What You Should Know About Installing Screensavers
Do you remember that frustrating feeling when you find an interesting screensaver and can't install it on your computer? This article will help you to never have it again.
Back to when Windows 95 started to find its home on many
computers there was just half a dozen of screensavers
preinstalled with the system. All you could do was selecting
one of these. It was as simple as boring.
Luckily those times are left behind. Now we have hundreds of
screensavers developed throughout the years and available
for download. Finding a nice screensaver matching your taste
and style can be a hard task. How much disappointing is it
when you are unable to install the discovery on your
computer then? I bet you know.
Often you come across a screensaver with an intriguing
description and no screenshots. You are curios to see it in
action. But: SLAP! You can't figure out the way to make it
work on your system and you will never know what you have
missed. What a pity! I know.
Well... Enough! Enough of this! There should be a way to
make us, screensaver hunters, luckier. Keep reading. There's
something that can open a whole new world of screensavers to
First, in order to fight this evil, we should find its
roots. Why is it so that we have the problem? Mainly it's
because there are several ways to distribute screensavers:
- As self-extracting installation packages
- As ZIPped installation packages
- As individual .SCR files
The self-extracting packages are the easiest to install. You
just download the screensaver and double click it. Then the
installation program starts and performs all the steps
necessary to install the screensaver. That is, you have it
ready for use just with a few mouse clicks.
You can recognize the ZIPped installation packages by their
names. They have ".zip" at the end. Double clicking such
files will probably get you nowhere unless you are well
The third category is represented by files with names ending
with ".scr". Activating such file usually launches the
screensaver. That's not bad. At least you can see what it's
all about. But this way it won't appear in the list of
available screensavers that the operating system starts if
your computer goes to rest. That is, you have to use a
little trick if you like the
Now that the reason of our problems is a bit more obvious, I
almost hear your question. Once the self-extracting packages
are the easiest to install, why just not to stick with them?
Okay, you are right. It makes a perfect sense. But you
forget one important thing. Screensavers are created by
And programmers differ from other computer users in that
they see everything from their very specific and technical
point of view. It's not a problem for them to extract files
from ZIPped packages as they work with them very often. It
is rather natural for them to copy files into secret system
folders that 80% of users didn't hear about and don't have
That's why they create screensavers and put them on download
sites in the form that is hard to install for you. But don't
hurry to blame them. They mostly do it unintentionally, not
because they hate people who can't handle ZIP archives or
bare screensaver files.
I know it because I am one of them. In fact (my face goes
red here) my
Rainy Screensaver was distributed as a ZIPped package
until version 1.7. Thanks to the people who provided me with
their feedback. I really don't see any reason to hurt those
who use their computers as tools or source of entertainment.
These people don't have to know all technical aspects.
I hope more and more screensaver writers will understand
this and will make their screensavers easier for you to
install. Meanwhile you yourself can get the knowledge needed
to handle not so friendly installations without a problem.
So let's get back to installing ZIPped packages and bare
ZIPped installation packages
These ".zip" files are known as archives. It is very popular
way to spread software and information over the net. They
let you to "pack" many files into one that is much easier to
download. They also use special methods known as compression
to reduce the final size of the packed files and thus save
your time and money spent downloading them.
In order to unpack (extract) files from a ZIPped package
you should use a special program. Probably the most popular
and easy to use is WinZip. You can download it from http://www.winzip.com.
Windows XP has a built-in support for ".zip" files so, if you
use Windows XP, there's no need for additional software.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that a ".zip"
package usually contains a collection of files that should be
extracted somewhere before you can use them. It doesn't
matter what program you use to extract the files. Just
follow its instructions to do it and put extracted files in
the place of your choice. It's better to create a special
folder for such cases. Alternatively you can use temporary
folder provided by Windows.
Once the files are extracted you should examine them. If you
see one named "Install.exe" or "Setup.exe" among them then
you can double click it to complete the installation
process. Even though archives are very convenient when used
on a bunch of files, they can be used to pack a single file
to reduce its size. So if you have extracted a single file
with its name ending with ".scr" then you should keep
Bare screensaver files
As I have said before, these files have their name ending
with ".scr". They are screensavers themselves. That is, they
are the programs that create all these amazing effects when
started. You can find some details about them in my article
Windows Screensavers Explained.
The easiest known way to install ".scr" files is to right
click on them and then choose "Install" from available menu
options. Once you do this, Windows will set the screensaver
as default and open Display Properties dialog where you can
adjust screensaver's settings if you wish.
This way has some disadvantages though. First, you should be
careful with where you keep the screensaver file. If you
have put it in the temporary folder and it is likely to be
deleted or moved somewhere else later, then the system won't
find the screensaver anymore. So you'd better create a
special folder for screensavers that you choose to install
this way. Second, if you select another screensaver from the
list in Display Properties dialog then Windows will forget
any screensaver installed using the described method. That is,
you will have to right click it and choose "Install" once
Nevertheless, this way is very convenient if you just want
to take a look at the screensaver, play with its settings
and delete it. If you really like the screensaver and want
it to brighten boring cloudy days then you'd better find a
cozier place to keep it.
How do you find such place? It's easy. What you need is to
drag the screensaver into your Windows folder. If you use
Windows 95/98 or Windows Me then chances are this folder is
on your drive C: and has a name of "Windows". If you use
Windows NT/2000 or Windows XP then it's probably on your
drive C: and is called "WINNT". Once you put the screensaver
in this folder it will be available in the list of installed
screensavers in Display Properties dialog. Now you can
select it whenever you wish. Furthermore, you should worry
no more about reinstalling it every time you change your
mind and select another screensaver.
Tip: Sometimes you download a ZIPped installation package
for screensaver, extract its contents to some folder and
find there both "Setup.exe" (or "Install.exe") and ".scr"
files. In this case double clicking "Install" or "Setup" is
the preferred way. That's because the installation program
will perform all the steps needed to install the screensaver
like copying necessary files, updating system registry,
providing uninstaller and so on. Simply copying the ".scr"
file to Windows folder apparently won't do it.
Now that you have a few more useful tricks under your belt,
you can install much more screensavers. Add to this acquired
confidence that those screensavers you like are ready to
please you whenever you wish and there's a good reason to
become a bit happier.
About the author. Roman Kramar is a software developer who enjoys writing screensavers as
his time permits. Visit his site at www.elasticsystems.com to find out more about
screensavers and his work.