Here's Why Windows 7 Is Nuking Your Background Image, And How You Can Fix It

Windows 7
A recent security update appears to be messing with some Windows 7 PCs by replacing the custom background image with an all-black wallpaper. The timing of the mishap comes on the heels of Windows 7 officially entering retirement, leading to speculation that Microsoft is petty towards people who refuse to upgrade their OS to Windows 10. That is not necessarily what is happening, though.

Reports of the black wallpaper issue are popping up in various places on the web, including over at Reddit and on Microsoft's own support forum.

"My PC just restarted after 7 support ended and my background is black. Even if I set a new background, it’s still black. Has anyone else experienced this? Is it some kind of group policy entry or registry key? (Before it auto-rebooted, I had my own background)," a user posted on Reddit.

Others chimed in with similar complaints.

"After KB4534310 installed, every boot-up replaces my graphic wallpaper with a black solid color. I've tried creating a new theme, tried renaming transcodedwallpaper.jpg to .old, but although these changes allow me to restore my graphic wallpaper, after restarting, the desktop wallpaper is black again. Icons and start bar color are unaffected. The only solution was to uninstall the update. But now my PC is less secure. Microsoft, please fix this!," another user wrote on Microsoft's support forum.

Indeed, rolling back the security update is not an ideal solution, especially since Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. So, what's really going on, and is there a way to fix it?

How To Fix The Black Wallpaper Issue Affecting Windows 7 PCs

The issue is indeed related to KB4534310, and appears to be a bug rather than a crummy attempt to annoy users into upgrading to Windows 10. Users discovered the actual culprit is the Stretch setting in the Desktop Background options menu. This allows users to stretch an image to fit the entire screen, but for whatever reason, KB453410 broke the functionality.

Unfortunately, it's not yet clear if Microsoft will fix the issue, since it is no longer supporting Windows 7. We hope it does, because it's a bad look to break something with a final update and then essentially tell users, 'Too bad!'.

Fortunately, there are a couple of workarounds. One is to uninstall the KB4534310 update, though we don't suggest going that route. The other is a clever trick outlined by BleepingComputer. Since the stretch option is borked right now, you can take a screenshot of of your desktop with the image stretched out, and then use that resulting image as your background without the stretch option enabled.

It's a bit of a hassle, because you need to have a clean desktop. To do this, follow these steps...
  • Go into the Desktop Background settings and select the Fill option to restore your custom image, then select Stretch again. It will stretch the image as normal until your reboot your PC, at which point it is replaced by a black wallpaper. So don't reboot after doing this. Save the changes.
  • Right-click on your desktop, select View, uncheck Show Desktop icons, and select Show Desktop Gadgets.
  • Exit all windows and hit the Print Screen key to take a screenshot. Using your image editing program of choice (MS Paint, Photoshop, GIMP, or whatever), save your screenshot.
  • Go into the Desktop Background settings and use your saved image as the new background. In the position setting, select Center. You can now safely reboot your PC without having the background revert to a black wallpaper.
  • Right-click on your desktop, select View, and re-enable Show Desktop icons.
It's a bit annoying to go through all of that, but once you do, Windows 7 will properly display your background. Alternatively, you can wait and see if Microsoft fixes the issue on its own.