is the RGB code for white.  To change it something less intense, try 200 200 200.  Just double-click on the entry to change it.

When you're done, exit the registry editor and log out.  When you next log into Windows, your new colour will take effect. 




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Here's how I controlled the brightness on my laptop's screen, running Windows 8.1.

WARNINGS: While this may differ slightly with other versions of Windows, it should at least give you a starting point. Note that this trick doesn't require fiddling with the registry. Remember: It's always a good idea to create a new restore point and backup your files before making changes to your system! Your mileage may differ.

In the list that follows, the first word or phrase for each paragraph indicates a choice or option you should select. The following text offers comments or elaborations.

Control Panel. If all else fails, try pressing [Windows] + R and typing "control panel."

Power Options. This should load the "Choose or customize a power plan" window. Ignore the screen brightness slider control at the bottom. (You can experiment later at your peril.)

Create a Power Plan. Look along the left margin.

Plan Name. Look for the box towards the bottom. Surely you can be more creative than "My Custom Plan 1!"

Next. (Duh!)

Create. This is at the bottom of the resulting window, "Change Settings for the plan: XXXXXXX." You needn't waste your time fiddling with their pathetic little adjustments on this page. (Why Microsoft thought this page was necessary instead of showing us the whole shebang up front will forever remain a mystery.) This should drop you back to the "Choose or customize a power plan" window with the radio button next to your new power plan ticked.

Change plan settings. Look to the right of your plan name. This should return you to the "Change Settings for the plan: XXXXXXX" window, only this time there's an added link at the bottom.

Change advanced power settings. This should present you with another box/window ("Power Options") with a whole list of power settings. (You can experiment later at your peril.)

Change settings that are currently unavailable. Why Microsoft thought this step was necessary will also forever remain a mystery.

Display. Scroll down to the bottom of the list. Click the little box.

Display brightness. From here it's more or less self-explanatory.

Apply. BE SURE TO CLICK THIS OPTION BEFORE YOU EXIT! Clicking "OK" usually also works, but after all your efforts, why take a chance? (Potentially, some custom Windows' installations made by OEMs - not pointing any dirty fingers here - may change how this works.)

OK. (Duh!) Your power plan is all set and running. Probably no need to reboot. (But if you feel compelled to, be my guest!)

Note that this doesn't change screen color or any image on the screen, only its brightness. And once you learn this trick you can readjust screen brightness and a bunch of other power consumption issues just about anytime it's convenient or necessary.

I presume, because I've not tested this, that this will also control a monitor connected via a VGA cable. However, if you've connected a flat screen HDTV via an HDMI cable (as I have), it will work on your laptop's screen but it may not have any effect on your TV. Control your TV's screen brightness by using the "Menu" or similar button on your TV's remote.

I hope this helps.

I Changed the color as indicated on both
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Colors
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\Colors.
But every time I hibernate the PC (Win 8.1) the windows go back to white background, only the log-off log-on actually works.
I tried changing the color even in all the HKEY_USERS but nothing changed.
Any idea?

The solution is to re-apply the same theme when you resume from hibernate.

You can experiment with that manually to prove the idea. With colours set as you wish, hibernate, resume-> colours lost. Then rt click desktop, personalise, reapply the theme.

To do this programmatically, I set up a scheduled task which is launched when I resume (requires a special event trigger condition I fortunately found on another forum) to launch a program - Winaero's themeswitcher which takes the theme you are using as parameter.

(I did try the command line solutions I found to apply a theme, but with limited success - themeswitcher is just much simpler)

I've not seen a solution for this elsewhere.

Now I've a pleasant pale yellow in most fields and backgrounds- explorer and non-standard windows excepted of course.

I did find a way to keep the colors, have no image at all as desktop background, pretty soon we'll go back to dos, sure pc would be faster.
Thanks Microsoft..

No, again every windows goes back to white after a screen lock or PC hibernate, only the logon gets the wanted color.
Any idea how to make the system reconsider the colors in the registry without having to close every program and logoff?

This issue might take a bit of work to resolve so it is better posted in our support forum. I suggest starting a new thread stating your problem in the System forum

I just registered because this is the only thread that I have found that actually addresses this problem. Simple searches return something entirely different.

That said, it is a good work around with no decent UI (I join the chorus of "I want my XP SP3"). However, I have encountered a new and confusing problem:

I have the color set at 196 196 196 and when I restart my computer, all the office programs use this accordingly. If the computer "locks" or goes to sleep, however, it returns to the bright white of 255 255 255. When I check the registry, it is still 196 196 196 and I have to restart to get the colors to turn back.

Does anyone have a thought on why this is happening?

If you have a theme where the colors are not "Automatic" then you can customize the background color. It is far better way to change the Window Background color because it changes all backgrounds, you can save your settings, it doesn't require a logon to see most of the changes, etc. The biggest issue, for example, is that the registry edit in the article only changes the document colors in Microsoft Office whereas the theme change modifies all backgrounds. That is much easier on the eye. Unfortunately, the only default schemes without automatic colors are the high-contrast themes. As there are downloadable themes you may be able to find one that suits. if not, it is not a difficult task to get the colors how you want them editing a high-contrast theme. If you want to use registry editing then you need to change two values not just the one mentioned in the article. That should fix the problem with lock/screen saver resetting the color. You have changed the Window value at: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Colors You should also change the Window value at: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\Colors. P.S. If some theme colors are changed then Microsoft Office programs may need to be restarted to get them. For example, the Word styles don't always take the new colors until Word is restarted.

Thank you so much for sharing your advice on this problem!

Do you know what to do when MS Word reflects the changed window background color, but Excel does not?

Thank you. That is extremely helpful.

I know what you mean RennMax.
Nothing better than XP.
I have the same 'bright eyes' problems and cant get any solution for this.
Maybe the virtual XP but for me its to technical to do i think

What about the registry tutorial here,it works for some windows,but not for all windows.
For instance,my music map wont grey.
This is the map i use mostly of the day.
In XP i had it light grey,in this W 8.1 it stays bright white.

Thanks! This tip is very useful. Was getting teary eyed looking for a solution to a very basic issue :)

I am very grateful for the information. I have registered just to thank you for this. Also, I would suggest trying the value 160 160 164 for a softer gray in regedit.

Thank's for the good tip.I have been doing this in the past with XXX. This is much easier to do. Would you happen to know where the registry key would be to change the background color of Windows File Explorer? Keep up the good work. Grady.

@ rob.schifreen
What's your monitor brightness set at? Most default settings are way too bright.

Right click the desktop / Personalize / Desktop Background / Colors (from the dropdown) doesn't do it?

Thanks for your workaround Rob. I don't have Windows 8. but Windows 7 Pro. I was going to comment on Windows 8, but the OS and MS are not what the article is about. Bye for now.

Wrote the below after just scanning the article and thought it was about changing the Windows background to a solid colour, which is hard enough.

Now that I've the article read it properly, I realise it's about setting your "window background" colour. It's just unbelievable there is no UI to manage this.

The desktop background can be changed from the UI, it's just thoroughly obfuscated.

Steps are:

1. Control Panel -> Personalisation
2. Choose "Desktop Background" icon the menu at the bottom of the window.
3. Choose the "Picture location" dropdown, and select "Solid Colours".
4. Follow your nose, & remember to "Save changes" before exiting.


That's one option for full solid colors. If you wish to have a specific color for backgrounds where pictures doesn't cover the full screen, then from below the Picture position, select "Change background color" and select from the color palette.

The features are there, just somewhat different locations.

Windows 8 has turned into an even bigger failure than the Vista OS when it was first released. This is just another example of how little thought went into basic design features. I think most users would agree that XP was Microsoft's best OS and Windows 7 which is an upgraded extention of XP is pretty solid. Hopefully Microsoft will learn some lessons here and go back to the tried and trusted approach when they bring out their next OS.

Definitely. I love working on older systems that still have XP installed, or using an XP virtual machine. Windows 7 is OK, but XP SP3 just had everything in the right places and was great for power users.