Windows 10 is easily the most graphically-attractive and image-oriented Windows version yet released by Microsoft, and nowhere does that show more clearly than in the operating system’s ongoing support of beautiful wallpapers, themes, and background images. Most wallpaper and theme images are very easy for users to find and repurpose for other uses (see our article on how to locate wallpaper images in Windows 10 for complete information) but one source of images is a little bit trickier to track down. That set of images is known as Windows Spotlight, and it is a set of stunning images curated via Microsoft Bing that automatically download to your Windows 10 installation and display on the lock screen of your device.
Enabling Windows Spotlight
You may be saying “huh? what images?” in which case you should enable Windows Spotlight on your PC. Fortunately this is a simple process.
Click in the search box of your Windows 10 task bar and type “lock screen”, then hit return. This will launch the Lock Screen settings app.
In the “Background” dropdown, you have several choices – if your background is set to something other than Windows Spotlight, just change it. There are a number of other options here as well, including toggles for which apps can show a quick or detailed status and an option to hide or show your Windows desktop background on the sign-in screen.
One point of clarification: there is a difference between the Windows sign-in screen (the screen used to enter your password when first booting or logging into the PC) and the Windows lock screen, which is the screen used to lock your PC but keep your user account running or asleep in the background. The Windows Spotlight feature discussed here applies to the lock screen.
You can test the Spotlight feature quickly by locking your PC (keyboard shortcut Windows Key + L). Based on the speed of your Internet connection, it may take a few moments for a new Windows Spotlight image to load, as Windows has to grab the image from Bing’s servers. If you have Spotlight turned on already, Windows will grab these images in the background ahead of time, but there may be some lag if you’ve just turned the feature on.
While previewing your new Windows Spotlight background images on the lock screen, you may occasionally see a text box in the upper-right corner that asks if you “like what you see.” You can hover over this box with your mouse cursor, or tap on it if using a touchscreen device, to answer yes (“I want more!”) or no (“Not a fan”). Windows and Bing will then use this information to custom tailor future images to your personal tastes, much in the same way that users can give ratings to custom song playlists on services like Pandora or Apple Music.
Where to Find Windows Spotlight Lock Screen Images
Once you have Spotlight enabled on your computer, your computer will start collecting a variety of these stunning pictures. So where do you find them on your PC? You might expect that, like your Theme or Wallpaper images, there’s a Spotlight directory tucked away somewhere with a nicely categorized hierarchy of image subfolders underneath it, but alas, no. For whatever reason, Microsoft has made it downright tricky to get at these pictures.
The first layer of trickiness is that Microsoft has set these files to be hidden, meaning they won’t show up in your File Explorer on a casual scan. The second layer of trickiness is that the files are buried down in your User directory. The third layer of trickiness is that the files have horrible random garbage names, and no image extensions to make them readily identifiable. It’s almost as if Microsoft doesn’t want you to do this.
Fortunately, this trickery can all be overcome with the right process. Without further ado, here’s how to get at these images.
The first thing to do is to open a File Explorer window and tell it to show hidden files. Open a new File Explorer window (click in the search box on the task bar and type “explorer” and hit return) and click on the View tab. Next, find and click Options on the far right of the File Explorer ribbon toolbar (you may need to adjust the size of your File Explorer window to see it).
In the Folder Options window that appears, select the View tab and then, in the “Advanced Settings” list, click the button labeled Show hidden files, folders, and drives.
Click Apply to save the change and then OK to close the Folder Options window.
We’re not even joking, that’s the file path.
You should see an Assets folder with a whole bunch of files, all with garbage names, all lacking file extensions. These are your Windows Spotlight lock screen images, in a variety of sizes and formats.
If you’re planning to use any of the Windows Spotlight images on your desktop PC or laptop, you’ll want the desktop-sized versions of these images, and these versions are generally the ones with the largest file sizes (switch File Explorer to the “Details” view and make sure the “Size” column is enabled to help you identify the correct images).
Now we need to make sense out of this mess of files. The files are actually just JPEG images with unique file names, so grab one or two of the files with the larger file sizes (typically greater than 400KB) and copy it to your desktop or another folder on your PC. Next, highlight the file and press F2 on your keyboard to rename it (alternatively, you can right-click on a file and select Rename from the menu).
You can either keep the crazy file name and just add “.jpg” to the end, or you can rename it entirely (i.e., “image1.jpg”). In either case, after renaming the file to add the JPEG extension, you should be able to double-click on it to open it in the Windows Photos app or your image viewer/editor of choice.
In addition to the wacky location and the incomprehensible file names, these images have a few other issues. First, you’ll have to play with the raw files to find the images and resolutions you prefer – the “Icons” view in File Explorer won’t provide a preview of any image unless it has already been renamed with a JPEG extension. Second, these images are constantly being downloaded, updated, and removed as the Spotlight program rotates through its library. So if you seen an image you want, you’ll need to grab it before the Assets folder gets refreshed with a new stack of images.
Finally, even though these are high quality professional photos, it seems that 1080p (1920×1080) is the maximum resolution that Windows Spotlight will deliver to your device, even if you’re using a higher resolution display. While the images will scale relatively well thanks to their high quality source files, you won’t have perfect results on your 4K monitor. This shouldn’t be an issue for most of us.
Get the Spotlight Images With an App
If all of the above seems like a lot of trouble to go to in order to get some images files (particularly in light of the fact that you’ll have to do it on a regular basis to catch new updated images), then there’s some good news. There is a free app on the Windows 10 store called Spotlight Wallpapers, and it will handle this process for you.
Get the Spotlight Images With a Website
If you want to get access to the thousands of images that have been featured on Windows Spotlight today, then you will be interested to learn that there is a website which has collated the images from the very beginning of the program. The Windows 10 Spotlight Images site has more than 2000 Spotlight images archived, and more are added daily.
Do you have any other suggestions or tips for getting access to these beautiful pictures? If you do, then please share your ideas with us in the comments below!
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