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How to change desktop wallpaper without activation on Windows 11

You have at least five ways to change the desktop wallpaper on a device without a Windows 11 activation.

Windows 11 wallpaper settings

Although you can use a device running a version of Windows 11 that isn’t activated, you have some limitations, including the ability to change the desktop wallpaper from the Settings app.

If you have an unactivated version of Windows 11, there are multiple workarounds to set any image you want as the desktop background.

While this is an easy task, activating your copy is always recommended to unlock all the features and stay supported. These instructions will show you how if you don’t know the process.

This guide will teach you how to change the desktop wallpaper when the settings are grayed out on Windows 11. (These instructions should also work on Windows 10.)

Change wallpaper without activation using File Explorer on Windows 11

To change the wallpaper on Windows 11 without activation, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer on Windows 11.

  2. Open the folder with the image you want to set.

  3. Right-click the image and select the “Set as desktop background” option.

    File Explorer set as desktop background option

  4. (Optional) Select multiple images and select the Set as desktop wallpaper option to use a slideshow.

Alternatively, the “Set as background” option will appear in the command bar when selecting an image.

Change wallpaper without activation using Photos on Windows 11

To set a different wallpaper on Windows 11 without activation, use these steps:

  1. Open Photos.

  2. Open the image to set it on the desktop.

  3. Right-click the image, select the Set as, and choose the Background option.

    Photos set as background option

Once you complete the steps, the desktop background should display the new wallpaper.

Change wallpaper without activation using Paint on Windows 11

To change the wallpaper of an unactivated copy of Windows 11 in Paint, use these steps:

  1. Open Paint.

  2. Click on File and select the Open option.

  3. Select the image to set as background.

  4. Click the Open button.

  5. Click on File, select the Set as desktop background submenu, and choose the fit option (fill, tile, or center).

    Paint set image as wallpaper

After you complete the steps, the image will appear on the desktop.

Change wallpaper without activation using Group Policy on Windows 11

To change the desktop background image on Windows 11 Pro without activation through Group Policy, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for gpedit and click the top result to open the Group Policy Editor app.

  3. Browse to the following path: User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Desktop > Desktop

  4. Double-click the Desktop Wallpaper policy on the right side.

    Group Policy Desktop Wallpaper policy

  5. Select the Enabled option.

  6. Under the “Wallpaper Name” setting, specify the path to the image file to set as background.

    Group Policy change wallpaper no Windows 11 activation

  7. (Optional) Use the Windows Style setting to choose the fit option (fill, tile, or center).

  8. Click the Apply button.

  9. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, you may need to restart the computer to apply the settings.

Change wallpaper without activation using Registry on Windows 11

To change the Windows 11 desktop background through Registry without activation, use these steps:

Warning: It’s crucial to note that modifying the Registry can cause serious problems if not used properly. It’s assumed you know what you’re doing and that you have created a full backup of your system before proceeding.
  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for regedit and click the top result to open the Registry.

  3. Browse to the following path:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies
  4. Right-click the Policies key, select the New submenu and choose the Key option.

  5. Name the key System and press Enter.

  6. Right-click the newly created key, select the New submenu, and choose the String Value option.

    Registry wallpaper string

  7. Name the key Wallpaper and press Enter.

  8. Double-click the newly created key.

  9. Specify the path to the image file to set as desktop background on Windows 11.

    Registry change wallpaper

  10. Click the OK button.

After you complete the steps, you may need to restart the computer to apply the custom desktop wallpaper on a Windows 11 device without activation.

If you want to remove the configuration, you can use the instructions, but on step No. 5, right-click the System key and select the Delete option.