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Desktop Themes
Background Options
Screen Savers
Screen Resolution

Desktop shortcut menu with Properties selectedCustomizing the Desktop
For each of the above menus for customizing your desktop, you will first right-click the desktop, and then click Properties.  This opens the Display Properties dialog box where you then choose the tab where you would like to make changes.

Desktop Themes
On the Themes tab, click the arrow next to the Theme list box, then select the theme you want.

Theme Menu

Windows XP shows a preview of the theme. If you like how the preview looks, click OK, click Cancel to close the menu without making any changes, or select another tab to customize.

Background Options
On the Desktop tab, you have several customization options.  See below for a left to right explanation of these options.

Background Options

The little monitor in the top of the menu will show a preview of your desktop as you make changes. 
  Here you can choose a background style or picture for your desktop.  Choose None to leave the background a solid color.
Customize Desktop.... Click here and you'll be taken to the Desktop Items menu where you can customize system icons (explained in the customizing icons section).
Browse... Click here to search your computer for a photo (or graphic) you may as your background.
Position: There are three options to choose here for your background picture; Center, Tile, and Stretch.  After you select your background, experiment with each of these settings until you're satisfied with the way it looks.
Color:  If you choose None for your background your desktop will be only a solid color.  Click this box to choose the color you wish for your desktop.

When you've made your changes, click OK or click Apply and then select another tab to customize.

Screen Savers
Screen Savers were originally created to help prevent images from burning into the screen of the computer monitor when left on the screen for long periods of time.  Newer monitor technology and alternatives (like LCD screens) make burn-in unlikely but you may still choose to use a screen saver.
On the Screen Saver tab, you have several customization options and alternative (Monitor Power) option.  See below for an explanation of these options.

Screen Saver

The little monitor in the top of the menu will show a preview of the screen saver you choose.
Screen saver - Click the arrow next to the list box to see all of the screen savers available to you.  To select a particular screen saver, simply click on it's name.  Below this box you can select the amount of time you want the computer to go without activity before launching the screen saver. Use the up and down arrows to select the time you choose.
Click the Settings button for more options for the particular screen saver you've chosen. 
You may also choose to click the check box next to On resume, password protect.  This will require a password to be entered before the screen saver stops and your desktop session resumes.  This option will only work if you log in to Windows with a password as the password will be the same.
Click the Preview button to see a full screen view of your screen saver.
Monitor power - As an alternative to screen savers, click the Power button.  Here you can choose to have your monitor turn off after being inactive for a specified amount of time.

When you've made your changes, click OK or click Apply and then select another tab to customize.