How to Set a Screensaver on Your Windows Computer

As an IT professional with over 10 years of experience working with Windows computers, I often get asked how to customize a Windows screensaver. Setting a screensaver is an easy way to personalize your desktop, display your photos, or just prevent screen burn-in when your computer is idle. Fortunately, it’s very simple to choose and configure a screensaver on any version of Windows.

Steps to Set a Screensaver

Follow these steps to select, customize, and manage your Windows screensaver:

1. Open the Screensaver Settings

On Windows 10 or 11:

  • Open the Start menu and search for “lock screen settings”.
  • Click on “Lock screen settings” to open the screensaver settings.

On older versions of Windows:

  • Right-click your desktop and select “Personalize”.
  • Click “Lock Screen” on the left sidebar to access the screensaver settings.

2. Select a Screensaver

In the dropdown menu under “Screensaver”, you’ll see various screensaver options to choose from:

  • Blank: Just displays a black screen.
  • Photo: Cycles through photos stored on your computer.
  • Slideshow: Shows a slideshow of photos with transitions.
  • Bubbles / Mystify / Ribbons: Animated screensavers.

Browse the list and select the one you want. I usually recommend the Photo screensaver since you can fully customize it later.

3. Adjust Screensaver Settings

Once selected, click the “Settings…” button next to the screensaver dropdown to customize options like:

  • Wait time: How long to wait before activating screensaver.
  • Photos album: Choose which photo folder to use.
  • Transitions: Set transition effects if using a slideshow.

Tweak any settings to your liking. I normally set my wait time to 10-15 minutes.

4. Set a Lock Screen

For extra security, check the box that says “On resume, display logon screen”. This will require entering your Windows password to unlock the computer when waking it from the screensaver.

5. Preview Your Screensaver

Click the “Preview” button at the bottom to test out your new screensaver settings. Move your mouse to exit the preview.

6. Adjust Power Settings

I also recommend adjusting your power settings so the screensaver kicks in if you accidentally leave your computer running overnight:

  • Search for “Power & sleep settings” on Windows 10/11.
  • Click “Additional power settings” > “Change plan settings” for your active plan.
  • Change “Turn off display” to 15-30 minutes on both battery and plugged in.

This will turn off your screen after that time period even if the screensaver doesn’t activate, saving you energy.

Tips for Using a Photo Screensaver

If you opted for the Photo screensaver, keep these tips in mind:

  • Add folders: In the Photo screensaver settings, click the “+” icon to add additional photo folders. This ensures variety.
  • Shuffle order: Check “Shuffle slide order” so the photos don’t always display alphabetically.
  • Set speed: Adjust the “Slide switch speed” if the transitions are too fast/slow.
  • Upscale photos: Enable “Zoom photos to fill screen” to upscale smaller photos.

Rotating through your favorite family pics or vacation photos makes for an enjoyable screensaver!

Troubleshooting Screensaver Issues

If you run into problems setting or enabling your screensaver, try these troubleshooting tips:

Screensaver won’t start:

  • Verify the wait times under the “Power & sleep” settings are enabled.
  • Check that your antivirus or firewall isn’t blocking the screensaver software.

Blank screen instead of screensaver:

  • Your graphics drivers may need an update. Search “Device Manager” on Windows and expand the “Display adapters” section.
  • If updating drivers doesn’t resolve, try selecting a less-intensive screensaver like Bubbles.

Asks for password but fails to open desktop:

  • Go back to the screensaver settings and disable “On resume, display logon screen”. The login prompt is not fully functional on some PCs.

In most cases, adjusting wait times, updating drivers, or changing screensaver types will resolve any activation issues.

Customizing Your Lock Screen

In addition to configuring your screensaver, you can also customize the Windows Lock screen separately:

  • Set a custom wallpaper.
  • Show a photo slideshow.
  • Enable the “Windows Spotlight” feature to automatically fetch new lock screen wallpapers.
  • Add useful status information like your calendar events.

To modify the lock screen background and enable lock screen apps, head to the “Lock screen settings” section referenced earlier.

Best Screensavers for Windows

While Windows includes some decent built-in screensaver options, you can find even better 3rd party screensavers to install. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Google Earth: Makes your desktop into a live view of the Earth from space.
  • Webcam Screensavers: Uses your webcam feed as a screensaver.
  • Electric Sheep: Open-source collaborative screensaver with amazing generative animations.

There are also tons of niche screensavers for things like aquariums, trains, or retro gaming. Browse online to find one that suits your interests!