SAVING DESKTOP PICTURES
On a PC:
When the picture has loaded completely, right-click on it, then choose Set as Wallpaper (or Background) from the pop-up menu. You can also right-click to save the picture to disk, then display it as described in the next section. If you choose Set as Background (or Wallpaper), the full-size image will normally appear on your desktop, even when it is shown smaller than actual size, as it is on our download pages. If you're using a very old computer and browser, like a Windows 98 PC and Netscape Navigator, the full-size image must be opened first to avoid setting the reduced image (or a stretched version of it) as wallpaper many years ago, if "Stretch" was selected in your display control panel, the reduced image would fill the screen area, but without the full quality of the full-size wallpaper. Whenever you choose Set as Wallpaper (or Background), your current wallpaper may be overwritten. If you want to save your current wallpaper, right-click on the new picture to save it, then set it as wallpaper as described in the next section.
On a Mac:
With a recent version of Safari (3 and above), when the picture has loaded completely, you can control-click on the picture, then choose "Use Image as Desktop Picture." To save the picture, you can choose "Save Image As...," then display it as described in the next section. (If you're using a very old version of Safari, when the picture has loaded completely, open it in a new window, which you can do on our site by just clicking on the picture, then select "Save As..." from Safari's File menu to save the picture to disk if you control-click on a picture with an early version of Safari, then choose "Download Image to Disk," Safari will typically download the picture all over again, or in some cases, download only a server conflict message.) With later versions of Safari, when you open a large image in a new window, it may load over again. To avoid this, control-click on the picture that's shown on the download page (smaller than actual size), then choose "Save Linked File to the Desktop," then set it as wallpaper as described in the next section. On a Mac with other browsers, when the picture has loaded completely, control-click on it, then choose one of the "download" or "save" options from the pop-up menu, or "Set as Desktop Background," if available. If you save the picture to disk, the next section describes how to display it as your desktop background image.
DISPLAYING DESKTOP PICTURES
On a PC:
The quickest way to set a picture as your background image is to right-click a picture you've saved on your computer, then choose "Set as Desktop Background." For more control over how your wallpaper is displayed on a Windows Vista or Windows 7 PC, from the Start menu, click Control Panel, then "Change desktop background" (under the heading "Appearance and Personalization"), then choose a picture. You'll find options for how the picture is displayed, which we've described on How to Stretch Desktop Pictures and Wallpaper to Fill Screen, and How to Center Desktop Pictures and Wallpaper on Screen. Another way to get to this control panel is to right-click the desktop, choose Personalize, then click "Desktop Background," which is near the top of the window in Vista, and at the bottom in Windows 7. (Either way the path is Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization > Desktop Background.)
To display wallpaper on an earlier Windows PC, from the Start menu, select Settings > Control Panel > Display > Background (or in Windows XP, from the Start menu, select Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Display > Desktop), then choose a picture. You can also right-click the desktop, then choose Properties > Background (or Properties > Desktop in XP) from the pop-up menu to get to this control panel.
If you're having trouble changing wallpaper on Windows 7 (using a netbook, for instance), you may be using Windows 7 Starter, which does not support changing the desktop background picture. Windows 7 Home Basic edition doesn't have a Personalization feature either, but you can still right-click an image, then choose "Set as desktop background" to change your wallpaper.
On a Mac:
For Mac OS X (10.3 and 10.4), go to System Preferences (on the Apple menu) and choose Desktop & Screen Saver (in Personal), then Desktop (control-clicking the desktop and choosing "Change Desktop Background..." from the pop-up menu will also get you there), then click "Choose Folder..." (in the left panel) and select the folder in which you saved the picture. Click the picture in the right panel to display it as your desktop background. Recent versions of Mac OS X also provide options for displaying different pictures at different times.
For Mac OS X (10.1 and 10.2), from the Apple menu, select System Preferences > Desktop, then choose a picture. For 10.0, from the Finder menu, select Preferences, then choose a picture.
On an earlier Mac (operating systems prior to Mac OS X), from the Apple menu, select Control Panels > Appearance > Desktop, or Control Panels > Desktop Pictures > Picture, then choose a picture (control-clicking the desktop, and choosing "Change Desktop Background..." from the pop-up menu, is another way to get to the same control panels).
You can also drag a folder of desktop pictures onto the virtual desktop in the control panels described above (or choose the folder in more recent versions) to have your Mac display a different picture each time you start up.
PICTURE QUALITY AND BROWSER DISPLAY
The display quality of desktop pictures and wallpaper depends on several factors, including the quality of the original picture, of course, the compression used to publish it, and the hardware and software used to display it. In the past, most browsers, for example (depending also on system hardware), didn't display the picture at full quality, which often resulted in banding - distinct bands of color instead of a smooth gradient (in photos where sky is prominent, for example). Banding that was visible when viewing pictures in the browser would often disappear when the image was placed on the desktop. Newer computers and browsers will typically display the image at full quality, but the appearance can still vary widely. Many laptop screens still tend to be quite blue, for example. Your browser might also display images using a color profile when it shouldn't, which can alter the color, brightness and contrast of pictures you view in the browser. As a result, pictures may look different on the desktop than in your browser, although this is another issue that's been mostly resolved by newer computers and browsers.
PICTURES SHOWN SMALLER THAN ACTUAL SIZE
We've set our desktop pictures to display smaller than actual size in the browser window to make it easier to see the whole picture without scrolling, and to make it easier to tell when the picture has finished loading. As described in the first section, when saving pictures displayed smaller than actual size, the display size is usually ignored, and the full-size picture will be saved to disk.
CHOOSING PICTURE SIZES
For best quality, download desktop pictures and wallpaper in the size that matches your screen resolution. Choosing a size smaller than your screen resolution (then stretching it to fit your screen) will not provide as sharp a picture as the size that matches, and on older computers, choosing a size larger than your screen resolution would sometimes show signs of distortion (a subtle pattern of lines or jagged edges), due to the software responsible for resizing the picture to fit the screen. Newer computers typically use high-quality resizing, so pictures that exceed the dimensions of your screen should look as good as the size that matches, although it may look stretched, if the format is not the same. For example, if your screen is 1600 x 900 (HD widescreen format), then a 1920 x 1080 picture (also HD widescreen format) should look as good as the 1600 x 900 image, as long as you have your control panel set to "stretch" (which actually means "squeeze" in this case) or "fill screen" for more about these settings, please see How to Stretch Desktop Pictures and Wallpaper to Fill Screen.
For best quality, set your screen to display as many colors as your system will support at the resolution you've chosen. For more about resolution and picture quality, please see Screen Resolution.