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Transparent background for desktop icons

August 10, 2008

Somehow, somewhere, something happened and your nice pretty desktop icons lost the background transparency for their names and now they look really ugly against your desktop wallpaper image.

Your icons used to look something like this:

Desktop icon with drop shadow transparency for title

and now they looks like this (note the ugly background color for the title):

Desktop icon without drop shadow transparency for title

So how do you get it back? Well, Microsoft have hidden this setting fairly well, and it’s not where you’d expect to find it!

Windows XP

  1. On your Windows XP desktop, right-click on My Computer.
  2. Select Properties.
  3. Click the Advanced tab on the System Properties window.
  4. Click the Settings button in the Performance section.
  5. Click the Visual Effects tab on the Performance Options window.
  6. Select the Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop check box near the bottom of the list.
  7. Click OK twice to save your settings and close the windows.

Windows Vista

  1. On your Vista desktop, right-click on Computer.
  2. Select Properties.
  3. Click Advanced System Settings in the list of Tasks on the left of the Control Panel > System window.
  4. Click Continue on the UAC message if it pops up.
  5. Click the Settings button on the Advanced tab.
  6. Click the Visual Effects tab on the Performance Options window.
  7. Select the Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop check box near the bottom of the list.
  8. Click OK twice to save your settings and close the windows.

[Post updated 11 December 2008 to add information on how to do this in Vista]

3 comments

  1. This is good information for XP users, but my office just switched to Office 2007. My “My Computer” doesn’t have a “Properties” option.

    Thanks,

    Susan


  2. I’ve now added instructions for Vista.

    If you don’t have ‘Properties’ for ‘My Computer’, it’s possible your company’s system administrator has blocked this function. It has nothing to do with Office 2007, as far as I know. My advice: Check it again, then if it really isn’t there, go have a chat to your IT people and ask them why not.


  3. I tried this solution and I still have the color block icon titles and halo. I can change the color of the “drop shadow” in my display properties desktop color window . . . just can’t make them transparent.

    Any suggestions?



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