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

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.

110 Responses to “XP: Make the Background of Your Icon Text Transparent on the Desktop”

  1. October 03, 2008 at 10:56 am, Hrs said:

    thanks

    Reply

  2. October 03, 2008 at 2:53 pm, rick said:

    tks!!

    Reply

  3. October 13, 2008 at 11:54 pm, kate said:

    EVERYBODY SAYS DO THIS.

    DONE IT TEN TIMES.

    DOES NOT WORK NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I REPEAT!!

    ANYTHING ELSE NEW?????

    Reply

  4. October 15, 2008 at 11:10 am, K said:

    THANK YOU CAROLYN

    Reply

  5. October 17, 2008 at 4:50 am, selvan777 said:

    Thanks a bunch Newboy, your tip fixed mine.

    Reply

  6. October 18, 2008 at 3:28 pm, anunumus said:

    carolyn I LUV U!!!!!!!

    Reply

  7. October 22, 2008 at 12:06 am, goran said:

    eXtra, thank you!

    Reply

  8. November 19, 2008 at 11:55 pm, Pious said:

    Cool! works for me

    Reply

    • November 24, 2008 at 12:21 am, xerp said:

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

      Reply

  9. December 01, 2008 at 11:39 pm, Ryan said:

    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.

    Reply

  10. December 11, 2008 at 9:24 pm, tropik said:

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

    Reply

  11. December 15, 2008 at 10:04 am, mrGinipig said:

    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

    Reply

  12. January 06, 2009 at 8:37 pm, Mike said:

    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.

    Reply

  13. January 10, 2009 at 7:50 am, Siddhartha said:

    Thanks it worked for me

    Reply

  14. January 14, 2009 at 5:06 pm, Gia said:

    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!!!
    Grazie!!!

    Reply

  15. January 22, 2009 at 10:04 pm, Mike said:

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

    Reply

  16. February 14, 2009 at 12:32 am, Anonymous user said:

    rock on….

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

    Reply

  17. February 23, 2009 at 3:11 am, anonymous said:

    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????

    Reply

  18. February 28, 2009 at 8:02 pm, Angie said:

    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. :)

    Reply

  19. March 05, 2009 at 3:53 pm, Iffy said:

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

    Reply

  20. March 08, 2009 at 9:34 pm, solved said:

    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.

    Reply

  21. April 01, 2009 at 8:22 pm, vic said:

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

    Reply

    • April 23, 2009 at 8:00 pm, Dee said:

      Doesn’t work for me, eityher.
      :-{

      Reply

  22. April 06, 2009 at 1:58 pm, gaurav said:

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

    Reply

  23. April 08, 2009 at 5:47 pm, goku said:

    Hats off newboy!

    Reply

  24. May 03, 2009 at 10:08 pm, TY said:

    SICK this is really cool thx

    Reply

  25. May 05, 2009 at 10:06 am, Octavian said:

    thanks!

    Reply

  26. May 06, 2009 at 10:28 pm, Marko said:

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

    Reply

  27. May 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm, Mike said:

    Thanks Newboy!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  28. May 20, 2009 at 5:18 pm, BabyBoy said:

    thank you!!! works great ))))

    Reply

  29. June 10, 2009 at 8:05 pm, Alex said:

    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?

    Reply

  30. June 22, 2009 at 2:54 pm, anonymous said:

    LOVE YA!

    Reply

  31. June 27, 2009 at 5:18 am, jonah said:

    Your idea is not working

    Reply

  32. July 06, 2009 at 9:51 pm, Rocky R. said:

    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.

    Reply

  33. July 10, 2009 at 8:41 am, Donna said:

    Thanks Carolyn, worked for me!

    Reply

  34. July 20, 2009 at 4:17 pm, Anonymous said:

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

    Reply

  35. July 29, 2009 at 5:32 am, Anonymous said:

    it wont work

    Reply

  36. August 05, 2009 at 1:02 pm, Anonymous said:

    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?

    Reply

  37. August 05, 2009 at 1:21 pm, Anonymous said:

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

    Reply

  38. August 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm, Anonymous said:

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

    Reply

  39. August 31, 2009 at 12:20 am, Anonymous said:

    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. :)

    Reply

  40. September 01, 2009 at 6:12 am, ovi said:

    You r a genius

    Reply

  41. September 21, 2009 at 12:08 am, Anonymous said:

    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

    Reply

  42. September 26, 2009 at 11:41 am, Anonymous said:

    it works for me…bleh!

    Reply

  43. September 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm, Matthew said:

    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

    Reply

  44. October 09, 2009 at 2:32 pm, Anonymous said:

    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.

    Reply

  45. October 26, 2009 at 3:57 am, OnVideo said:

    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.

    Reply

    • October 27, 2009 at 8:25 am, Anonymous said:

      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.
      Harley

      Reply

  46. November 01, 2009 at 11:46 pm, compufix said:

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

    Reply

  47. November 07, 2009 at 3:57 am, Anonymous said:

    thnks a lot dude you had solved my problem

    Reply

  48. November 09, 2009 at 4:22 pm, Ambar said:

    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.

    Cheers.

    Reply

    • December 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm, Anonymous said:

      thank you carolyn. . work very good

      Reply

      • December 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm, Anonymous said:

        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…..
        moon.gooogle@gmail.com

        Reply

  49. November 24, 2009 at 6:14 pm, someone said:

    T H A N K S
    A
    L O T newboy !

    Reply

  50. January 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm, Anonymous said:

    You’re the man dude! : )

    Reply

  51. February 03, 2010 at 6:42 am, Anonymous said:

    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!

    Reply

  52. February 16, 2010 at 8:23 am, Ana said:

    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

    Reply

    • March 07, 2010 at 4:32 am, Anonymous said:

      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…

      Reply

      • August 11, 2010 at 6:30 pm, Clinton Worthy said:

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

        Reply

      • April 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm, Khmermx said:

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

        Reply

      • October 17, 2012 at 4:58 am, Ravi said:

        Super Duper Hit>
        Excellent !!

        Reply

  53. April 01, 2010 at 5:01 pm, qchiapetp said:

    Thank you!

    Reply

  54. April 03, 2010 at 3:03 pm, jkorp said:

    Great! This did the trick for me!

    Reply

  55. April 18, 2010 at 1:41 am, bob said:

    OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! (:

    Reply

  56. April 29, 2010 at 4:09 am, Anonymous said:

    it’s not helpfull for me.

    Reply

  57. April 30, 2010 at 4:34 am, Anonymous said:

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

    Reply

  58. May 09, 2010 at 5:49 pm, ryan said:

    thanks! it works! problem solved :-)

    Reply

  59. May 21, 2010 at 2:28 am, Peloose said:

    Doesn’t work for me

    Reply

  60. May 26, 2010 at 8:02 am, sam said:

    its really good one

    Reply

  61. June 01, 2010 at 2:28 pm, Fernando said:

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

    Reply

  62. June 01, 2010 at 2:29 pm, Fernando said:

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

    Reply

  63. June 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm, trisha said:

    thanx so much buddy…….. u rock……. this thing finally worked for me :)

    Reply

  64. June 11, 2010 at 5:28 am, Animalistix said:

    Thanks. finally found it.

    Reply

  65. June 11, 2010 at 11:22 pm, Anon E. Mouse said:

    THANK YOU JEBUS!!!!!

    Reply

  66. June 14, 2010 at 6:15 am, Ringofelipe said:

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

    Reply

  67. June 15, 2010 at 4:32 pm, mope said:

    Thanks a million! Been trying to find this forever…

    Reply

  68. June 19, 2010 at 11:43 am, Leizie said:

    thanks it really help a lot

    Reply

  69. June 19, 2010 at 11:32 pm, Mario said:

    This WORKS… Thanks a million!!!!

    Reply

  70. June 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm, Aly said:

    ty so much, this helped me a lot

    Reply

  71. June 30, 2010 at 7:04 am, Eyl├╝l said:

    this worked for me! thanks a lot..

    Reply

  72. July 02, 2010 at 2:36 pm, JD said:

    that worked! Thanks,

    Reply

  73. August 08, 2010 at 7:15 pm, krishnakumar said:

    superb.. worked for me…

    Reply

  74. September 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm, Sachinmhadalekar said:

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

    Reply

  75. October 05, 2010 at 6:23 am, Knickjones said:

    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

    Reply

  76. October 05, 2010 at 9:07 am, Dhan012 said:

    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.

    Reply

    • February 25, 2011 at 1:33 am, Cvsdave said:

      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.

      Reply

  77. October 05, 2010 at 12:59 pm, Ral said:

    thank you carolyn, that worked!!!!!

    Reply

  78. October 21, 2010 at 6:11 am, SK said:

    great… it works

    Reply

  79. November 09, 2010 at 7:05 pm, Jim said:

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

    Reply

  80. November 10, 2010 at 6:26 pm, Prabhat said:

    thanx alot……u solved my problem.

    Reply

  81. November 29, 2010 at 10:03 am, artist said:

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

    Reply

    • December 22, 2010 at 8:06 pm, Gdynia52 said:

      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 !!!

      Reply

  82. January 08, 2011 at 3:22 pm, me said:

    it works! thanks!

    Reply

  83. January 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm, Me said:

    thanks man!

    Reply

  84. March 03, 2011 at 8:43 pm, Mohl said:

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

    Reply

  85. March 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm, Daydreamwanderer said:

    Finally a tip that actually worked! Thanks!!

    Reply

  86. March 31, 2011 at 6:29 am, sumitjain said:

    thanx.. fixed now :-)

    Reply

  87. April 03, 2011 at 9:04 am, Fahimquazi A said:

    i love u boss thanks for idea u r genies

    Reply

  88. June 09, 2011 at 1:41 pm, RSO SD Unit said:

    Thanks buddy. This one worked like a charm.

    Reply

  89. June 09, 2011 at 1:41 pm, RSO SD Unit said:

    Thanks buddy. This one worked like a charm.

    Reply

  90. September 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm, Iv said:

    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.

    Reply

  91. September 16, 2011 at 5:20 am, Ajmal said:

    Thanks

    Reply

  92. January 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm, tshiwawa said:

    Anonymous I LOVE YOU!! you are a genius I unlocked the desctop Icons and gained happiness again :D

    Reply

  93. March 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm, George said:

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

    Reply

  94. May 07, 2012 at 10:48 am, Indirajith said:

    Great !!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  95. February 26, 2013 at 12:16 am, Neville Griffiths said:

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

    Reply

  96. June 13, 2013 at 10:03 am, Dan said:

    Thank you!

    Reply

  97. September 28, 2013 at 11:30 am, Alfaqir said:

    thanks

    Reply

  98. October 08, 2013 at 1:06 pm, Phil Knox said:

    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”.

    Reply

  99. March 08, 2014 at 1:11 am, Dhaval said:

    Thanx a lot…..

    Reply

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