How to select, change, or download a Windows theme

Updated: 04/02/2019 by Computer Hope
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The Windows operating system can use a theme, which is a collection of icons, images, mouse icons, and more for use in Windows. There are thousands of themes available for Windows, many of them being free to download.

Click a link below for more information about Windows themes and how to install or change a theme on your computer.

What is included in a Windows theme and what does it do?

There are many types of Windows theme packs that you can download and install on a computer. Below is a listing of the various types of content a Windows theme can contain.

Each Windows theme is different, not only in terms of what the theme is based on, but also in terms of what types of content they include. Some themes may include new content for all five areas listed above, while others may only include content for one to three of the above areas. When looking for and downloading a theme, review the details about that theme to understand what is included and what areas in Windows it will modify. The details for a Windows theme should tell you what is included and what will change in Windows when using that theme.

When you use a Windows theme, the look and feel of Windows changes. The mouse cursor can change. The sounds you hear in Windows can change. The background pictures on the desktop can change. The program icons on the desktop can change. Even the color of text for icons or the border around program windows can change.

When you use a Windows theme, the changes made in Windows are not permanent. You can switch between multiple Windows themes at any time. You can even switch back to the default or original Windows theme, the look and feel of Windows when you first used the computer after buying it.

To install a new Windows theme that you downloaded or switch to any other theme that came with Windows or was previously installed, proceed to the next section below.

How to download and install a new theme

To download and install a new theme or theme pack, follow the steps below for the version of Windows on your computer.

Tip

Download popular Windows themes from Microsoft's featured desktop themes page.

Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10

  1. Press the Windows key + D or navigate to the Windows desktop.
  2. Right-click in any blank space on the desktop.
  3. Select Personalize from the drop-down menu that appears.
  4. On the left side, select Themes, and then Theme settings.
  5. In the Personalize window that appears click on the Get more themes online option.
  6. When you click Get more themes online, you should be directed to the Microsoft Windows theme page.
  7. Select the theme of your choice, then click the Download button underneath it.
  8. Once the file has finished downloading, double-click the file and your theme will load automatically.
  9. Go back to the Personalize window and select your new theme from the My Themes section.

Windows XP

  1. Download the new Windows XP theme pack you want to install and use.
  2. If the downloaded file is a ZIP file, unzip the ZIP file to the C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\ folder.
  3. Check the unzipped files to see if there are desktop background pictures. If any are present, move those files to the My Pictures folder on the C: drive.
  4. To apply a new desktop background, select the background picture in the My Pictures folder.
  5. On the left side of the My Pictures folder, click the Set as desktop background option.
  6. To apply the new theme, right-click on an empty area of the Windows desktop and select Properties in the pop-up menu.
  7. In the Display properties window, click the Themes tab.
  8. Select the newly added theme in the list of Themes and click OK to apply the new theme to Windows.

How to select or change a theme

If you'd like to change the current theme, or set one in the first place, follow the steps below for the version of Windows on your computer.

Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10

  1. Press the Windows key + D, or navigate the Windows desktop.
  2. Right-click in any blank space on the desktop.
  3. Select Personalize from the drop-down menu that appears.
  4. On the left side, select Themes. In Windows 7, you will also need to select Theme settings.
  5. In the Themes window that appears, find a theme you'd like to use and click on it.

Windows XP

  1. On a blank area of the Windows desktop, right-click and select Properties in the pop-up menu.
  2. In the Display Properties window that opens, click the Themes tab.
  3. Select the theme you want to change to and click OK to apply the theme to Windows.

How to change individual elements of a theme

Users may change different elements, such as the desktop background, window color, notification sounds, and screen saver, by following the steps below.

  1. Press the Windows key + D or navigate to the Windows desktop.
  2. Right-click in any blank space on the desktop.
  3. Select Personalize from the drop-down menu that appears.
  4. On the left side, select Themes. In Windows 7, you will also need to select Theme settings.
  5. On the Personalize window that appears, locate the section containing options titled Background, Sounds, and Color. In Windows 7, it may look like the picture below. In Windows 8 and 10, it will look slightly different, but have most of the same options.

Windows theme options

  1. Click on any of the custom theme options to adjust individual aspects of your theme.
Tip

Once you've created a theme, you can save it by clicking the Save theme text or button in the middle of the Personalize window.

Save theme in Windows