How to Install Windows 10 Custom Themes
Using a Windows 10 theme is the quickest way to customise your PC. A theme can contain custom sounds, wallpapers, color adjustments as well as other personalization tweaks. So far, Microsoft didn’t go crazy about letting us customise Windows 10 however we want. Sure, a lot of those restrictions were imposed for security reasons, but geeks will always find ways to tinker with how Windows looks and behaves.
Microsoft does not officially support 3rd party themes unless they are digitally signed by them. It’s somewhat understandable since people might embed them with malware and spread it across the internet. However, users have found ways to bypass Microsoft’s limitation and install third-party themes n Windows 10.
If you want to stay on the official site, I’m sorry to break it to you, but most Microsoft-supported themes are nothing short of boring. It’s true that the selection on their website got better lately, but they severely limit the customizations that can be done by UI designers. If you’re looking for something really special, independent design websites like DeviantArt have superior Windows 10 themes in terms of aesthetics.
Are you in the market for a customized Windows 10 theme? Then you got some choices to make. You either stay official and install a Microsoft theme, or you take the long route modify your computer to allow the installation of non-Microsoft themes. Keep in mind that Microsoft themes are extremely easy to install, while 3rd party themes will require you to take extra steps with a minimal amount of risk.
To make it easier for you, we created two guides below that will cover both the official(Method 1) and the unofficial way(Method 2). Let’s see how you can customize your Windows 10 look.
How to Install Microsoft Themes on Windows 10
If you’re after the quickest way of installing a Windows 10 theme, Microsoft has hundreds of different options neatly grouped into intuitive categories. You can browse all of them by visiting this website. The installation is extremely easy, but here’s a quick guide, just in case you get confused:
- Visit Microsoft’s website and browse for a theme. Don’t settle for just the Featured themes category, as a lot of good themes aren’t present there. If you use a dual monitor, select a theme from the Panoramic category.
Note: Keep in mind that this website is exclusively designed for Window 10 themes. Installing them on an older Windows version won’t work.
- Once you decide on a theme, click the Download button under it and wait for the process to complete.
- Open the .themepack file and wait for the theme to unpack.
- Now right-click anywhere on your desktop and click Personalize.
- Go to Themes, click on the theme that you’ve just unpacked and click Use Custom Theme.
That’s it. The Microsoft theme you previously downloaded is active.
Note: Another way to apply a Microsoft-certified theme is to go to Settings > Themes and click on Get more themes in the Store (under Apply a theme). This will open up a Microsoft Store window with a limited selection of Windows 10 themes. But the theme selection in Microsoft Store is very limited when compared to the first method.
How to Install Non-Microsoft Themes on Windows 10
If you want to apply third-party themes, you’ll need to patch your system first. The DeviantArt community is filled with fancy third-party themes, but they are not as easier to install. To use them, you’ll have to spend a few minutes tinkering with your system.
Keep in mind that tinkering with system files can be dangerous and precaution methods should be taken. In order to eliminate every potential risk, we strongly advise you to start this process by creating a system restore point. If something goes terribly wrong, you’ll be able to save your Windows installation with minimal effort.
The software used to modify the stuff required to allow 3rd party themes is called UltraUXThemePatcher. The good news is, the software has reached a stage where it’s stable for the vast majority of users. The installer will automatically back up the original system files. So if anything goes wrong after the installation, uninstalling UltraUXThemePatcher will revert your system to the original behavior.
Note: Installing this application might lead to unexpected problems that might not be resolved by uninstalling UltraUXThemePatcher. To eliminate this risk, I strongly advise you to start with Step 1 where we create a system restore point.
Step 1: Creating a System Restore Point
- Access the search bar in the bottom-left corner. Search for “restore” and click on Create a Restore point.
- Under System Protection, click on Create.
- Name your restore point and click on Create.
- Wait until the restore point is created. Do not start with Step 2 until the process is complete.
Step 2: Compatibility Checks
Before you let UltraUXThemePatcher modify important system files, it’s extremely important to verify if the software is compatible with your Windows version is supported. Here’s what you need to do:
- Press Windows Key + R, type “winver” and press Enter.
- Find out your Windows 10 version. You can leave the About window open for further references.
- Visit this link, go to the About section and see if your version of Windows 10 is supported by UltraUXThemePatcher. If it is, you can proceed safely to Step 3.
Step 3: Installing UltraUXThemePatcher
- Visit this link and download the latest version of UltraUXThemePatcher. Scroll down to the Download section and download the latest version.
- Right-click on the UltraUXThemePatcher executable and click on Run as Administrator.
- Follow through with the installation instructions, then hit the Install button.
- Reboot your system to allow the changes to take effect.
Step 4: Using 3rd party Windows themes
Now that you’ve successfully patched your system files, you can use 3rd party themes from websites like DeviantArt. Some premium themes are paid only, but you can find a decent amount of freebies. Here’s a quick guide on how to apply them to your system:
- Download a 3rd party theme from a website like DeviantArt. Keep in mind that most custom 3rd party themes will only work on certain Windows 10 builds. Before you apply it to your system, check out the Description section to find if yours is supported.
- Unpack the theme and make sure to copy the folder specifically designed for your Windows 10 build.
- Paste the theme folder in C:\ Windows \ Resources \ Themes.
- Now, right-click an empty space on the desktop, select Personalize > Themes and scroll down just under Apply a theme. You should be able to see the 3rd party theme.
- Select the theme, then click on Use custom theme to enable it on your system.
The Themes setting includes settings to customize elements of the Windows visual style, including the window glass color, desktop background, and brand icon.
To customize the Windows default theme, you must include the settings: DesktopBackground and ThemeName. You may also optionally include the settings: BrandIcon, UWPAppsUseLightTheme, and WindowColor.
In addition to customizing the Windows default theme, you can also create additional custom themes using .theme files. See instructions in the MSDN topic: Creating and Installing Theme Files. Theme files can’t be used as the Windows default, however, users can choose to apply one of your custom themes from their Personalization settings if desired.
|BrandIcon||Specifies the path to a graphic file that is incorporated in the theme preview in the user’s Personalization settings.|
|CustomDefaultThemeFile||This setting is deprecated. To customize the Windows default theme, simply define the DesktopBackground and ThemeName settings. You may also optionally include the settings: BrandIcon, ScreenSaver, UWPAppsUseLightTheme, and WindowColor. Note: While you can add additional custom themes to a Windows installation using a .theme file, .theme files can no longer be used as the default theme. Only the elements listed here can be customized in the Windows default theme.|
|DesktopBackground||Specifies the path to a graphic file that is used for the desktop background.|
|ScreenSaver||Specifies the path to a screen-saver file. Note: This setting is now removed. Lockscreen features and policies are preferred over using ScreenSaver. We recommend using automatic power plans to dim the screen. This can help reduce system power consumption.|
|ThemeName||Specifies the name of the customized Windows default theme.|
|UWPAppsUseLightTheme||Specifies whether dark mode is applied to UWP apps. By default, the classic Windows color mode (light theme) is used.|
|WindowColor||Specifies the color of the window borders and the color of various other elements in the system, most notably colors in the Start menu, common controls, active-underline for open apps in the taskbar, and Quick Action tiles in the notification area.|
Valid Configuration Passes
For a list of the supported Windows editions and architectures that this component supports, see Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup.
The following XML output shows how to set a customized theme.
How To Change Theme in Windows 10 (All Ways)
Windows 10 supports themes which may include custom desktop backgrounds, sounds, mouse cursors, desktop icons, and an accent color. There are a number of methods you can use to change a theme in Windows 10. Let’s review them all.
In Windows 10, you can get extra themes using Windows Store or install them from a themepack file. Themes may include:
- Desktop background: An image, a set of images, or a solid color which can be used as a wallpaper.
- Colors. Windows 10 allows changing the color of the window frame, window borders, active elements and selected items.
- Sounds. A set of sounds that are assigned to various events like notifications, message dialogs, window operations, emptying the Recycle Bin, and so on.
- Screen Saver. Screen savers were created to save very old CRT displays from being damaged by issues like screen burn-in. These days, they are mostly used to personalize the PC with entertaining visuals or improve its security with additional password protection.
- Pointers. By default, Windows 10 comes with no custom cursors bundled and uses the same cursors as Windows 8. Users who love customizing their OS may want to change them.
- Desktop Icons. Themes can change icons like This PC, Recycle Bin, and so on.
Where Windows 10 stores themes
Windows 10 stores themes under different folders.
- Themes that you’ve installed manually, saved, or synced from your Microsoft account are stored in the folder %LocalAppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Themes .
- Default themes are the ones that come pre-installed with Windows 10. They can be found in the folder C:\Windows\Resources\Themes .
- High Contrast Themes. — Themes that make items on your screen easier to see. They are part of the Ease of Access feature of Windows 10. They can be found in the folder C:\Windows\Resources\Ease of Access Themes .
The current theme can be found in the Registry. See the CurrentTheme string (REG_SZ) value under the following key:
See the following screenshot:
To change the theme in Windows 10, do the following.
- Open the Settings app.
- Go to Personalization ->Themes.
- On the right, click on a theme you like under Apply a theme.
- The theme is now applied.
Alternatively, you can use the classic Control Panel applet to quickly apply a custom theme, or any of the default themes, or the High Contrast theme.
Change the theme in Windows 10 using the Control Panel
- Press the Win + R keys on the keyboard.
- Type or copy-paste the following command in the Run box: explorer.exe shell.
- This will open the classic Personalization applet. Click on the desired theme in the list to install it.
Apply a High Contrast theme using Settings
- Open the Settings app.
- Go to Ease of Access -> High Contrast.
- On the right, set the option Turn on high contrast.
- From the Choose a theme drop down list, choose one of the four pre-installed High Contrast themes.
Finally, you can apply a theme from a file manager app like File Explorer.
Change the Windows theme from File Explorer
- Open File Explorer app.
- Navigate to the folder which contains the *.theme file of the theme you want to apply. The default folders are mentioned in the beginning of this article. e.g., visit the folder C:\Windows\Resources\Themes .
- Double-click on the *.theme file to apply the theme. The theme will be applied. Also, Windows 10 will open the Themes page of the Settings app.
Change your theme with Winaero Theme Switcher
Winaero Theme Switcher is an application which allows you to change a Windows theme from the command line. It is primarily intended to be used with the command prompt or in a batch file where you want to automate the applying of a custom theme.
The syntax is as follows:
To apply one of the default themes, you can run the following command:
Running the app without parameters will open the following GUI.
Please refer to the following article to learn useful tips and tricks about this app:
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About Sergey Tkachenko
Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer from Russia who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.