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The background in Windows covers the same area as the desktop.  In fact, the background is "on" the desktop, in a manor of speaking.  Really the background is what the desktop looks like.  If we go back to the analogy of a literal desk, the background would be like a painting on top of the desk.  On a real desk people will often have pictures of their family under a glass top which sits on top of the desk.  A background is similar to that.  Let's look at our desktop again.

Desktop

In the image above you can see our standard desktop again.  Remember, the desktop is the portion of the screen with the picture on it.  Now let's look at it with a different background.

Desktop

If you examine these images closely you'll notice that nothing has really changed but the pictures.  Both images show the same desktop, just with different backgrounds.  Simply put, the background is the image (or solid color) which is displayed on the desktop.  In no way does it change or affect anything.  It's just there to look pretty.