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Windows XP Desktop Backgrounds

I compiled a list of the default Windows XP desktop background wallpapers. XP was everywhere when I was getting my start on the web. Windows XP & its lovable desktop backgrounds helped shape the designer I am today, much the way the house in which I grew up shaped my personality.

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1. Ascent

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Ascent.

I don’t know what mountain this is, though it’s probably a famous one. The photography is nice & the scale of the moon is impressive, but I just don’t love this one.

As a background image, the photo is effective. It has muted colors & low-contrast and viewing desktop icons atop this image is perfectly easy.

2. Autumn

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Autumn.

I love this photo. I grew up in New England, so scenes like this always make me smile. This view might as well have been down the road from my parents’ house.

As a desktop background, however, this image is a pain. The color contrast is so high that desktop icons are lost easily. The image’s saving grace is the dark tree trunk at left which housed most people’s left-side-oriented icons.

3. Azul

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Azul.

This is a very happy photo. I can’t help but visualize myself swimming in the perfect blue water (do islands like that really exist?)

As a wallpaper, this image does fairly well. The all-blue scenery makes for a mostly-consistent work area where icons & windows appear well.

4. Bliss

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Bliss.

This scene might be the most iconic of all XP wallpapers. If memory serves, this image was the default wallpaper. And it’s aptly named; “bliss” sounds just about right. (However, have you ever seen a sky that blue? Easy on the retouching, Redmond).

I’m probably biased, but I think this might be the perfect desktop background. It has enough color & contrast to be beautiful, but enough consistency to make browsing a pleasure.

5. Crystal

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Crystal.

This wallpaper must have been the activated background on every high school & college PC lab machine I ever saw. And I like it.

As a desktop, it’s perfect. Shades of blue that stay out of your way but don’t bore you.

6. Follow

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Follow.

Enter: college freshman girls. I think every single girl in my dorm had this as their background. But isn’t that the same small fish, pasted in 6 times?

It’s a good wallpaper. Mostly-blue backgrounds are becoming a theme. But its splashes of orange are a little much contrast for me.

7. Friend

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Friend.

My wife loves this one. And who could blame her? An adorable dog & rustic scene, shot in pantone. It’s a winning combination.

As a desktop background, it’s perfect. It has color, but still a black & white feel, making the colored icons a perfect contrast.

8. Home

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Home.

Boring. Blah. That’s all I have to say. I hate this one.

9. Moon flower

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Moon flower.

Anyone who could keep this as their desktop wallpaper for more than a few minutes is blind or crazy. It almost hurts to look at.

Were it not for the overpowering color & contrast in the whole image, this background would be ok. But it’s just too much.

10. Peace

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Peace.

This is the best wallpaper Windows has ever had. It’s simple, elegant, and classic. I have always found this image very inspiring. I even tweeted about it back in 2011 (around the time I wrote this article).

You can’t mess with perfection. All the detail of this image is away from the left-side icon stack that most users had. It’s perfectly quiet & beautiful.

11. Power

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Power.

Ouch. Please keep scrolling.

12. Purple flower

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Purple flower.

I don’t remember seeing this one, but there it was in my old XP machine’s display preferences. I guess it’s ok. No major complaints from me.

13. Radiance

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Radiance.

I like this one too. I don’t think I ever used it as my background, but it’s a nice photo. I’m a fan of darker desktops, so this one is right up my alley.

Like Autumn above, this one places its dark shadow strip strategically in the left-side icon stack area. The light moon areas a bit high-contrast, but overall this one works for me.

14. Red moon desert

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Red moon desert.

I can’t help but see this wallpaper as an opposite to Bliss. The red tint of the sand is a bit much for me, but it’s a really nice photo.

I’m sensing a theme of keeping the images’ left sides darker, to provide better contrast for icons. This one does a decent job at that.

15. Ripples

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Ripple.

See: Crystal.

16. Stonehenge

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Stonehenge.

I find Stonehenge fascinating, so I’ve always loved this photo (did you know there are other henges?). It’s a good compliment to Bliss, though the colors aren’t quite as happy.

Like Bliss, this wallpaper has great color & contrast. A very good desktop background.

17. Tulips

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Tulips.

Another college freshman girl favorite. If Follow didn’t win the battle for the pink & green dorm rooms, Tulips usually did. But I must admit, it’s a beautiful photo.

This wallpaper is tough, though. It has too many colors in the main icon stack area for me. I’d prefer if the last tulip or two were removed.

18. Vortec space

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Vortec space.

This one feels like a throwback to Windows 95/98’s shooting star screensaver. I can’t help but look into its center.

Other than the obviously distracting center, this wallpaper holds up well. It has good color & contrast and a dark left-side icon stack area.

19. Wind

Windows XP Desktop Wallpaper: ‡Œ‹Wind.

Microsoft seems to love hills. This photo is a little boring, but it’s pretty.

This desktop works well too. The left-side icon stack is almost all orange/tan. Great color & contrast where it counts.

20. Windows XP

Windows XP Desktop Background: ‡Œ‹Windows XP.

No one used this background except boring IT departments. I’m convinced of it.

Did I miss any? What are your favorites?

Do you agree that Peace is the greatest desktop background Windows has ever had? Or are you more of an Autumn/Follow/Tulips kind of person?

51 thoughts on “Windows XP Desktop Backgrounds

  1. Jack

    Autumn and Home are my favorite wallpapers, they look good for me, but Vortex Space, is a pain in my eyes to even look at it

    Reply
  2. Alexa

    this brings back sooo many memories! as a kid my favorites were azul, crystal, friend, follow, power, and ripples!

    Reply
  3. Sally Edwards

    I love the ascent wallpaper, but I cant download it unless I have to accept a toolbar or a pdf reader and I have adobe. or accerowserpt another thing on my PC. I don’t need a PDF or a toolbar on my browser. How can I download the ascent wallpaper without the add ons?? Its my favorite wallpaper.

    Reply
  4. Squidward

    I like Azul, Bliss, Autumn, Ascent, Vortec space and Sunset and Winter you hadn’t written of. I set them as wallpaper slideshow on my Linux PC (it has an XP theme, too).

    Reply
  5. Caoimhe

    Can anyone tell me what breed the dog is for no. 7, Friend? It’s too thin to be a Labrador..sorry, I had a dog that was exactly that breed and I just don’t know what she was!

    Reply
    1. Tim Aspden

      Im convinced this is a photo of our dog. He was called Welly because he was shiny black just like a wellington boot. He was a black lab crossed with dalmation. He was taller than most labs and very gangly as a young dog. We got him as a rescue 6 months old in August 1999 so I guess just too late for the photo to be him.

  6. skycool miles

    I would always put Ascent for every new Server 2003 I have installed and as an IT engineer I’ve done it many many times before. On Windows XP machines I would put the Red Moon Desert or the Wind if it was for myself. If it was for the company users then as an IT Administrator I had to set the last one Windows Xp, so you’re right it might appeared as boring to many people since the image was enforced to hundreds and even thousands of machines across the network. :)

    Windows XP was one of it’s kind!

    Reply
  7. IP

    Thank you so much for preserving home even though you loath it. I totally disagree and have been looking for it everywhere

    Reply
  8. achrefhackerben thameur

    8. Home
    when I am kid I was hate this one I was when found it in background I go change it
    and I still hate it
    5 minutes a go I remember it with no cause so I search of it to come here
    isn’t ridiculous that we remember what we hate and forget who we love
    sorry for my bad english

    Reply
  9. Cori

    My favorite was always Home. I grew up in New Mexico, and it reminds me of the houses I loved best. The color, the little touches of contrast, the minimalistic feel, the thick adobe walls (which kept the interior nicely cool in the heat of the day)… it is such a breath of fresh air compared to the houses all around me these days.

    Thank you so much for posting these!

    Reply
  10. Zachary McCoyz

    I remember my Grandpa using the Ripple desktop background when I was a (littler) kid. I like using the crystal background with the combination of the silver window and taskbar theme.

    Reply
  11. Raquel Silva

    I used the moon flower and the power when I was a child hehehe. I love this 2 ones I menth because was all in pink.

    Reply
  12. Angel Pecica

    The „Autumn” picture was taken in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. People wonder about the location of this photo more than any other desktop background, it seems. A Vanity Fair writer even went on a year-long quest to track down exactly where it was taken. With help from the image’s elusive photographer (who had completely forgotten which town he took it in), they finally narrowed in on „the lane leading south to the old Harris homestead” in Burlington. The lane in the picture leads to an unspectacular farmhouse once owned by the Harris family, one of the first settlers in the area… This is how it looked in winter… :D https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fed206b287358d21c34863698ab32edf6ddf7c5232936333d33a0c6cbb599a5f.jpg

    Reply
    1. TJ Kelly

      This is the most fascinating comment my blog has ever received. Thank you!! The Vanity Fair article about Autumn is equal parts mystery, intrigue, and joyful resolution. THANK YOU!

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