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Start screensaver with keyboard or desktop shortcut

The original idea behind screensavers is that after a certain period of inactivity, the image on the screen would be replaced to prevent it from literally getting burned into the glass of the monitor. However, sometimes you may also want to launch a screensaver on demand, instead of having to wait for a specific amount of time to pass.

You can, of course, achieve this by opening the Screen Saver Settings panel, selecting the screensaver in the list, and clicking "Preview", but a much quicker way would be to create a desktop or keyboard shortcut that immediately starts the screensaver.

This how-to guide will help you to easily create such shortcuts.

Finding the screensaver on your hard drive

One way to create a shortcut to a screensaver is to link the shortcut to the screensaver file on your hard drive. Since screensavers behave much like other executable applications, simply double-clicking a screensaver file will launch the screensaver. Finding the file is not necessarily easy, however, as the destination location can vary for each screensaver. To find screensavers on your hard drive, please see: Where are screensavers stored in Windows?

Unable to find the file? We discuss some alternative methods at the bottom of the page.

Creating a shortcut

Once you have successfully located the screensaver file on your computer, you can make a shortcut with just a few mouse clicks. First, you want to make sure that the screensaver can be manually started. Simply double-click the screensaver file to launch it.

If it does not start, you may have selected the wrong file. In the explorer, make sure it says "Screensaver" in the "Type" column, next to the filename, change date and the file size.

Desktop shortcut

To place a shortcut to the screensaver on your Windows desktop:

  1. Right-click the screensaver file to bring up the context menu;
  2. Select "Copy to", then click "Desktop (create shortcut)".

A simple shortcut to the selected screensaver should now appear on your desktop.

Keyboard shortcut

To start the screensaver using a combination of keys on your keyboard, you will first have to create a shortcut like the above, either on your desktop or another location. The reason for this is that it is not possible to attach a keyboard shortcut directly to a screensaver file. Once you have created such a shortcut, however, here's how to set up the keyboard shortcut:

  1. Right-click the shortcut you created to bring up the context menu;
  2. Select "Properties", then make sure the "Shortcut" tab is selected;
  3. Click once in the field to the right of "Shortcut:", then press the preferred combination of keys, such as "CTRL" + "ALT" + "S", on your keyboard;
  4. The key combination should appear in the shortcut field. If you are satisfied with the chosen combination, click "OK" at the bottom of the window.

You can now, at any time, use the chosen combination of keys to launch the screensaver.

Other ways to launch the current screensaver

If you have been unable to locate the screensaver file, or any of the above methods would not work for you, there are some alternative ways to launch the current screensaver.

PowerShell shortcut

PowerShell is a scripting tool for Windows that allows advanced users to perform complex tasks. It also allows you to do things that might not be possible, or more cumbersome, via the graphical interface that Windows offers. The below command tells PowerShell to check the Windows registry for the currently selected screensaver, and then launches it:

powershell.exe -command "& (Get-ItemProperty ‘HKCU:Control Panel\Desktop’).{SCRNSAVE.EXE}"

To turn this into a desktop shortcut:

  1. Right-click on an empty area of your desktop;
  2. Select "New", then click "Shortcut";
  3. Enter the above command into the location field, then click "Next";
  4. Give the shortcut a name and click "Finish".

The shortcut should now appear on your desktop. Double-click it to see if it works.

To attach a combination of keys to this shortcut, see "Keyboard shortcut" above.

If PowerShell is not currently installed on your computer, you may need to download it first.

Saver Starter

If all else fails, consider downloading SaverStarter, a freeware application for Windows that allows a screensaver to be started by moving the mouse over a corner of the screen.

Hopefully, you have now succeeded in creating a shortcut to your screensaver. If not, feel free to contact us at any time with your questions. We're happy to help.

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