Turn Off Windows Active Desktop

November 2, 2007 by
Filed under: Windows XP 

Active Desktop is a nice Windows feature that allows you to have web content on your desktop. Indeed a nice feature, but unfortunately not something that benefits computer stability. It requires that the web page that you configure as content for the active desktop is available. This means your internet connection needs to be active. There are also several known problems with Active Desktop that relate to the mshtml.dll file. Further, problems with anti spyware, and inconsistent behavior have been reported as a result of Active Desktop.

Of course the use of web content on your desktop not only affects your PC stability, but also your PC performance. Processing web content to be displayed on your desktop will take more processing time then a simple background image that resides on your local hard drive. The speed in which the web content is available is another factor to consider. So your internet speed actually impacts the performance of Windows XP this way.

If all this (or other factors) make you decide you want to turn off Windows Active Desktop, follow these steps:

  1. From the Windows Start menu, select Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel, select Appearance and Themes.
  3. Next, click Display.
  4. In the Display Properties windows, select the Desktop tab.
  5. Click the Customize Desktop button.
  6. In the Desktop Items window, select the Web tab.
  7. Make sure that all entries in the Web pages list are unchecked. Another option is to select the entries and delete them by clicking the Delete button.
  8. Click OK to close the Desktop Items window and then close the Display Properties window.

These steps should help you restore or ensure PC stability and probably help you speed up your computer a little more.

If you are comfortable in editing your computer registry, there is another way to disable the active desktop in Windows XP. Follow the steps below to force the Windows Explorer to use the Classic Shell, which in effect disables the active desktop functionality.

  1. From the Windows Start menu, select Run. In the Run box, type regedit and click OK.
  2. In the Registry Editor, locate the following key:
  3. Create a new DWORD Value with the name ClassicShell, and assign a value of 1 to it.
  4. Close the Registry Editor. Select Exit from the File menu.

These registry tweaks will have the same effect, increasing your PC’s stability by disabling the active desktop in Windows XP and preventing a web site as desktop contents.


36 Comments on Turn Off Windows Active Desktop

  1. vignesh on Fri, 11th Jul 2008 11:05 am
  2. thanks a lot. this help is a grt oferr to helpless people like me. thaks a lot again.

  3. Paulo on Tue, 7th Oct 2008 12:38 pm
  4. I followed your guide to ‘Turn Off Windows Active Desktop’, and it works, however, now I can’t set my default ‘Windows’ view to ‘Details’. Every time I open a new windows explorer window, it’s always in ‘List’ view, I have to change it manualy, then next time I navigate to the same folder, it’s changed back to ‘List’ view. I tried changing the view to ‘Details’, then opening ‘Folder Options’ and selecting ‘Apply to All’, but it doesn’t work any more. All my windows still open in ‘List’ view.
    What do I need to edit in the registry to set my view to default to ‘Details every time?

  5. Kyle on Tue, 7th Oct 2008 4:02 pm
  6. @Paulo – The problem you are facing with the default view is not related to the Active Desktop.
    When you use the “Apply to All Folders”, a registry key is created in:
    “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Explorer\Streams”
    Normally it would create a “Default” subkey there.
    You could try deleting all subkeys there (after making a backup first).


  7. Dipti on Sat, 14th Feb 2009 9:59 pm
  8. Thank You so much for ur easy steps for turning off the Active desktop….The other searches wer relly unfruitful spent an hour over various sites searchin fr help but ur website came to be of gr8 help!!Thank You Once again!!!

  9. K Prosser on Sat, 21st Feb 2009 4:06 am
  10. Can you tell me how to turn off Active Desktop Web Content in Vista please

  11. Kyle on Sat, 21st Feb 2009 8:54 am
  12. @K Prosser – Active Desktop was discontinued in Windows Vista, so there is no need to turn Active Desktop off in Vista.

    Microsoft ‘replaced’ active desktop with the SideBar in Vista, which enables internet/HTML content to be used on the desktop.


  13. Roby on Tue, 4th Aug 2009 1:14 pm
  14. dude that was verry helpfull i’ve searched on other sites butt no one explaines like u takns u’re verry good person

  15. Tesla on Sun, 20th Dec 2009 7:38 pm
  16. i have windows vista and some how i cannot change the desktop background to a picture, when i select center picture it allows me to change the color of the background but no picture shows up, also when i am shutting down my computer, my picture that i wanted to be the background shows up for a second befor the computer shuts down. Idk how to fix this!?

  17. Kyle on Mon, 21st Dec 2009 12:23 pm
  18. @Tesla – Did you try changing the Windows theme to see if that helps?
    And does this happen with all backgrounds, including the standard windows background pictures?

  19. erman on Fri, 15th Jan 2010 10:53 am
  20. what about windows 7
    can we enable active desktop please help me

  21. Kyle on Fri, 15th Jan 2010 11:42 am
  22. @erman – Windows 7, like Vista, does not have the active desktop support anymore. The Sidebar concept has replaced it in Vista, and In Windows 7 you can also have widgets with internet content directly onto your desktop.

  23. erman on Fri, 15th Jan 2010 12:51 pm
  24. thanks for answering :) can u suggest any replacement for active desktop on windows 7

  25. Kyle on Fri, 15th Jan 2010 7:26 pm
  26. @erman – Have a look at the minibrowser widget. That might be a good option, depending on what you want to do with it exactly of course. You can change the size and specify refresh frequency in the settings.

  27. Felipe on Sat, 23rd Jan 2010 10:14 pm
  28. Kyle, I tried your directions using the RegEdit and manage to go deep into the policies folder, however wasn’t able to find the Explorer file or folder, where else can I find it? What do you suggest?

    I have an annoying “Active desktop recovery” background on my desktop and haven’t been able to remove it or have it changed

    Thank you

  29. Kyle on Sun, 24th Jan 2010 12:27 am
  30. @Felipe – You can search your system disk for a file called “desktop.htt” and rename (or delete) that. You might need to turn off the “hide protected operating system files” option in the Tools->Folder Options->View of the Windows Explorer for this.
    When you restart a new desktop.htt file should be created and hopefully this will fix it for you. Microsoft has a knowledge base article that describes a similar error with these steps to fix it.

    If that does not help, open the Registry Editor and look for the key called:
    “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Desktop\Components”
    In the right-hand pane you’ll find an entry named “DeskHtmlVersion”. Right-click it, and select Modify. Change it (from 272) to 0.

  31. Felipe on Sun, 24th Jan 2010 3:15 am
  32. Hi again, I tried and did both, however I still get the “Active desktop recovery” background in my desktop. Funny thing is that while de laptop is loading I’m able to see the original image that is set as a background, in fact when I hit CTR+ALT+DLT to lock my computer I see my older background but when I unlock it the desktop again has the white screen with the active desktop stuff…

  33. vpat on Mon, 25th Jan 2010 7:44 pm
  34. I am experiencing the exact same prob as Felipe. Active Desktop recovery background doesn’t go away desipte the steps tried which were mentioned by Kyle

  35. lpdemolition on Mon, 19th Apr 2010 12:22 am
  36. Thanks.. That was a very easy way to fix a problem that was bugging me for a while.
    Great Job!!!

  37. Felipe on Mon, 19th Apr 2010 4:04 pm
  38. I tried everything said here and couldn’t fix my laptop. I used the new instructions ‘Create a new DWORD Value with the name ClassicShell, and assign a value of 1 to it’ in the RegEdit and voilá! Now I have my normal desktop again, thank you Kyle for your help no more white screen with the restore desktop message.

    THANK YOU!!!

  39. Prince W. on Mon, 26th Apr 2010 1:22 pm
  40. Finally, It’s really work! Thanks for the great post. Well done! Wish you all have a great day!

  41. Arunesh on Thu, 5th Aug 2010 8:01 am
  42. Thanks a lot. Really it works.

  43. j on Thu, 26th Aug 2010 6:06 am
  44. great article…solved my problem in few sec…..

  45. Ater on Sat, 28th Aug 2010 11:47 am
  46. Thanks Kyle,
    You are genius, absolutly genius that all i can say.
    your instruction are superb, it solve my problem within a minutes while spent nearly hour from other instruction put on the net. so thanks once more

  47. Arminder on Thu, 16th Sep 2010 6:58 am
  48. i want to set html file as desktop background in window 7………..plz help me i searched alot no exect solution is available

  49. Kyle on Sat, 18th Sep 2010 4:32 pm
  50. @Arminder – The easiest is probably Ave’s Desktop Sites, which was developed for Vista, but should also work fine in Windows 7.
    There are a few gadgets for the sidebar that will work as well, but let me also mention Snippage, which allows you to put parts of a website on the desktop. It does require Adobe Air though.

  51. sunil kumar on Thu, 28th Oct 2010 9:09 am
  52. thanks a lot. this help is a grt oferr to helpless people like me. thaks a lot again.

  53. Kohi on Thu, 30th Dec 2010 6:30 pm
  54. I dont have tghe web tab that all these sites mention

  55. rbrain on Mon, 10th Jan 2011 6:18 pm
  56. Everythiing fine until I got to registry editor. It will not allow me to create classic shell.

  57. Kyle on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 8:21 am
  58. @rbrain – What is the error you are getting? Make sure you use an administrator account to ensure you have sufficient rights to edit the registry.

  59. hackerboy on Wed, 23rd Feb 2011 9:19 am
  60. second step in registry editing is:
    2.In the Registry Editor, locate the following key:
    it shud be
    2.In the Registry Editor, locate the following key:

  61. » Windows XP error active desktop on Sun, 6th Mar 2011 1:35 pm
  62. sheenamei on Wed, 18th Jul 2012 10:37 am
  63. Hi, Kyle!

    I’m actually having trouble in my laptop. It would shutdown automatically without any notice or prompt saying it would turn off. This is often especially when I am downloading or converting a file, or when I am editing a photo. Then, when I turned it on a display on the desktop states “Active Desktop Recovery” with the tips on how to do so below it. Tried those but the computer still experienced automatic shutdown, like always. Such a hassle when I need to complete something important.

  64. Kyle on Wed, 18th Jul 2012 11:09 am
  65. @sheenamei – It is possible that the active desktop has nothing to do with the cause of your problem itself. Have you checked if the laptop is getting hot at the bottom? Could be that when the hard disk is in use for a longer period (downloading and saving a file, and the file conversion), that the system overheats and shuts down.
    Try playing something under the back edge of the laptop to improve air circulation and then try again.
    If that is really the cause, you can check the BIOS setting to see if there is an option to turn of the thermal protection, or, worst case, you need to replace the HDD (I would consider an SSD in that case).
    If it is not hot when it shuts down, something else is causing it of course. Did you check the device drivers for all hardware?


  66. sheenamei on Thu, 19th Jul 2012 2:35 pm
  67. Thanks for the response, Kyle! I’ll try that one about improving the air circulation. Could an electric fan do the magic? Sorry for sounding so dumb. I’m not really good with computers. The thing also is even if I just had opened the computer and started burning a file it would shut down as it reached 3% of the download. I also have not checked my BIOS setting, this is actually my first time to hear that. I skim searched about it just when I read your reply, and thought if I got to press the key for that I might not be able to do the right thing there and screw this thing a lot more. What would it do if I turn off the thermal protection? I have not checked my device drivers also and honestly don’t know what to check for if I would.

  68. Kyle on Fri, 20th Jul 2012 1:41 pm
  69. @sheenamei – An electric fan can definitely ‘do the magic’! It is just about making sure the laptop temperature is not the issue, and especially in a warm climate this can be a problem.
    If cooling does not help, you might want to get someone a bit more tech savvy to help you if you are not comfortable with the steps involving the BIOS and drivers.

  70. sheenamei on Sat, 21st Jul 2012 5:58 am
  71. Alright! Well I guess I have to tap someone to this if cooling does not work. Thanks a lot, Kyle!

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