Working Windows Wallpapers

About three years ago my PC stopped accepting Windows Updates. Annoyingly, I discovered the root cause was basically unfixable: my hard drive was using the wrong kind of partition format to play nicely with my BIOS (MBR instead of GPT). No, I have no idea why Windows allowed itself to be installed (and ran for 6 months) on an incompatible hardware setup, but there you have it. Without a second boot drive to be able to clone between, I was stuck and so have lived without OS updates ever since[1].

Fast forward to last Black Friday and I managed to pick up a new m2 SSD. With a second boot drive, I've spent the past month slowly going through the motions of installing it, cloning my old drive, fixing the formatting error, etc. etc. As a result, last weekend I ran Windows Update for the first time in ages and I'm now finally caught up. Overall, that's been a beneficial process, but apparently one of those updates killed a feature I've relied on since Vista: wallpaper slideshows.

Sure, you can still select "slideshow" in the Personalisation menu, but apparently Microsoft have removed subfolder support. You can now only create a slideshow of images within a root folder, which is fine if you're someone who downloads photos from the web to have as backgrounds, but that's not what I want. I want my photos to be on display, which means subfolders, and lots of them. I'm not about to make my photos harder to search through by moving them all into one big directory; I literally have Lightroom to mean that I don't need to do that. I'm also not going to duplicate the 1.7TB of photos I have just so that they can be wallpapers. Nope, nope, and nope.

Instead, I initially treated it as a bug; after all, why would Microsoft drop support for such a basic feature that's been around for so long? Several Google sessions later and it's clearly a feature, without any working "fixes". That leaves me with one option: third-party applications. Does it feel a bit redundant to now be running a seperate program just to replicate a feature my OS used to include? Sure, but that's where we're at.

Finding the relevant software turned out to be quite tricky, though; apparently third-party wallpaper switchers aren't great at SEO (or Microsoft support is just better), so all I got was articles bemoaning my situation and suggesting (broken) registry fixes. Eventually, I turned to Reddit... and then immediately stumbled onto a solution myself. What that's left me with is three decent looking programs, which I thought I'd share in case others are looking for something similar[2]:

  1. DisplayFusion: I'm amazed this is still being made, but even the free version seems to do what I need. The website isn't completely clear though, and they do have a habit of paywalling features, so I didn't actually bother trying this out. Still, if you need a bunch of personalisation options, it does this too, which is neat.
  2. Backiee: A dedicated Windows app, which makes it super easy to install and means it looks the part. It does what I want it to easily, as well as having a whole stack of additional options, and it looks great. The only downside is that the filesize isn't insignificant, mainly because of all those extras that I don't really need.
  3. John's Background Switcher: Does what it says on the tin 😂 Actually, it does quite a bit more than that, but it's still a slight 3MB once installed and seems to use only as much RAM as the image currently being displayed needs, so you can't get much lighter. Plus, I really like the extra features. You can select multiple root folders, which is great, and it can even display the filename and date onscreen, which is a nice little bonus for those "where was that taken?!" moments.

We'll see how it goes, and if Windows ever restarts support for subfolders I'll probably jump back, but for now John's lightweight solution is doing a great job.

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