This || That SHiT

Mr.Normal Guy writing things that seems abnormal. In street words 'Oh Shit' things

July 04, 2006

Change Windows XP Themes Without Installing 3rd Party Softwares

Do you hate the way the default windows visual scheme looks? Do you hate the fact that you can only choose from two schemes? Well there are some solutions to fixing this problem. If your lazy and dont care about your RAM usage or other vital stuff - you can install a 3rd party style manager such as Style-XP or some Stardock product. But if you ask me those always up space, RAM, and cpu usage. I'd rather go into display properties on my desktop and change the visual style there. However - Microsoft prevents you from adding any more visual style due to their "uxtheme.dll" file.

Therefore - we must either acquire a hacked version of the file that disables the restriction of adding additional visualization themes, or we can hack it ourselves. If one is good with a hex-editor, then they modify the dll and make the necessary changes, but that takes way too long if you ask me (plus there are different versions of the file for different OS's). What we need is the UX-Multipatcher, which will automatically detect our version of Windows and patch it for us. You can grab it here:

Now after thats done and you reboot - you need some visual themes that look better than what Windows comes with. Here's some recommended sites to grab them from:

You can grab tons of themes and visual presets from those sites. If that isn't enough, here are some sites dedicated to certain themes that have been pretty popular:

So anyway at this point you picked out your selection of themes that you like and have the zip files and your wondering where to put them all. Well its a simple matter of extracting ALL THE FILES found in the zip files to your "c:/windows/resources/themes" directory. After you have finished extracting the files, right click on your desktop then click on "properties." That will open the Display Properties dialog box. Then:

A. For themes with the ".msstyles" file extension: click on the "Appearance" tab then choose your desired theme from the "Windows and buttons" dialog box, then choose which color scheme you prefer from the "color scheme" dialog box (most themes only come with one color, but some come with more). You should see something like in the screenshot here:

Click "apply" then close the display properties dialog box.

B. For themes with the ".theme" file extension, make sure the open "display properties" window is the "Themes" tab (it's the default window, so you should already be looking right at it.) Choose your theme from the "themes" dialog box like below:

".Theme" files often come with icons and wallpaper, but it is not required that you use the icons or wallpaper, so before you click "apply" make sure the wallpaper and icons are the ones you want - for wallpaper click on the "desktop" tab, then choose your wallpaper. For icons, same as the wallpaper, except click on "customize desktop" and then choose your icons like below:

Once that is accomplished, click "apply" then close the display properties dialog box.

C. For themes with both the ".msstyles" and ".theme" extensions, use the ".theme" version if you want to use any included icons, wallpaper, etc. Use the ".msstyles" version to use the "visual style" only without using any of the included icons, wallpaper, etc.

You're done! Yeah, right, wouldn't that be nice? You only wish it was that easy, because I know I do. So keep reading.

There are certain things that must be in place in order for themes to work correctly, so I recommend you double check to make sure everything is good to go before you do any of the above. So go ahead and open the "c:/windows/resources/themes" folder, and follow the below directions:

1. ".Theme" files must be directly within the "c:/windows/resources/themes" folder, and not within individual folders. Check out the screenshot to see what I mean:


If you find any in individual sub-folders, simply move the *.theme* file directly to the "c:/windows/resources/themes" folder.

2. ".Msstyles" files *must* be within their own individual sub-folders within the "c:/windows/resources/themes" folder like in the screenshot below.

For example, the file "generic.msstyles" must be in a sub-folder entitled "generic," "generic1.msstyles" must be in a sub-folder entitled "generic1," etc.

a. If any ".msstyles" files are directly in the "c:/windows/resources/themes" folder, make a *new* sub-folder and name it EXACTLY AS THE ".msstyles" FILE IS NAMED (minus the ".msstyles" extension of course), then move the ".msstyles" file into that sub-folder.

3. After doing the above, you will need to check each individual sub-folder within the "c:/windows/resources/themes" folder, *including* the ones you didn't have to fix, or create yourself. Why? Because:

a. It is essential that the name of the sub-folder match the name of the ".msstyles" file exactly, and caps, lower case, spaces, underscores, etc., ALL count - i.e., the file "generic.msstyles" must be in a folder entitled "generic," "Generic_01.msstyles" must be in a folder entitled "Generic_01," etc. (see screenshot above). If they don't match, you will need to rename the sub-folder that the ".msstyles" file is in so that it matches the file name.

b. Some ".zip" files will extract files into what I call a "sub-sub folder." For example, the file "generic.msstyles" might be in a sub-folder of a sub-folder; i.e., "c:/windows/resources/themes/generic/generic." If this is the case, you will need to move the ".msstyles" file into the first sub-folder, "c:/windows/resources/themes/generic." Delete the "sub-sub" folder after you've moved the ".msstyles" file.

4. Some ".msstyles" themes include what is known as a "shellstyle" ("shellstyle.dll".) "Shellstyle.dll" should be in its own sub-folder entitled "shell" *within* the ".msstyles" theme sub-folder, "c:/windows/resources/themes/generic/shell" like so:

Sometimes, the "shell" sub-folder has its own sub-folders, for example, "c:/windows/resources/themes/generic/shell/normalcolor":

If this is the case, "shellstyle.dll" should be in the "normalcolor" sub-folder like below:

If you find any "shellstyle.dll" files floating around in the "generic" sub-folder itself, make a new sub-folder, name it "shell" then move "shellstyle.dll" into that folder.

Okay, NOW you're done. Have fun with your new theme!


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