On a Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Session Host with the Desktop Experience feature enabled and the desktop wallpaper disabled, users wish to configure own color schemes and define an own desktop background color. However, I seem unable to find an easy way to change the desktop color via the GUI.

I would expect the settings to reside under Appearance settings -> Colors -> Advanced Appearance Settings but those are unavailable in Windows 8 and Server 2012. Is there a replacement GUI dialog for this or do I have the ability to allow users to create their own design schemes containing the appropriate desktop background color?


Users can still change the desktop background color in Windows Server 2012. Note that you need to have Desktop Experience installed. You also have to allow users to change their colors and desktop background in Group Policy.

The way I did this was:

Open Control Panel. Under Appearance and Personalization, choose Change desktop background.

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Choose the drop-down next to Picture location (which is confusing) and change it to Solid colors.

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You can select some existing colors.

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Or, click More at the bottom left, and you can select a custom color.

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Voila! Now my desktop is UGLY, just the way I like it!

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Or you can select some other folder with Browse if you want to select a background image from somewhere as a wallpaper.

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However, this doesn't complete the picture. As you can see, when I set a solid background color, the taskbar changed but my window borders didn't change. I suspect this is a bug.

To actually override the color of the window decorations (and taskbar) do this:

Open Control Panel. Under Appearance and Personalization, choose Change the theme.

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Near the bottom center, choose Color to change the color.

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The first tile is Automatic and Windows will derive the colors from the desktop background wallpaper. (Assuming all the bugs are fixed.) Selecting any other tile will allow customization.

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I think these are about the only real options users are going to have.

  • Ah, I see. I got stuck where I tried to change the desktop background wallpaper and have been greeted with "Desktop background is turned off during remote connections" with no available options presented. Apparently, I have to allow wallpapers on the server and the clients to be able to access the setting at all. Very annoying, especially since I aim to not use wallpapers, but there seems to be no way around it so far.
    – the-wabbit
    Aug 16 '13 at 12:46
  • Funny, I did that all over an RDP connection! Aug 16 '13 at 12:48
  • 1
    You can do this over RDP connections, but you have to make sure that a) no policy is dictating that wallpapers are disabled for remote desktop users and b) the client's connection settings have the "Desktop background" option enabled in the "Performance" tab.
    – the-wabbit
    Aug 16 '13 at 12:57

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