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June 2, 2007 / Upnishad

Change XP Themes Without Installing 3rd Party Software

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. You could of course hex edit the dll yourself, but why go through the trouble when someone has already done it for you. Grab it here.

Now apply the patch and reboot. After that, you have to install some themes. Here are some great websites where you can get themes from:

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:
msstyles extension
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:
Once you’re done just hit apply.

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

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.
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”. 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.

Phew! There you go, now you have a FREE way to making your desktop look great. Not only that, but you’re saving your RAM by keeping extra programs out. More often than not, you wont have to go through the trouble to check all of these things, usually the author organizes the files properly.

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Leave a Comment
  1. sunil / Jun 16 2007 3:20 pm


  2. Nillerz / Jun 12 2008 5:25 am


  3. paul / Jul 1 2008 2:25 am

    Awesome! thanks man

  4. Author [] / Jul 19 2008 1:59 am

    @paul, @sunil – Thanks a lot for appreciation. Do check the newly designed site for more posts like this

  5. steven / Aug 30 2008 7:02 pm

    ive patched my dll file so i can put these themes in but your tutorial is very confusing? still not got got clue lol idownload this file VistaVG Ultimate theme it has these folders innit,Bottom Common Tasks,Fonts,Styler Toolbar they are in a sub folder saying vistaVG Ultimate ive put it in the windows themes folder but its not showing up anywhere? can u help me out thx 🙂

    • Mally McGinnis / May 14 2011 9:47 pm

      To the geek!, author of this tutorial; Great idea, and great tutorial! Thanks for both!

      To Steven; the ability to read and write in English wouldn’t benefit only your ability to understand clearly written written text like this, but everyone else’s to understand you. Many non-native English speakers read and write better than some native English speakers like you do. Surely your library or a nearby high school can offer you some assistance in getting what you missed in school?

  6. argenteens / Sep 15 2008 7:36 pm

    great tutorial… saved my RAM and made my computer environment more enjoyable for me 🙂

  7. the geek ! / Sep 20 2008 7:01 pm

    @argenteen : Thanks…glad to be of some help

  8. kristiaan / Nov 17 2008 12:39 am

    where do i download those themes ?
    mail me @

  9. Asad / Nov 23 2008 1:28 am

    great great great for xp

    anything same like vista???

  10. deepa / Dec 21 2008 11:12 pm

    this was very informative thanks a lot. I was searching around the web for exactly the same thing, change the look of this boring XP to something decent with out compromising the performance.

  11. Aurabandit / Feb 28 2009 2:13 pm

    Great! Thanks man.

  12. DDR_Master / May 19 2009 4:16 am

    it said I needed to remove my i386 NT CD?

    I have no idea what that is, so I don’t know what to do about it..

  13. rz / Jun 2 2009 10:22 pm



  14. Liz / Jul 11 2009 6:32 am

    Awesome, I bloody hated that default themes!
    Thanks a bunch! :)))

    • Author / Jul 16 2009 6:42 pm

      @Liz – Thanks. You can get awesome themes on DeviantArt

  15. shirahmad / Jul 16 2009 5:37 pm

    thanks very much it works perfectly although having trouble with some themes i don’t how to put them on

    • Author / Jul 16 2009 6:43 pm

      Thanks. You can get awesome themes on DeviantArt

      • Anawade Mahesh / May 27 2011 4:06 pm

        nice work

  16. Maria / Aug 1 2009 4:00 pm

    Thank you!

  17. BJ / Aug 26 2009 8:47 am

    Um, did you read the disclaimer before you clicked that you accept it. They want to install spyware to monitor your activities and gather info about you. I don’t think so.

  18. Tahir Sanam(00923017629006 / Oct 4 2009 9:04 pm

    Dear creators
    Thank you so much to invent such a wonderfull
    themes,i am very happy to know about that all…

    • usman / Apr 12 2011 4:41 pm

      CELL: 7569828026

  19. hamlit / Nov 19 2009 3:53 pm

    can u show the way to hack the file it self (uxtheme.dll)

  20. seda / Jan 21 2011 10:48 pm

    cooolll, mann….thx a lot…..:D

  21. Hrvat89 / Jan 26 2011 3:22 am

    Thx mate it works great! I’m so happy 🙂

    I tried to change my theme for few months now.


  22. Annie / May 24 2011 8:55 pm

    Thanks for the info! I once had installed a transformation pack for my xp but now I just wanted to change my theme. I succeeded because of you.

  23. Trek / Jun 25 2011 10:49 am

    Thanks a lot this was really easy to follow.

  24. Trek / Jun 25 2011 10:51 am

    this was really easy to follow thank you 🙂

  25. YOUR MOTHER FUCKER / Dec 20 2011 1:27 pm


  26. kitchen sink repair Corona CA / May 19 2013 8:24 am

    What’s up all, here every one is sharing these experience, thus it’s pleasant to read this website, and
    I used to pay a quick visit this web site daily.

  27. jamnta / Oct 17 2015 2:03 pm
  28. gizmo / Nov 9 2015 4:52 am

    new theme xp super cool free


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