How To: Customize Your Chromebook’s Wallpaper

Customizing a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer is among the easiest ways to make the device unique, giving that personal flair that just isn’t there out-of-the-box. A Chromebook or other Chrome OS gadget is no different. Now, getting that done is a fairly straightforward process but, thanks to a few small differences in how wallpapers are applied, it isn’t necessarily something everyone knows how to do, either.

Luckily, there are very few steps involved and while things are relatively locked down on Chrome OS by comparison to other operating systems, those are really easy to follow.

Understanding a few key differences and getting prepped to stay organized

One of the biggest differences between Chrome OS and something like Android or Windows 10 is how the file system works. In reality, that’s a kind of a cross between those two operating systems, which means there are some differences and a limitation or two with regard to how wallpapers can be set.

The biggest difference is that there’s really no way, for now at least, to set an entire folder to shuffle through as wallpapers. That doesn’t mean wallpapers can be shuffled and certainly doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stay organized in the file system to prevent problems external to customization but it’s worth being aware of.

Similarly, there’s also no way to use an Android app to accomplish the same thing type of controlled rotation, although that could change in the future.

With regard to the wallpaper settings themselves, there are fewer options for stretching or cropping images. So users should aim to only use high-resolution images for the background.

Creating a new folder to store wallpapers should probably be the first step in the process, even though the selector tool we’ll be discussing in a moment isn’t limited to a single folder. It just makes things easier in terms of keeping tabs on all of your files in the long run if files stay organized.

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Those who just want to use a built-in wallpaper or one pulled from Google’s servers can skip the entire step.

For everyone else, the first step is easy enough to accomplish by navigating to Chrome OS’s Files application using the circle icon at the bottom-left-hand side of the main page UI. That will bring forward a search bar and an arrow that can be clicked to search for the app manually but typing “Files” into the search bar should bring the appropriate app to the front first.

After clicking “Files” to open the app, users will want to make sure they have selected the “My Files” directory on the left-hand column of the UI. Then, right-clicking with either a two-finger click or — for now — holding the ‘alt’ key and clicking will bring up a context menu. Clicking “New Folder” from within that menu will create a folder (renamed “Wallpapers” in the example images) for storing wallpapers pulled off the internet or a cloud service.

Once images to be used as wallpapers have been downloaded to the appropriately named “Downloads” folder, those can be clicked and dragged or right-clicked and cut for pasting into the Wallpapers folder. That will let them be easily located if they need to be at any point in the future as well as keeping things tidy.

The wallpaper picker

Now, the next step is loading up the Chrome OS wallpaper picker tool and that can be found in two different ways. The easiest way is going to be to navigate to the primary home screen UI and right-click to bring forward the home page context menu with either a two-finger click or by holding the ‘alt’ key and clicking.

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Those on touch screen gadgets can simply long-press on their home screen to pull up the context menu too.

A click on the “Set wallpaper” option will launch the tool.

Conversely, if the menu needs to be found in the future users can either follow the steps for locating the Files application above to search for the “Settings” app or click on the time display shown on the launcher shelf at the bottom right and then the gear-shaped settings icon to launch the same app.

From there, clicking on the search bar, typing in “wallpaper,” and then a simple click on the “Wallpaper” option under the “Appearance” subheading will bring up the same tool.

Once the Wallpaper tool boots up, users will be presented with a list of categories on the left-hand side of the window and rows of pictures on the right-hand side. The category of the currently selected wallpaper will be highlighted. Any of those wallpapers can be picked or there is an option to refresh the wallpaper daily across categories.

Solid colors can be chosen via the second-to-last option in the list while the very bottom option will read “My Images.” As noted above, every image that’s on the Chrome Device locally will be housed within that category rather than just those placed in a folder. Creating a folder only serves the purpose of keeping things organized within the context of the file directory itself, not in the wallpaper picker.

Creating a separate folder also keeps those from being deleted from the Downloads folder since that periodically wipes over time to keep storage space from filling up. Users can also click a compass icon-bearing “Explore” button that appears to the right of the title of the wallpaper — when some of the server-based wallpapers are selected. That will open up a webpage designed to help users discover what’s behind some wallpapers pulled from Google’s Maps or its Arts & Culture division.

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Once the desired wallpaper is chosen from the list, the background will change immediately on the home page. If an image that is chosen from the “My Images” section, two other options will appear in the same place the “Explore” button did. Those let users choose to crop the image down as needed or to leave it set it as is.

There’s no button or keypress required to set the selected wallpaper since those are automatically set as soon as they’re clicked or tapped. The final step is simply to exit the wallpaper app itself and enjoy the new backdrop.

If account syncing is turned on and the wallpaper has been selected as one of the items to sync, any Chromebook that is signed into will automatically update to the one that’s been manually set elsewhere.

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