This, contrary to the title of this article, is not an article about Windows. This is an article about Ricing Windows.
Windows needs no introduction, as it has introduced itself countless times in the past.
Notice: Windows 11 has come out and there’s a bit of a problem. Is what I wrote here applicable on Win11? I don’t really know, since I don’t have it installed.
Maybe I’ll figure something out in the future, but for now this is all a big blurry area. Make use of tips at your own risk.
Ricing (customising) windows is far easier than most people realise. In fact, InstallGentoo (a wiki run by /g/) doesn’t realise how easy it is either.
Now, does that mean it’s easier than ricing linux? That really depends on what you mean by “easier”.
I’m of the opinion that yes, it is easier but it doesn’t give you as much freedom. So basically, what you can change is much easier to change… but you can’t change practically everything like on Linux.
That being said, let’s move on.
When most people think of changing the theme on windows… they think of how it’ll change the wallpapers and colours. The kinds of themes I’m talking about though, change far far more.
Here are some examples of different themes (You’ll have to open the images to see the differences):
These kinds of themes can’t be installed right away. First you’ll need to install a patcher.
Currently, there are only 2 available.
I recommend SecureUxTheme over UltraUxTheme as UltraUx modifies system files. So if you install a theme not for your version, it can end up breaking the OS. This isn’t a problem for SecureUx.
In this context, “version” doesn’t mean “Windows 7” or “Windows 10”. Rather, it means the specific version of Windows you’re on. These are typically “1903” “2004” “20H2”. To find out what version you have, press the “Win” and “R” keys at once. Then type in “winver” and press enter.
The right shows an image of the window that should pop up.
The version is important for 2 reasons.
First, if you decided to go for UltraUx, you’ll need to install the version of UltraUx for your version of Windows.
Second, themes are usually designed for a specific version (this is due to incompatibilities from version to version).
However, themes designed for 1903, 1909, 2004 and 20H2 all work on the next version (1903 themes work on 1909 to 20H2 and themes for 2004 work for 20H2). So if the theme has any of those numbers there and you’re on 20H2, you don’t have to worry about it.
Themes can be found on DeviantArt. Yes, really.
Most of the big theme designers upload their themes to DeviantArt. Just search “Windows theme” and you’ll have a bunch turn up.
Alternatively you can also download themes from VirtualCustoms, 7themes.su and CleoDesktop. CleoDesktop offers paid themes only, so that sucks.
If you just want a site that sifts through DeviantArt for you, there’s Windows Customization. It keeps up-to-date on the latest theme updates too.
When installing a theme, you’ll notice it clashes with the rest of the OS’ design. This becomes very obvious if you use any UWP applications.
My only hint here is to stick to themes that maintain the default look at least a little.
Changing icons varies depending on what icons you want to change.
These are the easiest, you just right click on them and open properties.
Folders have a “customize” tab and contained therein is a button labelled “change icon”. Icons have to be in a .ico format.
Shortcuts have a “change icon” button in their properties.
To change the default Folder icon, follow this guide.
Unfortunately, it only works properly if you have thumbnails turned off. However, there is a way to have it affect that as well - I just don’t know how yet.
There are ways to change other system icons as well. However, I do not have the energy to find every guide for every kind of icon just yet.
To change the icon of some software, you need to open it in Resource Hacker. Then you simply navigate to the “Icon Group” section. Then click on “Action” (in the menu) and there should be an option to replace the icon. Then just pick an icon of your choice.
It doesn’t always work and I haven’t figured out why.
Install a program called Types. After that, it’s as simple as right-clicking on a filetype and clicking “Edit Filetype”.
Sometimes you’ll find either iPacks or 7tsp icon packs. I haven’t used either, but I do think they work.
Just be sure to make a system restore point before you change the pack.
These go through the previous steps themselves (with the exception of programs) so you don’t have to bother with changing system icons manually.
Install Winaero Tweaker and navigate to the fonts section.
Winaero Tweaker includes a bunch of other options too that are worth checking out.
Don’t forget to pick a font that covers most of the languages you speak, cause it will break something otherwise.
Some software also breaks when you do this, so be careful.
There might be an alternative to the above with, potentially, none of the downsides.
However, I have yet to actually test this to see if it is one or not. When I do, I’ll add it in here.
If you want something fancier than just a picture as your wallpaper… then you’re in luck.
If you don’t like the default Windows desktop shell… you can replace it.
There are currently only 3 that matter:
Installation is fairly simple.
Besides them, there’s also Open-Shell which allows you to customize the taskbar and start menu. Even if you switch to an alternative shell, I recommend installing this because it has a few extra neat features.
Do you, like me, enjoy Aero design? Do you also want it on Windows 10+?
Unfortunately, there isn’t
much anything you can actually do.
This one is only available for version 1607 and 1703-1909. It also doesn’t work very well unless you donate. As it’s not for the latest versions… it’s also effectively abandoned.
Link to site and download here.
This doesn’t give it to you, but makes windows more transparent. If you use AquaSnap it gets a little fucky. It’s also really old… but if it works, it works.
Link to site and download here.
This is currently the only functional alternative and it happens to cost money. It also happens to be another way to have custom themes on Windows.