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I change my background in system preferences and it says my background is a picture, but my desktop is still a blank gray. How can I fix this?

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What version of OS X? –  Jay Thompson Feb 26 '12 at 4:30
    
Mac OS X 10.7.2 –  Seany242 Feb 26 '12 at 15:41
    
Are you using a Thunderbolt Display? Mine has been turning off randomly, and after that the desktop picture has sometimes been replaced with a solid gray background. –  Lauri Ranta Feb 26 '12 at 18:59
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Try opening Terminal, type killall Dock and press return. Dock controls the desktop background in Lion.

If it's still grey after that, try rm ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.desktop then killall Dock

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