How To Stop Students From Changing Chromebook Backgrounds

Do you have a custom school logo, mascot, or color scheme you want to use as the background for all of your Chromebooks? It’s possible to force the same background on all student Chromebooks.

There are several reasons why you may want to control the background wallpaper on your school Google Chromebooks.

  • Keep students from setting an inappropriate image as the background
  • Have consistency across your Chromebooks
  • Easily identify a group of Chromebooks by cart, grade level, etc…
  • Show school contact info in case the Chromebook is lost

We’ve been able to set the background image for users for quite some time.  Did you know you can also control the image of the background wallpaper for the sign on screen too?

Here are the different options for setting up a wallpaper image and how to configure each in the Google Admin Console.

Chromebook Background Image

Regardless of what program you use to create your Chromebook background image, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • The image you upload to the Google Admin Console has to be a JPG file. Almost any image program will allow you to save your image in this format.
  • All devices in an OU will use the same image for the sign-on screen. You’ll need your Chromebooks moved into sub OUs if you want different images for different groups of Chromebooks. For example: Cart A, Cart B, 3rd Grade, etc…
  • Most Chromebooks have an 11″ screen with a resolution of 1330 x 768. I recommend you make your image that size. It is easy to resize an image with programs such as Paint on a Windows PC. If you don’t size the image appropriately, the image will automatically be cropped to fit.
  • Put images like logos around the edge of your wallpaper for the sign-on screen. Otherwise, it will get covered up. Google has changed the sign-in screen layout several times over the last few years. It’s possible you’ll need to modify your background layout after a major Chrome OS release.

Chromebook sign-on screen background image

A sign on screen wallpaper is a great way to differentiate Chromebooks when no one is logged on. For example, you could have one cart of Chromebooks have a bright green background while another cart has a bright yellow image. This way if a Chromebook gets moved to the wrong cart, it would be easily identified.

Cart A Cart B

There are also several ways to change the physical appearance of your 1:1 Chromebooks which I discussed in my Ways to Customize Your Personal or School Chromebook post.

The wallpaper for the sign on screen is a device setting. The wallpaper is only shown when a user is not logged on. Once a user logs on, the user’s wallpaper will be shown. We’ll talk about user wallpaper settings in another section below.

I don’t want to go too far down a rabbit hole, but keep in mind that it is not possible to have a specific background when users are logged onto specific Chromebooks. For example, you can’t have only the library Chromebooks have a certain background when users are logged onto them. This is because the background for a logged in user is a user setting, not a device setting.

Image and text placement

If I was to push out my example images above, I would quickly notice an issue when looking at a Chromebook. The sign on screen would look like this.

The login box shows up in the middle of the screen. I can’t see the words “Cart A” and my Schooled in Tech logo is partially covered up. Instead of putting your images and text in the center, I recommend moving them to the left side instead. This way, the sign in box will not cover anything and neither will the list of existing profiles that shows up on the right side of the screen.

Deploy a Chromebook sign-on screen background

The background for the Chromebook before a user logs on is set in the Devices settings in the Google Admin Console. If you do not have admin rights in your domain, your tech department should be able to make these changes for you.

Specifically in Device Management > Chrome Management > Device Settings

The same image is applied to all of the Chromebooks in an OU. So if you want different images for different carts, each cart would need its own OU.

Whenever you are making changes in the Google Admin Console, make sure you have selected the correct OU

Scroll down and click on UPLOAD WALLPAPER FILE

Then choose the file you want to upload

Finally, click the Save button.

Another good use case for a sign on background is your default enrollment OU. That way, you can easily tell when a Chromebook has not been moved to its correct OU.

How to force the same background for Students Using Chromebooks

Just like with the device background, a user background will be applied to all users in an OU and inheriting sub OUs.

The placement of images and text are not as important on a user background. I would still make sure to size the image from the correct resolution. Again for an 11″ Chromebook, the image resolution should be 1330 x 768.

The user background will only show up when a window is not maximized. So if you have a particular web page set to launch every time users logon on, you may never see the background unless the user closes or minimizes Chrome.

Though it might be seldom seen, pushing out a background ensures that a user doesn’t set an inappropriate background.

User backgrounds are deployed using the Google Admin Console by browsing to Device Management > Chrome Management > User Settings

User Wallpaper Settings

Scroll down and click on UPLOAD WALLPAPER FILE

Then choose the file you want to upload

Finally, click the Save button.

You can use the same image for your device background and your user background, but you would still need to upload the image in both Google Console setting areas.

Disable Changing Google Search Page Background

By default, when you open a New Tab in Chrome, it shows the Google Search page. Users can customize the background image on this page. Unfortunately, some students choose an inappropriate background issue.

Customize Google Search Page New Tab Background

If necessary, you can disable the ability for students to customize their Chrome new tab background using the Google Admin console.

  1. Go to User and browser settings in the Google Admin Console
  2. Select the OU that contains the user accounts you want to disable customizing for.
  3. Go to the Startup section
  4. Find the New Tab page background setting
  5. Choose Do not allow users to customize the background on the New Tab page

Applying this setting will change users’ backgrounds back to default and keep them from changing it again. You can not set the background to a particular image

Start Branding!

Now you are ready to setup your Chromebooks with your school logo or brand images!

There are good reasons to control the background on your student Chromebooks. One downside is that by doing this, like the outside of the Chromebooks, they all look alike. In my post entitled Great Ways to Customize Your Personal or School Chromebook, I show ways to allow your student to customize their Chromebook without making any permanent changes.

Dave Carty

K12 district technology administrator, Google domain admin, Certified Google Trainer.

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