The image above is one of the best examples on how a 3rd party theme can transform the common and default Windows 7 visual style. However, Microsoft does not have a native support for such “alien” themes, and thus modifications of some system files must be done in order to utilize these tweaks. This tutorial will walk you through the steps needed to install and experience user-made themes of your choice.
Create Restore Point.
Since installation of 3rd party themes require modification of some system files, a back-up of your current settings must be made. This comes in handy when the patching process results to conflicts and incompatibilities within the system, although these rarely happen.
To create a back-up of your current system configuration (restore point):
- Hit the Start Button (Orb) and right click on Computer.
- Select Properties menu and a pop-up window will appear.
- Go to the System Protection link on the left sidebar and create.
- Input a name or description for the restore point and press enter.
- The process will take a few minutes and when it is completed, you will be informed that a restore point was successfully created.
And now, you are ready to patch your system.
As mentioned, in order for Windows to support 3rd party themes, you must patch some files in your system. To do this, you can utilize programs built for such functions. Two of the most commonly used applications are:
Universal Theme Patcher
For Windows XP SP2 & SP3 | 2003 | 2008 | Vista SP1 & SP2 | Windows 7 (All: 32bit (x86)/64bit (x64))
- Download the application from any of the three links from the source provided.
- Open the .zip file and choose the appropriate version of the patcher for your system.
- After extracting the file, right-click on it and Run as Administrator.
- Choose your preferred language and hit OK.
- Universal Theme Patcher will report the current state of your OS and the number of files needed to be patched. Press Yes to confirm.
- Another window will pop-up showing the three specific files to be modified: shsvcs.dll, themeui.dll, and uxtheme.dll.
- Click on the Patch button for each corresponding file. The field on the left of the button will indicate the status (patched or not).
- Close the window when all 3 files are successfully patched. You can always restore to the previous version of these files by running this utility again.
For Windows XP | Vista | 7 (in other words, all currently used Windows OS except Windows 8).
Another option for enabling Windows 3rd party themes support is UxStyle, an automated service without a user interface. This utility includes a service and a kernel driver that runs in background making it possible to use the themes. Aside that it does not require manual patching, UxStyle eliminates the need to re-patch files whenever a system update is made.
- Download the version complementary to your system.
- Install utility by running the setup and clicking on Next.
- Wait for the application to confirm successful integration in the system.
With patching done using either of the mentioned utilities, your machine is now ready to display those beautiful themes.
Apply the theme.
With everything set-up, all you need now is to download the theme you want and copy the theme folder, which must contain the .theme file and a folder with .msstyles file, to your Windows Theme folder, usually located at C:\Windows\Resources\Themes. Click on the .theme file and wait for the theme to load. Alternatively, you can go to your Desktop, right-click and select Personalize and choose the downloaded theme.