How to customize your TV screensavers

The simple screen saver was first introduced to computers to minimize the risk of screen burn, where static images were 'burned' onto the screen when nothing moved for an extended period of time. That's how they got their name.

Today, burn-in is much less of an issue, but the screen saver remains and has been extended to TVs. On these larger screens, the purpose is primarily decorative, so you can see sweeping landscapes or composite works of art when you pause a movie and go do something else for a few minutes.

Depending on your attention span and schedule, your TV may spend a lot of time showing the screen saver. So it's worth spending a few minutes checking that the TV is set to show something interesting, fun or beautiful.

Apple tvOS

If you have an Apple TV 4K connected to your television, your eyes can enjoy the beautiful, high-resolution slow-motion screensavers that Apple has provided. They include clips of deserts, forests, and cityscapes, and you can tap the clickpad on the Siri remote to get information about what you're looking at. Press left or right on the clickpad to switch between different screen savers.

The only other screen saver option is to display a slideshow of your own photos. To switch between the different options, load the Settings app on the Apple TV 4K home screen and then choose General And Screen saver. You can switch to your own photos, choose which Apple screensavers you want to see, and set the screensaver delay time.

The Apple TV 4K comes with many built-in screensavers. Image: Apple

Android TV and Google TV

For those of you with a television or dongle running Google software, the process for changing the screensaver is much the same whether you're using the older Android TV or the newer Google TV. By default, a curated collection of photos is shown, but you can change this to your own photos if you wish.

From the home screen, select the settings gear icon at the top right and then choose Device preferences And Screen saver (Android TV), or System And Ambient mode (Google TV). You can switch between Google's photo choices or your own, or an experimental mode that uses a wider range of sources to find images. You can also adjust other settings, for example when the screen saver starts.

Personal photos are pulled from Google Photos, so you can use the app for this Android or iOS to set a particular screensaver selection, if you wish. Note that there are also third-party screensaver apps you can install on your TV or connected device, including Atmospheric television And Photo gallery and screen saver.

Amazon FireTV

The screensaver situation on Fire TV televisions, dongles and boxes is somewhat complicated, as it's not consistent across devices – and Amazon seems to change it quite regularly too. However, regardless of your device, you should be able to press the menu button (the three horizontal lines) on the remote while the screen saver is showing to access the settings, including the timing.

The latest Amazon Fire TV Omni sets and the 2nd generation Fire TV Stick 4K Max come with an Ambient Experience as the default screensaver, which is essentially the same screen you see on an Echo Show, with added widgets and functionality on top of a curated slideshow of photos. On other devices, you just get the photo slideshow.

In either case, press the menu button to make changes and go to your own photos, including daily memories or recent photos. This may require some management in the Amazon Photos app, which you can get for Android or for iOS (you can set a list of favorite images that you can use as a screen saver, for example).

a TV mounted on the wall with Amazon Fire open
The latest Fire TVs give you an Echo Show-like ambient mode. Image: Amazon

Roku TV

To change the screensaver on a Roku TV or Roku device connected to a TV, press the home button on your remote (it looks like a little house) and then choose Institutions And Screen saver to make changes to timing and content. You can choose from a selection of built-in and third-party screen saver options, including your own photos (which you'll need to set on the Web with your Roku account).

Please note that Roku themes (pick Themes by Institutions) contain a wallpaper and screen saver, so those are options too. You can also visit the Screensavers category of the Roku Channel Store to find a variety of third-party screensavers that you can install on your device, including screensavers based on photos of nature and landmarks. If your Roku device supports 4K, you also have the option to: saltwater aquarium simulationso you can get the atmosphere of an aquarium without maintenance.

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