If your desktop background on Windows suddenly changes to a different wallpaper, it may be a sign of a virus or malware infection on your computer, and you’ll want to remove it immediately.

Cybercriminals use viruses and malware to make changes to your PC, which can allow them to damage your system, steal and send sensitive data to a remote server, access your online accounts, find your banking details and more. Sometimes, an altered desktop wallpaper can announce their presence.

However, other issues can cause a sudden desktop background change. This includes a simple software update or outdated graphics drivers. You may have even clicked the wrong option to set a random picture as your desktop background.

Whatever the case, this guide will help you fix changes to your desktop background on Windows and explain how the best antivirus software can protect you from malicious software.

Changes to desktop background on Windows: Quick fixes

To fix your altered desktop wallpaper on Windows and get your background back to normal, follow the steps below in order.

It’s important to note that we recommend trying each step. Even if you successfully change your desktop background to its original wallpaper, malware could still be hiding on your device.

  1. Check your desktop background settings

    Change desktop background on Windows Settings

    When your desktop background randomly changes, it could be a simple user error. 

    For example, when you right-click an image saved on your Windows computer, there is a “Set as desktop background” option. Selecting this will alter your desktop wallpaper, and you may have accidentally clicked this. 

    To change the background back to its default wallpaper or to pick another image, you need to access Background settings

    To do this, right-click anywhere on your desktop background and head to Personalise > Background. From here, you can select a default Windows background, browse through photos and select a wallpaper, or choose a solid colour or slideshow background. 

    However, this won’t fix the issue if your device is infected with a virus or malware. If your Windows PC is infected with malicious software, this will only be a temporary fix, and your desktop background may change again. 

  2. Update your graphics drivers

    Windows Graphics Driver Update Settings

    If your computer has outdated graphics drivers installed, it can cause problems with your desktop background. If this is the case, it’s time to update your graphics drivers. 

    This can be done in two ways. You can visit your graphics card manufacturer’s website and download the latest drivers there. For example, if your graphics card comes from Nvidia, you can visit the company’s website and search for a driver update to download or go through the Nvidia GeForce Experience app. 

    You can also update your graphics drivers in Windows settings. In the search box on the taskbar, type in “Device Manager” and select Device Manager > Display adapters > right-click on your GPU > Update driver and follow the steps. 

    If graphics driver updates are available, download and install the update to see if this fixes the issue.

  3. Update your software and restart your computer

    Windows PC Update Settings

    Updating your Windows PC software and restarting your computer can often fix minor glitches, including changes to your default desktop background. However, they can also fend off malicious software.

    Cybercriminals take advantage of security vulnerabilities on your device. These zero-day vulnerabilities allow threat actors to exploit computer systems until developers mitigate them, which can cause major damage. 

    Updating your system’s software can resolve the issue. A software update often contains security patches that help protect your device, as developers work to protect users from known zero-day attacks and other forms of malware trying to infect your device. 

    You can update your device through its settings. For example, you can update your Windows PC by navigating to Start > Settings > Windows Update > Check for updates. If there are any, download and install the update. 

  4. Change your passwords

    Norton 360 Password Manager

    If you’ve experienced a sudden desktop background change and nothing will fix it, chances are your PC has been infected with a virus or malware, and your online accounts and devices are at risk of being compromised.

    To help mitigate potential malware threats or hackers taking control of your accounts, change your passwords and use a strong password to stop suspicious activity. 

    Using password managers such as LastPass or 1Password can help manage all your passwords in one place, create a complex, near-unbreakable master password and encrypt your information. 

    Changing passwords will stop hackers from trying to steal any sensitive information and your online accounts. 

  5. Use antivirus software to detect and stop malware

    Norton 360 Security and Settings

    If you can’t find any way to solve changes to your default desktop background, using one of the best antivirus software like Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) will keep you safe from any malicious software, like ransomware, adware, spyware, phishing and more.

    That’s not all; antivirus software can provide extra features like VPNs, cloud storage, PC boosters and more. Norton 360 has all these features and extra security tools that can backup your data, prevent online identity theft and stop malware. 

    What’s more, Norton 360 comes with monitoring features to identify all suspicious activity on your device. It will help detect and notify you about any unusual activity, including changes to your altered wallpaper, and stop it using it’s protection tools. 

    Check out our Norton 360 review and Norton 360 Platinum review to see which antivirus package suits you best.

Why has my desktop background on Windows changed?

There are plenty of reasons why your desktop background has randomly changed to another wallpaper, but some are more harmful than others.

In some cases, a software update to your PC’s operating system can cause a change in desktop background. Major Windows updates often change the desktop wallpaper as part of the update process, meaning it can easily be changed back in Background settings.

As mentioned, accidentally clicking “Set as desktop background” on a saved picture will instantly change your background. Simply changing it back will solve the issue.

Hardware failures, like a faulty or malfunctioning graphics card, can cause problems with your desktop wallpaper. However, these are rare and often cause further issues to your PC that require more attention.

However, what can cause significant damage to your system and your private information is malware. If you notice your desktop background has been altered without your permission, malware may have infected your computer. Malware is a common cause of a changed desktop background, especially if a threat actor wants to make this known to a victim.

Malware can sneak onto your device through a number of ways, including mistakenly clicking a suspicious link in an email or going to a dodgy website, thanks to phishing attacks.

To identify and remove malicious software and prevent infections from happening, it’s best to use an antivirus like Norton 360 to detect any malicious activity and stop the malware from causing more harm.

Change desktop background on Windows

How do I get my desktop background back to normal?

Depending on the issue, getting your desktop background back to normal is easy. As explained in our fixes, you can head into Background settings and change the wallpaper back to normal or any wallpaper you choose.

Even if a desktop background is changed after a software update, you can still change your background back to how it was before.

The main cause for concern is if a virus or malware is lurking around on your device. Performing a system scan using a reliable antivirus can identify the issue and eliminate a virus or malware. Once it’s done its job, you can change your wallpaper back to normal.

Can any antivirus software stop viruses and malware?

The best antivirus software will stop malware in its tracks. Not all antivirus software is equal, as some don’t have high malware detection and protection rates or have accredited lab scores to back them up.

However, many high-standard AV protections offer near-perfect scores when detecting and protecting against malware, meaning even complex malicious software can’t go unnoticed. Even if it’s a malicious file that changes your background settings, an antivirus will be able to find it out and get rid of it.

Services, including Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) and Bitdefender (from $19.99/year), include device monitoring features to help uncover suspicious activity early and offer the tools to fight off cyberattacks. Whether its a phishing attack, ransomware, spyware or infostealer malware, these security products have the tools to protect you.

These services have protection features that block malicious activity on your device. To make sure your device is ready to identify and block malware damaging your system, set yourself up with an antivirus.

Best antivirus to prevent viruses and malware

1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023

Norton 360 on Laptop scaled

“Norton” and “antivirus” are synonymous these days, as the well-established cybersecurity brand has successfully fought against malware, viruses and nasty software threats since 1990. 

Norton 360 offers excellent antivirus protection and extra features that make for a valuable, all-in-one security product. Its Norton 360 Deluxe and Premium package may cost a pretty penny. Still, with security across multiple platforms, a full-blown VPN, Dark Web Monitoring, Parental Controls and more, it will have a household free of cyber threats. 

Norton’s certainty of its antivirus software’s capabilities is clearly defined by the brand’s 100% Virus Protection Promise. If a device protected by Norton 360 can’t get rid of a virus, the user receives their money back. It’s a big claim, but unquestionably, no one should expect to get that refund.

If you have the money for it, you can also check out the premium Norton 360 Platinum package for even more online protection, including from identity theft. Without a doubt one of the best antivirus to get.

Read our full Norton 360 review

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2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools

Bitdefender Lead Image scaled

Bitdefender takes the spot as best antivirus, and for good reason. It’s not enough that it boasts near-perfect lab test scores across the board, as it goes the extra mile by giving users access to a plethora of advanced security features.

Bitdefender goes above and beyond in the features department, all while keeping known malware, ransomware, and viruses at bay. It will defend your device against new attacks, provide security for online transactions, keep you safe with a reliable VPN, and protect your accounts with a password manager.

It’s a no-brainer when it comes to defending your devices against virtually any form of cyberattack, and its top-notch protection extends to its most affordable package, too. Protecting your PC and smartphone, from Windows and macOS to iOS and Android, is becoming even more necessary, and Bitdefender is the tricked-out shield you need. 

Read our full Bitdefender review

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3. Malwarebytes 🥉 From $44.99/year
Best antivirus for Windows PC

Malwarebytes Logo scaled

Hundreds of malware emerge every minute, and it’s Malwarebytes’ mission to detect and conquer them all. Does the antivirus do this successfully? Yes, but there’s wiggle room for improvements.

Malwarebytes’ no-nonsense approach to protecting your devices from the onslaught of malware and viruses is effective for those who need a reliable antivirus that will detect and remove malicious software, especially with its free version. However, while its premium service provides 24/7 real-time detection, conveniently blocks vicious ransomware and shields users from malicious websites, it doesn’t go beyond on the feature front.

That’s no bad thing, as sometimes a user only needs a powerful antivirus to keep them safe from cyber threats. But considering its competitors add a few more security tools, such as data breach monitoring and a firewall, there’s room for improvement. 

Read our full Malwarebytes review

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4. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!

Avast One logo on laptop

With Avast One, you can protect your device from viruses, malware and ransomware for free. That’s right, and you don’t have to pay a dime for the extra security features the antivirus throws in, including its VPN, firewall and more.

Avast One will safeguard your device from malware, comes with ransomware protection, blocks harmful websites and downloads from the web, scans your emails for malicious attachments, stops hackers from infiltrating your device through Wi-Fi with a firewall – the list goes on. That’s a lot of tools for software that’s free, and the included VPN and the ability to speed up your PC are a welcome bonus.

It’s the ideal antivirus software for home use, as it takes the hassle out of staying wary of cyber threats lurking around, even if you’re not a tech whizz. What’s more, if you are looking for added precautions, its paid Individual and Family packages still boast great value. Hard to go wrong with this best antivirus.

Read our full Avast One review

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5. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for + free plan available!

AVG Antivirus logo scaled

You can never go wrong with free antivirus protection, but some deliver even better detection and protection rates, along with extra security features, without costing a dime. This is where AVG antivirus shines.

AVG provides reliable protection and only a small impact on performance for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It safeguards your devices against malware, viruses and zero-day exploits, along with blocking malicious links and attachments in emails. Throw in phishing protection when surfing the internet and extra security features such as its SafePrice browser extension and Network Inspector, and you’ve got yourself a do-it-all antivirus.

Sure, you can find all of these perks with Avast, but if you like a slick, darker user interface that’s easy to navigate, then AVG is for you.

Read our full AVG Antivirus review

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Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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