XP: Make the Background of Your Icon Text Transparent on the Desktop

Posted October 21, 2004 by MickeyMouse in Windows

One of the reasons XP’s desktop looks so much better than previous versions is that you can make the background of your icon text transparent.

People frequently ask me what program I use to make my icon text transparent. Most users are accustomed to the pre-XP days when this was not easily possible.

With XP, the ability to make your icon text transparent can now be accomplished in a few simple steps. The feature is just not well- named; therefore, it is not easily identified.

    1. Open the Control Panel.
    2. Click System.
    3. Click the Advanced tab.
    4. Click Settings in the Performance section.
    5. Check the “Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop” check box.
    6. Click OK until you close the windows.

“Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop” is not the best name for the feature. Not knowing what this is, people typically uncheck it to try to increase their computer performance. Then, since it is named so poorly, people cannot figure out why their icon text now looks so Windows 98-ish.

The Conversation

Follow the reactions below and share your own thoughts.

  • Hrs


  • rick


  • kate





  • K


  • selvan777

    Thanks a bunch Newboy, your tip fixed mine.

  • anunumus

    carolyn I LUV U!!!!!!!

  • goran

    eXtra, thank you!

  • Pious

    Cool! works for me

    • xerp

      doesnt work for me, although i used to have it, one day it just stopped working. i suspect something wrong with a driver somewhere.

  • Ryan

    Thank you Ciscomonkey. I’d tried everything else to no avail. Then I found your comment and discovered that I had indeed been using a PNG file as the wallpaper.

  • Thanks, this helped me. I have been trying to figure this out for a while

  • mrGinipig

    this actualy worked… well done Newboy….. what Newboy was trying to say was
    when you select the web tab you will see a web pages dialog box, in side
    the dialog there are check boxes just make sure they are un checked and
    click ok then apply then ok… wella

  • Mike

    What if this solution doesn’t work on the target laptop? It worked on a test PC, but not the one where I wanted it to work.

  • Siddhartha

    Thanks it worked for me

  • Gia

    That was the best tip ever!!!
    I was desperately seeking help all morning…for HOURS…until I tried your resolution. IT WORKED!!!!!
    You are AWESOME!!!

  • Mike

    This one fixed it for me when the ones above did not. Thanks.

  • Anonymous user

    rock on….

    just changing the resolution from 1280×800 to 1280×768 and then back fixed it!

  • anonymous

    i’ve done EVERYTHING in these comments, and everything online. i even downloaded a few programs to try to fix it and NOTHING HAS WORKED! i have a toshiba tablet laptop and ever since i’ve had the computer i havent been able to fix the icons… but i’m guessing there’s a way. any more ideas????

  • Angie

    Thank you! That was what finally worked for me. I’d already had a jpg file for a background and had use drop shadows for icons checked. πŸ™‚

  • Iffy

    Thanks a bunch newboy. Your fix worked for me too.

  • solved

    Thank You newboy
    This resolved my issue.
    Dont know why it happen. All I can remember is that I was dragging an Icon , the screen glitched and it was there.

  • vic

    Iv’e tried every solution on these pages and none
    of them work. Thank You

    • Dee

      Doesn’t work for me, eityher.

  • gaurav

    awesome man ,, this tip worked so well for me. .u saved a lot time for me.. thanks

  • goku

    Hats off newboy!

  • TY

    SICK this is really cool thx

  • Octavian


  • Marko

    Thank you for your help! Those icons were driving me crazy!

  • Mike

    Thanks Newboy!!!!!!!!

  • BabyBoy

    thank you!!! works great ))))

  • Alex

    I’ve got the same problem with me icon text and tried the solution and it did not work. No matter what I do it did not work. Any other solution?

  • anonymous

    LOVE YA!

  • jonah

    Your idea is not working

  • Rocky R.

    Weirdness – this happened to my cube neighbor’s desktop – it used the background color for the icon text background. I though he must have turned it off, so I went to the Control Panel, and it’s CHECKED!!! I logged him off and *I* logged in (thinking it might be something funky with Windows) and mine were transparent. Yet when he went back in – he’s still getting a non-transparent background for his icons, even though the Performance settings are set to use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop.

  • Donna

    Thanks Carolyn, worked for me!

  • Anonymous

    Thanx a lot. u don’t know how long i search for this ….. problem. i love ya

  • Anonymous

    it wont work

  • Anonymous

    I have made sure the “Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop” is checked and I still have the blue background behind the icon text on my desktop. I have also made sure made sure that “Lock Web Items on Desktop” under “Arrange Icons By” is not checked and I have no webpages saved to the desktop. Any help?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!!! That was the one that finally did it for me!

  • Anonymous

    thanks guys !!!!!!!. This really works !!!. Once again thanks a lot.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much! After reading Caroline’s instructions, it didn’t change a thing. Thank you SO much newboy! I’m going to favorite this page. πŸ™‚

  • ovi

    You r a genius

  • Anonymous

    Only thing that works is to set “Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer” option in: right click on My computer —> Advanced —> Performance —> Settings, and icons will become transparent

  • Anonymous

    it works for me…bleh!

  • Matthew

    Should work for most but i have tried soooooo many things and IDK what i did origionally to crate this problem but now that i have it it sucks so what i do is use my quicklaunch bar at the top of my screen and put all my icons their. All i have on my desktop is my documents and the recycle bin (if i wanted i could just use my start meny for my documents but 2 icons dont bother me and i make the background color as clode as i can to the background itself. Although this is no way to fix it it is a way to deal if you cant fix it (i have tried 4-5 different methods) and cant figure out how to correct this and none of them happens to work for me.
    Although i have had problems with this particular laptop for almost a month now and in that month i have formatted at least 10 times and even did a low level format once and still i have issues. or one issue no matter what at a point my computer just loads and freezes, of course i thought it was a program but restoring my comp to before i uinstalled it and not installling it when formatt it still keeps happening so I dont know how to fix it no one else online i talk to might know either (sorry for the rant but if anyone can help me with this i would be very appreciative if someone has an idea) I have absolutly have no problem with buying more ram (replacing it) or the same with a harddrive, although its a laptop so i am limited to testing only the ram as i have 2 chips and can check with one only then vice versa but I cannot with the harddrive as i have no other computers to hook it up to. anyway if you have an idea post it and if you want here is a temp email addy that will work for a limited time so you can contact me here mailto:/newave3009@temomail.fr

  • Anonymous

    There are 3 things to check. first make sure your desktop Icons are not locked. Secound make sure in the desktop properties, desktop tab, Custom desktop, Web tab-nothing is check marked. Then go to system settings, advance tab, performance settings, visual effects and make sure “use drop shadows for iconlabels on the desktop” is checked. Be advise when you uncheck items in the web tab, it can uncheck the use drop shadows and that is why you check that last.

  • I was downloading a new version of either Direct-X or Active-X and it threw my icons out of whack, eliminating the transparency. I’ve tried your troubleshooting but it still doesn’t work (the download also changed other customized settings,such as screensavers, start windows sound and exit windows sound — everything was returned to defau;t). I got everything back the way I want it — except the transparency. Any other thoughts? Thanks, Harley.

    • Anonymous

      I went back and tried everything all over again, then saw in the Web Tab of the Desktop Menu portion of Desktop Properties that, indeed, a file was checked. Unchecked it and, bingo, transparency returned. THANK YOU ONE AND ALL.

  • compufix

    Even after all this time this is the perfect solution to the problem.
    I was almost ready to re-install windows.
    Thanx a lot.

  • Anonymous

    thnks a lot dude you had solved my problem

  • Ambar

    I finally fixed it once and for all. In the system settings for performance, I just selected the radio button “let windows decide what’s best for my computer”.

    The fact that THAT was what worked kind of leaves me feeling very inadequate and disturbed.


    • Anonymous

      thank you carolyn. . work very good

      • Anonymous

        In my computer, this does not work well. But here is my experience.
        Go to Desktop Property>Desktop> Customize Desktop> Click Web Tab> In the Web Pages List Box, Clear all check box and then OK.
        You can do as this message go.
        enjoy all

        hla min swe…..

  • someone

    T H A N K S
    L O T newboy !

  • Anonymous

    You’re the man dude! : )

  • Anonymous

    Love it. Couldn’t remember the place to do this after I had to do a reinstall, and all my great desktop pics all had that crappy blue text under the few icons I do keep on it. Thanks a trillion!

  • Ana

    Thank you so much, it helped me a lot! was trying to figure out this problem, and it was confusing for me, but your instructions help. thank you

    • Anonymous

      None of the above worked for me only this one: Simply modify the registry entry to 0 [HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorerForceActiveDesktopOn=0]… then lower your desktop resolution once, which will show the magic, then u may change the resolution back to the previous setting… Njoy…

      • Clinton Worthy

        THIS REALLY WORKED!!!! Nothing else worked but this

      • Khmermx

        Thank you this one works pretty well when all other didnt.

      • Ravi

        Super Duper Hit>
        Excellent !!

  • qchiapetp

    Thank you!

  • jkorp

    Great! This did the trick for me!

  • bob


  • Anonymous

    it’s not helpfull for me.

  • Anonymous

    This did not work for my Windows XP computer. Do you have to reboot?

  • ryan

    thanks! it works! problem solved πŸ™‚

  • Peloose

    Doesn’t work for me

  • sam

    its really good one

  • Fernando

    Thank you very much. I have spent all day in trying to make it transparent, till I hit your page.

  • Fernando

    Thank you very much for your help. I had been trying to make it transparent all day !!!

  • trisha

    thanx so much buddy…….. u rock……. this thing finally worked for me πŸ™‚

  • Animalistix

    Thanks. finally found it.

  • Anon E. Mouse


  • Ringofelipe

    yeah!!!! thnx!!!!u rock!!!

  • mope

    Thanks a million! Been trying to find this forever…

  • Leizie

    thanks it really help a lot

  • Mario

    This WORKS… Thanks a million!!!!

  • Aly

    ty so much, this helped me a lot

  • EylΓΌl

    this worked for me! thanks a lot..

  • JD

    that worked! Thanks,

  • krishnakumar

    superb.. worked for me…

  • Sachinmhadalekar

    thanks newboy realy i love ur comment. god blace u. sachin

  • Knickjones

    thank you….you rock for this. ive been trying to figure this out for about a week now & it was getting very irritating & i love you

  • Dhan012

    For those of you that this doesn’t work for. Make sure that you are using a .JPG file for your background. Personally, I usually use .PNG’s, and ran across this issue. When you use a .JPG or .BMP it seems to work just fine.

    • Cvsdave

      My experience was just the opposite! It didn’t work until I converted the .jpg to a .bmp, and used the .bmp for the wallpaper on a XP Media Center.

  • Ral

    thank you carolyn, that worked!!!!!

  • SK

    great… it works

  • Jim

    New boy You are the Greatest THANKS
    This has been a problem for me off & on for years

  • Prabhat

    thanx alot……u solved my problem.

  • artist

    how about if you have an html file as a background would it work?

    • Gdynia52

      This worked for me, adding tip from NEWBOY worked like a charm, 3 years was looking for solution, finally can get users with that. Thank you NEWBOY !!!

  • me

    it works! thanks!

  • Me

    thanks man!

  • Mohl

    Wow I tried everything and your suggestion was the only one that worked
    Thanks Newboy

  • Daydreamwanderer

    Finally a tip that actually worked! Thanks!!

  • sumitjain

    thanx.. fixed now

  • Fahimquazi A

    i love u boss thanks for idea u r genies

  • RSO SD Unit

    Thanks buddy. This one worked like a charm.

  • RSO SD Unit

    Thanks buddy. This one worked like a charm.

  • Iv

    If the above doesn’t work:
    Right-click on Desktop ->Arrange Icons by ->Lock Web items must be cleared.
    If you have any web content on your desktop, transparency won’t work.
    To check for web content: Display Properties ->Desktop ->Customize
    Desktop ->Web – make sure all checkboxes are clear.

  • Thanks

  • tshiwawa

    Anonymous I LOVE YOU!! you are a genius I unlocked the desctop Icons and gained happiness again πŸ˜€

  • George

    Yes! thanks, Anonymous ; it was that approach that worked for me. Cheers, George

  • Indirajith

    Great !!!!!!!!!!

  • Neville Griffiths

    Thankyou, was all over it but your explanation helped wonderfully !

  • Dan

    Thank you!

  • Alfaqir


  • Phil Knox

    Also…make sure that “Lock Web Items On Desktop” is not checked off. You can verify this by right clicking on the desktop and clicking on “Arrange Icons By”.

  • Dhaval

    Thanx a lot…..