Screensavers aren’t technically necessary in today’s age of low-energy LCD, OLED and IPS panels. Traditionally, screensavers were used to prevent burn-in on heat-emitting CRT monitors, which isn’t something modern monitors need to worry about. The reality is that if you actually want to preserve your screen, you just switch it off!
Still, screensavers can look super-pretty, and whether you want one for nostalgic reasons or to show off the eye-popping colors of your IPS monitor, it’s up to you. You can still use screensavers in Windows 10 and Windows 11, so we’ve gathered the best ones for you here.
How to Change the Windows Screensaver
Before we start, you should know the basics of setting your Windows screensaver. To do so, right-click your desktop, then click “Personalize -> Lock screen -> Screen saver settings” (at the bottom).
In the new window, you can choose your screensaver, as well as change how long it takes to appear and whether it should go to the login screen on resumption.
The install methods for screensavers you download vary, but if you download a screensaver (scr) file, you can just right-click it, then click “Install” to get it. Other screensavers come as “exe” files with their own instructions.
Now that you have the know-how, listed below are our favorite Windows screensavers.
1. Windrift (macOS Drift Screensaver)
Some of the finer details that’s always helped macOS feel that bit more premium than Windows are the little things like wallpapers without color banding, and those gorgeous crispy screensavers.
Mac users will be familiar with the Drift screensaver, which was introduced to macOS in 2020. It’s a real looker, and now thanks to an independent developer you can also get it for Windows.
There are a few steps you need to take, but just follow the instructions on the screensaver’s GitHub page and you should be fine. Then just kick back and feel smug as you amaze your Mac-owning friends that Windows has such glossy features!
Fliqlo was one of the most popular screensavers, until earlier in 2021 the deprecation of Flash meant that it stopped working. Fortunately, the developer moved to revise Fliqlo so that it doesn’t require Flash to work any more (you will, however, have to uninstall the old Flash-based version)
Alternatively, you can use FlipIt, and open-source non-Flash based successor to Fliqlo. It does much the same thing as Fliqlo, but with a few interesting extra options like World Times.
3. Windows Built-in Options
You may not have noticed, given how well hidden away the “Screen saver settings” are in Windows 10 and 11, but the OS does actually come with a few built-in screensaver options.
You won’t find the biggest classics like 3D Maze or Pipes here (scroll down for those), but there are a couple of old-timers (3D Ribbons and 3D Text) in there, as well as some cute alternatives and of course the option to scroll through your photo gallery.
4. Wallpaper Engine
Part of the charm of screensavers is the that they’re animated. The thing is, Microsoft is slowly deprecating screensaver support, so to stay ahead of the curve, you may want to start looking for alternatives that do much the same thing.
Wallpaper Engine is a super-affordable but very comprehensive tool available on Steam that lets you create animated wallpapers on Windows 10 and Windows 11. Alternatively, you can use one of the thousands of animated wallpapers created by other Steam users through the Steam Workshop.
Additionally, you can set the wallpapers to animate when the PC has been idle for a certain amount of time, just like a screensaver.
For more info on how to get up and running with Wallpaper Engine, see our guide.
5. Hal 9000
Looking for a screensaver that will replicate a famous cinematic experience of traveling across the galaxy? The misanthropic AI aboard the spaceship from “2001: A Space Odyssey” maybe isn’t something that everyone wants on the PC screen, but sci-fi fans may not be able to resist.
It’s beautifully designed and true to the movie, with 28 different animations across the eight different screens that the HAL computer was in charge of. It’s slick and oddly relaxing, even if you do feel like at any moment Hal 9000 may go rogue and turn on you at any moment.
It takes you on a rapidly accelerating journey through the cosmos where you fly through starfields that eventually morph into an impressive liquid landscape of neon pinks, blues and purples. It reminds us a little bit of that ’90s space movie “Contact,” except now you get to be the one flying through a black hole.
Thalassophobes may want to steer clear, but for everyone else who wants an atmospheric, moody and subtle screensaver, this could be the one for you. This dynamic screensaver puts you underwater, looking up from the deep at some light shimmering through the surface of the water.
It’s peaceful, it’s slick, and it includes a very elegantly designed watch right in the middle of the screen that also shows the date. A serious screensaver for serious people (unlike some of the crazy nonsense we have on this list).
Possibly the most visually impressive array of screensaver effects, Plane9 is a 3D graphical visualizer containing over 250 beautiful and surreal scenes. You can even combine these scenes, getting them to smoothly flow from one into another, leading to a nearly endless supply of visual effects.
What’s more, Plane9 moves and flows in time to whatever music you’re playing on your PC at the time – be it Spotify or iTunes. So leave some tunes on, let the screensaver take over, and you have yourself an excellent background visualizer for a party!
9. Another Matrix
With the recently-released Matrix Resurrections trailer, it’s fair to say that binary green text, trenchcoats and bullet-time are coming back into fashion. So celebrate this inevitability with this wallpaper.
Another Matrix looks cool and codey, even if you don’t know what it all means, and you can change basic things like how quickly it pours down your screen, the font type and density.
One of the prettiest screensavers out there, Helios generates smooth purple bubbles, which dynamically react off each other, bouncing and spinning around on your screen. The colors are a lovely neon shade, and you can make various tweaks, like changing the number of bubbles on the screen, the motion blur, and even the frame limit!
11. IMAX Hubble 3D
A tie-in to the 2010 documentary about a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, you can still get this gorgeous screensaver that pulls in photos from the Hubble website. These are some of the most breathtaking images you’ll ever see.
If you’re obsessed with Lego, you may struggle to keep your eyes and hands off this one. Briblo is not only nice to look at, as Lego blocks calmly stack on top of each other, but you can actually interact with it and create your own Lego stack – sort of like a makeshift 3D game of Tetris.
13. Electric Sheep
The trippy visualizations are created by a community of talented artists. Electric Sheep is an almost endless array of whirring, beautiful images. It takes a little setup, but the executable installation file will help you through it.
14. 3D Maze
Maybe this is a case of nostalgia-trumping quality, but if you remember the old Windows screensavers, you’ll remember this classic. 3D Maze is a first-person run through a maze with weird shapes floating around. You can change the wallpapers in the settings, but we like the original.
15. NES Screen Saver
If you don’t have a library of NES ROMs that you play on your PC, this screensaver will play a whole wall of random sections of NES 1 games for you. If you do have a ROM collection, you can link it to this screensaver and actually play random NES games from your library. (Warning: this is terrible for productivity.)
16. 3D Pipes
Another golden oldie, this 3D Pipes screensaver generates an endless array of multi-colored 3D pipes all over your screen. When the screen fills up, the whole thing restarts (a bit like Snake). There’s still something alluring about its 16-bit color jankiness.
A bit more dry than others on this list, but if you seek to absorb knowledge at every moment of your waking life, then why not try this Wikipedia screensaver which picks a random Wikipedia page for you each time it turns on?
18. Apple TV Aerial View
Put those Apple zealots in their place with this screensaver, which gives you access to the same lovely aerial footage that Mac users get natively. This streams from Apple itself, so you’ll need an Internet connection for it to work.
19. Astronomy Picture of the Day
A nice alternative to the Hubble screensaver we mentioned earlier, this one pulls the Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA’s official website. Some images are mesmerising, while others are crazy cosmic charts that might, frankly, be confusing (but cool nonetheless).
20. Blue Screen of Death
Maybe more of a cruel prank than a lovely screensaver in itself, this one is still good fun to foist on someone. It plays a loop of BSOD errors and system boots, giving the viewer horrid flashbacks of all the times this actually happened to them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a screensaver in Windows 11?
Yes! While Microsoft has slowly but steadily pushed screensavers under the surface of the Windows GUI, you can still use them in Windows 11. In the Start menu search, type “screensaver” then click “Change screen saver.”
What do screensavers do?
In the olden days, screensavers existed to prevent burn-in on old CRT monitors. Burn-in is what happened when a single image stayed on the screen for too long, causing it to get burnt in to the screen and leave nasty outlines on that spot on the screen.
As today’s LCD displays don’t suffer from burn-in, today screensavers mainly just move around looking pretty.
Are screensavers still necessary?
As you may have guessed from above: no, screensavers are not really necessary on today’s LCD panels. It may not sound too exciting, but technically the best screensaver is to turn your screen off entirely (which isn’t what you came to this article to do, nor would we expect you to!).
Where does Windows keep screensavers?
You’ll find all the default screensavers, and should find any ones you install, in the directory “C:WindowsSystem32”. All screensaver files have the “.scr” extension, so you can use Windows search (or a superior search tool like Everything) to search for any screensavers you download if you can’t find them.
Is this article useful?
Subscribe to our newsletter!
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox
Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.