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Changing the Cisco IP Phone Background Image

Updated 8/25/2012
Changing the background on a Cisco IP Phone can be a little tricky to do the first time.  This post is a compilation of all the best information and tips surrounding changing the background image on a Cisco IP Phone combined with some personal experience.  You should also pay attention as you may need to do this on the CCIE Voice Lab exam.

The background image choices that are displayed on a Cisco IP Phone come from the list.xml file that is copied from the TFTP server used by the IP Phone.  This list.xml file contains a list of all available background images available on the TFTP server.  Using your own custom background image is as simple as updating that list.xml file, placing your custom background image on the TFTP server, and selecting the new background on the phone.  See either the video or the written process below for details!

Cisco Phone Designer can also be used to change the background on an IP Phone, but note the limitations of this Cisco widget in the End-of-Life announcement.  However, you are preparing to be a CCIE and will need to know how to get dirty and do it as detailed below.

Video from Cisco Support Channel: IP Phone Background Image Change


Changing Cisco IP Phone Background Images
  1. Create and edit an image that will be used as the IP Phone background and thumbnail images.  Use any photo editing software of your preference.
    • Edit the image to your specifications.  Ensure your images have no more than 65535 colors.
    • If you'd like to edit the current image used by the IP Phone, see "Transferring TFTP Files Via CUCM CLI" below to get a copy of these files.
    • Ensure that the full size image has the correct width and height as described in the section below "Standard Background Image Information By Phone".
    • Save your full size image as a Ping (.png) formatted file.
    • Prepare your image to be a thumbnail image by resizing it.  Again, consult the section below for the proper thumbnail dimensions.
    • Save your thumbnail image as a Ping (.png) file, use a different filename from the full size image above.
    1. Create or Edit list.xml file.
      • Create or edit the list.xml file so that it lists your newly created images.  See the example list.xml file below on this post to see how to properly format the file.
      • Note that the appropriate list.xml file is found within the TFTP server directory listed for your phone model as shown in the section below, "Standard Background Image Information By Phone". For example, /Desktops/320x212x16
      • See section below titled "Transferring TFTP Files Via CUCM CLI" to copy all relevant files needed to modify the existing custom background images (list.xml, full size image, and thumbnail images).
      • You can also see if list.xml exists already for your phone type via the administrator command-line-interaface (CLI) on the CUCM running the TFTP server.  For example, "file view tftp filename", "file list tftp /", "file list tftp /Desktops/320x212x16" etc.  If no files are returned for the required directory - you will be creating list.xml from scratch. 
      • Note that the list.xml file cannot have more than 50 background images listed.
    2. Upload the images to the CUCM's TFTP server and restart TFTP server.
      • Using the Cisco Unified Operating System Administrator webpage, log in with the appropriate credentials.  Navigate to Software Upgrades > TFTP File Management.
      • Click Upload File.  Browse for the files on your local computer, and specify the correct directory from the "Standard Background Image Information By Phone" section below.  The directory will look similar to:  /Desktops/320x212x16
      • Be sure to upload:
        • Full size image
        • Thumbnail image
        • Updated list.xml file
      • Using Cisco Unified Serviceability webpage, log in with the appropriate credentials.  Navigate to Tools > Control Center - Feature Services.  Restart the Cisco TFTP service.  This step is necessary for the TFTP server to recognize the new files that you have just added.
    3. Select the new background image in the Cisco IP Phone.
      1. On your Cisco IP Phone, click Settings > User Preferences > Background Images 
      2. Select the background of your choice, and Save.
    Standard Background Image Information By Phone
    Cisco IP Phone 7906/7911
    • Full size image:  95 pixels x 34 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  23 pixels x 8 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/95x34x1
    Cisco IP Phone 7940/7960
    Cisco IP Phone 7941/7961
    • Full size image:  320 pixels x 196 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  80 pixels x 49 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/320x196x4
    Cisco IP Phone 7942/7962
    • Full size image:  320 pixels x 196 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  80 pixels x 49 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/320x196x4
    Cisco IP Phone 7945/7965
    • Full size image:  320 pixels x 212 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  80 pixels x 53 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/320x212x16
    Cisco IP Phone 7970/7971
    • Full size image:  320 pixels x 212 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  80 pixels x 53 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/320x212x12
    Cisco IP Phone 7975
    • Full size image:  320 pixels x 216 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  80 pixels x 53 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/320x216x16
    Cisco IP Phone 8961/9951/9971
    • Full size image:  640 pixels x 480 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  123 pixels x 111 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/640x480x24
    Cisco IP Communicator
    • Full size image:  320 pixels x 212 pixels
    • Thumbnail image:  80 pixels x 53 pixels
    • Directory:  /Desktops/320x212x12

    Transferring TFTP Files Via CUCM CLI

    It is necessary to either have access to a SFTP server, or install one for this step.  You will be transferring files from the TFTP server directory running on the CUCM to the SFTP server.  There are a variety of free SFTP servers available out there.

    Note that the command below will transfer all files in the /Desktops/320x212x16 directory (specific to the 7945/7965 per the chart above).  

    You could easily edit the command below to be more granular if you'd like. 

    admin:file get tftp /Desktops/320x212x16
    Please wait while the system is gathering files info …done.
    Sub-directories were not traversed.
    Number of files affected: 5 (there were 5 files in that dir)
    Total size in Bytes: 197325
    Total size in Kbytes: 202.0608
    Would you like to proceed [y/n]? y
    SFTP server IP:
    SFTP server port [22]:
    User ID: sftpadmin
    Password: ********

    Download directory: /   (root directory on SFTP server)

    The authenticity of host ’ (’ can’t be established.
    RSA key fingerprint is 9e:1a:5e:27:16:4d:2a:13:90:2c:64:41:bd:25:fd:35.
    Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
    Transfer completed.

    The files from the /Desktops/320x212x16 directory will now be found on your SFTP server's root directory so that you can edit and manipulate them as needed.

    Sample LIST.XML File

    Sample List.XML file for 7945/7965

    Additional Information


    1. Hi,

      I am trying to upload a custom background pic to the Cisco IP Phone 7965.
      I created a List.xml and 2 .png pic(Big & Thumbnail) and uploaded to the Cisco Unified OS Administration link- TFTP File Management and restart the tftp server & IP phone accordingly.

      It has successfully uploaded to the tftp server but when I browse into the background images on the phone, it display a default thumbnnail and a new blank thumbnail. When i select the new blank thumbnail, it could not retrieved it at all.

      This is what i have done:


      Name of 2 png: Small_Main.png, Big_Main.png

      Uploadfile directory: /Desktops/320x212x16

      The strange part is when I search for List.xml using the TFTP File Management, it listed out 2 file as shown below.

      File Name Directory
      List.xml Desktops/320x212x16
      List.xml Desktops/640x480x24

      Supposed to be like this?

    2. when i run the command, it did show that the file is there.

      admin:file list tftp /Desktops/320x212x16
      Big_Main.png List.xml
      dir count = 0, file count = 3

    3. this is the List.xml format

      <ImageItem Image=”TFTP:Desktops/320x212x16/Small_Main.png”

    4. You will see a different directory for each type of phone, so yes, that is normal. The other directory is for 8961/9951/9971.

      The sample list.xml and the one that you've posted don't display well on the blog due to long lines and wraps. Can you verify your list.xml format against the documented linked above: Official Guide to Using Custom Background Images on Cisco IP Phone 7965?

      The last line in your list.xml should have a forward slash.

      1. Hello Dave

        I have a question for you, I have a CUCM see 8 and have uploaded the images of corporate and work very well in the 8961 phone.

        My question is, we have uploaded new pictures for mobile version 7965 and 7945, with specifications and measures, we have done this in the file changes list.xml, when I want to view them on the phone I can see see 7965 thubnail including all of 8961, but none works, you need to create different files list.xml? but we tried and if we do overrides the previous one, know anything about this?

        Also I have different locations, I do not see what I see in option A option B or C, as we define each site? is it possible?

        Thanks Advanced

        sorry for my english I from Mexico. :)


      2. You will need to have two directories on every TFTP server you use. Each directory will need it's own list.xml file and the images will need to be the correct size as shown below:

        Cisco IP Phone 7945/7965

        Full size image: 320 pixels x 212 pixels
        Thumbnail image: 80 pixels x 53 pixels
        Directory: /Desktops/320x212x16

        Cisco IP Phone 8961/9951/9971

        Full size image: 640 pixels x 480 pixels
        Thumbnail image: 123 pixels x 111 pixels
        Directory: /Desktops/640x480x24

    5. Hi Dave,
      I have left the forward slash out when i copy and paste over to this post. I do have a forward slash in the List.xml file, :)

      Below is my Image dimensions for my pix.png file
      Dimensions 320 x 212
      Bit depth: 32

      Dimensions 80 x 53
      Bit depth: 32

      For the ImageItem element, I code it using separate line. Yes, it is the same in official guide.

      I had tried many other ways but to no valid.

    6. I think you'll need to reduce the color depth of your images. They cannot have more than 65535 colors.

      See link here:

      There is a section called "Tailor The Image" which shows how to fix this in GIMP.

    7. On second thought, you should be able to use 32-bit images, but the phone will alter them as it can't display all of the colors. Ideally, the images should be 16-bit depth or less.

    8. I wanted to update anyone reading the comment thread above. I heard from Lionel via email and he did get this working.

      He states:
      "I have successfully implemented the custom background and ringtone on my IP Phone. I did a reboot on my CUCM and ISR router, everything went smoothly on the customization."

    9. We are running call manager 8.6 and the custom wallpaper for the Cisco 9971 Sip phone is not showing up on display. The files are are follow:

      Desktops/640x480x24/fnsbtn9971.png <--Thumb
      Desktops/640x480x24/fnsb9971.png <--640X480X16 color image

      XML -------Below---------

      I can see the 2 default wallpapers but that is it.

      I am running Active load sip99711.9-2-1 on the phone.

      I have restarted the TFTP service on both servers in our cluster.

      I have been able to get our 7962's and 7942's to work just fine with custom backgrounds.

      I need a second set of eyes to tell me if anything is wrong with my config.



      1. John, did you ever finde a solution to this issue? I am running into the same issue on a current install. Thanks!


    10. XML code posted below

      <ImageItem Image=TFTP:Desktops/640x480x24/fnsbtn9971.png

    11. John, I double-checked some Cisco docs and I don't see that the 9971 would need any special handling beyond what you've already done. I assume the "quotes" have been pulled from your List.xml file above when you paste - They should be around the TFTP paths. See the link below for an example.

      Do you have multiple TFTP servers (you'll need to make the new directory on each of them)? Perhaps the 9971 is registering to a different CUCM/TFTP? Try restarting the CUCM/TFTP?

      Please let us know if you've resolved it.

      Cisco 9971 Administrator's Guide Below:

    12. Good tutorial, you can also try this iPhone app to change the background image:

      I have tried it and it works well for my IP phones.

    13. Thanks for the suggestion, Danny. It appears that this application is just one of a few Cisco telephony-related iPhone applications that you have written.

      Since I have not tested it, I'd welcome to feedback of anyone else that tries these utilities. None of the apps have been reviewed or rated in "The App Store", so I'd suggest that these not be used on a production system until you've thoroughly tried them in a lab.

    14. Well.. here's a tool that I've 'tested' (as you'd hope I had, since I also wrote this one!). It's currently free of charge as a beta release. Feedback so far has been great, but we need more!

      The major difference between this and Cisco Phone Designer and other tools is that it is targeted at administrators; it automatically generates all the various image types and thumbnails, and can push images to one/many/all handsets at once in minutes.

    15. Hello,

      Is it possible to do through CME (Express)?

    16. Yes, see this article from Cisco for information about using a custom background on a phone connected to CME: (it's also listed as 'Additional Information' in my post above)

      1. David, great post (and website).

        I thought I'd also mention a very advanced 3rd party product PhoneView from UnifiedFX ( that can bulk update phone backgrounds in a couple of mouse clicks for CUCM & CUCME.

        We provide a free version with full functionality that works with up to 50 phones, ideal for lab use and testing.

        PhoneView has been used by over 5000 IPT Engineers and manages over 1M IP Phones, we even have customers that can see and manage clusters with 20,000+ phones ;)

        Disclosure, I'm the CTO and original author of PhoneView, so I am biased, more than happy to support the above statements ;)

        Stephen Welsh, CCIE #12345

      2. Thanks for contributing to the post, Stephen! I'll be sure to give it a test next time I need to do this!

        Thanks again!

    17. I'm trying to put a corporation logo as a background, but when I go to settings, selct backgrounds it says "selections unavailable" I have the two .png files and the List.xml file, restarted the tftp on both servers. Any thoughts?
      Here is my List.xml


      1. I'd look at the "Console Logs" on the phone that you are using to test this. You should see if the phone was able to get the List.xml file successfully, etc. I like this log to help narrow down what could be causing it. (HTTP to the phone's IP address)

    18. I have Cisco Callmanager 4.1(3) (I know its really old but my company wont upgrade so I am stuck with it.) I am trying to find a way to change the background images on the IP Phones. I have tried what this site says along with reading a variety of other sites. I am not even sure at this point its possible to do this on Cisco Call Manager 4.1(3). The phones I am testing this on is a variety. 7940/7960/7941/7961/7965

      If someone could help me I would appreciate it.

    19. I'm trying to put a corporation logo as a background, but when I go to settings, selct backgrounds it says "selections unavailable" I have the two .png files and the List.xml file, restarted the tftp on both servers. Any thoughts?
      Here is my List.xml
      Ip Pbx

      1. Hi has anyone helped out with this "selections unavailable" issue?

        I am having the same issue only at one site.

      2. "Selections Unavailable" implies that the phone either is not using a TFTP server that has the necessary background files installed OR there may be connectivity issues to the TFTP server.

        Since you say that the issue is only at one site, I'm going to assume that other sites are working - and therefore the TFTP configuration is good for those locations.

        So, can you doublecheck the TFTP being used by this one site and ensure that all TFTP servers that those phones may use for TFTP have the correct files installed. The situation you describe can happen if you have a local subscriber/TFTP at each location AND the TFTP at that location was not updated with the required background files.