Even in the early Windows XP days, users were looking for ways to make their user interface feel more at home, and now with all the new tools available, this challenge is much easier than ever.
Want to know how to make things livelier with an animated GIF as your desktop background? We’ll show you how to do it in this guide using two popular methods.
Keep on reading to learn more, and without further ado, let’s get started!
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Method 1: Wallpaper Engine (Paid)
Wallpaper Engine is the most popular software for setting animated desktop backgrounds across one or multiple monitors. It’s not free, but based on the thousands of positive user reviews, it’s well worth the symbolic $3,99 price.
Any PC enthusiast caring about aesthetics knows of this helpful tool simply because it makes it so much easier to achieve the perfect look and atmosphere on your screen(s) to go along with the rest of the setup or lighting/ambient in the room.
Wallpaper Engine boasts more than a hundred thousand active daily users and more than a few million owners.
The only “downside” of this app is that it’s on Steam, which is not something every PC user has on their computer unless they’re a member of the worldwide gaming community. To some, WPE being on Steam is the best thing, as they use this app daily. But, for non-Steam users, this is not such great news.
Although Wallpaper Engine doesn’t require Steam to run in the background for you to use it, you do need to purchase it from the platform in the first place, which requires an account with a payment method set up. Then, if you want to use its browsing and uploading/downloading functionality, you’ll have to run Steam in the background.
Does this already sound attractive and like something that will fit your needs for an animated and fully-personalized desktop background?
Let’s take a look at how you can use it. It’s simple!
- Download and install the Steam app if it’s not already on your PC.
- Register with a new account or sign in with your existing one.
- Open the Steam shop and purchase Wallpaper Engine. Then, install it on your PC.
Now, it’s time to launch Wallpaper Engine and start using it. Here’s how.
- Open Steam on your PC, then navigate to the Library section. Find Wallpaper Engine on the list, either manually or using the library search tool. Click on it, then click the green Launch button, as shown in the image below.
- Complete the short introduction process that helps set up everything based on your needs and system settings. That includes selecting overall wallpaper quality, enabling LED effects, automatic start-up, and more. When done, you can start using Wallpaper Engine.
- Search for wallpapers using the Discover and Workshop sections.
- Once you find a wallpaper you like, click on it, then click the green Subscribe button to download and apply it. Now the wallpaper is added to your collection.
- Modify the wallpaper settings based on your needs using the various parameters, as shown in the image below. The changes to the wallpaper will apply in real time, meaning you can simultaneously preview while adjusting, which is helpful.
- Save the changes by clicking the blue OK button when done. You can do this to as many wallpapers as you want and even create playlists for your computer to swap through to not get bored of seeing the same background.
Congratulations! You now have an animated desktop background. You can set Wallpaper Engine to run on start-up. It will work without Steam running. You can uninstall Steam if you want, and Wallpaper Engine will still work without it.
However, you won’t be able to use the Discover and Workshop sections without Steam.
If you want and have the skills to make it happen, you can create animated GIFs to use as your wallpaper through the Wallpaper Engine app.
For more information on that, check out this helpful video covering the entire process from start to finish.
That’s everything you need to know about using the Wallpaper Engine, which for most users, it’s more than enough to satisfy all desktop background customization needs.
However, if you don’t have Steam, want a non-paid option, or prefer a different approach, check out the next section below. In it, we cover a free, open-source animated desktop wallpaper software that doesn’t require Steam or any other third-party platform or app to run.
Method 2: Lively Wallpaper (Free)
Speaking of free, open-source products for setting animated desktop backgrounds, Lively Wallpaper is the community’s favorite.
It’s FOSS software (free and open-source) made by a single developer, Dani John. You can find the GitHub repository with the code here.
To begin using Lively Wallpaper, download it from the official website or the Microsoft Store, then install it on your system.
When the installation process is complete, open the software and follow the steps below to add your first animated desktop background.
- Open Lively and complete the quick setup process by selecting the adequate settings for your system. That includes choosing whether the software should launch on start-up, picking a “normal” or “lite” interface, modifying the taskbar’s theme, and more.
- Now you should see the Lively Wallpaper’s homepage. The software already comes with some default background choices you can use for testing purposes or permanently if you like them. Click on the background you wish to apply, and it will set immediately.
- Click on the monitor logo in the top-right corner to open the Control Panel. Within it, you can set the currently-active wallpaper to each of your screens separately or span it across multiple screens.
- If you wish to add custom wallpapers to the software, click on the Add Wallpaper button in the top-bar menu. Use the “Browse” button to choose a file you previously created or downloaded on your computer. You can also use the “URL” section to paste a link from a YouTube video and use it as an animated background.
If these steps weren’t clear enough, or you wish to see a visual guide for better clarity, here’s a helpful tutorial showing how to use Lively Wallpaper and include custom animated backgrounds.
You can change how Lively Wallpaper or some of its features work by opening the Settings panel. Access it by clicking the cogwheel icon in the upper-right corner of the software’s panel.
That’s all there’s to it!
You can now use this software to set GIFs or other file types as animated backgrounds in Windows whenever you want, and it won’t cost you anything.
If you wish to uninstall the software, the developer made an option to remove the data folder associated with it too, so there won’t be any traces of it left on your computer if you choose to opt for another animated desktop background solution.
That’s all there is to know about the two most popular, convenient, and safe ways to add animated desktop backgrounds on Windows.
Other methods are also available, such as by using VLC player, for example, or other programs that aren’t free or open-source. However, we believe the two choices mentioned in this guide are superior in every way, so we wouldn’t recommend trying to set things up differently.
Hopefully, this helped you achieve the aesthetics you were after.