It’s Christmas! Get into the holiday spirit with these desktop decorations

Christmas is coming. And soon! Okay, we don’t have time to prepare just yet, either, but there are quick and easy ways to get into the holiday mood. Just giving your PC a little desktop decoration can make a real difference, and there are plenty of fun options around.

Microsoft’s Snowy Night theme is a great place to start, thanks to 13 beautiful winter photos from around the world. (The theme only works on Windows 7/ 8, but 7-Zip will extract the wallpapers so that you can use them anywhere.)

If you’d like more choice, choose the "Holidays" category in the free My Daily Wallpaper for some very festive backgrounds, as well as the ability to change them on a regular basis.

"Christmas in New York" is a nicely presented desktop gadget with an animated city view, and a countdown of the days until Christmas. The sun rises and sets, the skyscrapers light up, the moon appears, it’s very well designed. There’s a similar "Christmas in Prague" edition, too, for those who prefer a more traditional holiday scene.

If all this seems a little too subtle, then you could equip your PC with a flashing Christmas tree, or a string of lights which runs across the top of the screen. Yes, these can be every bit as distracting as they sound. But you can also tone them down -- disable animations, set transparency -- so they won’t necessarily get in your way.

Having gently falling snow on your desktop is great for holiday atmosphere. Desktop Snow HD has the most realistic effect we’ve seen; flakes are different sizes, fall at varying rates, have varying transparency, it brings a real 3D sense of depth to the scene. The processing for all this meant it tied up one of our CPU cores almost entirely, though. If that’s a problem, try lightweight (but visually basic) DesktopSnowOK, instead.

Can’t decide? No problem, just opt for the full "Trees" collection. There are snow globes, an animated fireplace with a roaring fire, a "cursor snowflakes" effect (snow falls from your cursor as it moves around the screen), and of course plenty more trees. Everything is portable, and adware-free, so go get into the holiday spirit. And have a great Christmas!

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