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I recently suggested that users looking to jump ship from Windows XP should consider a Mac instead Windows XP Refugees: Have You Considered A MacBook Air Yet? Windows XP Refugees: Have You Considered A MacBook Air Yet? Users of Windows XP (and, to a lesser extent, Windows Vista and 7) have an unhappy upgrade path ahead of them. Maybe it's time to ditch Windows entirely and pick up a MacBook Air instead. Read More . While I still think it’s a good idea, plenty of readers called me crazy; not everyone wants to learn to fly by jumping off a cliff. Those who want something more familiar can always turn to Windows 7 instead 4 Cheap Ways To Obtain A Legal Copy Of Windows 7 4 Cheap Ways To Obtain A Legal Copy Of Windows 7 It seems like Microsoft is hitting the nail with Windows only every other version. Windows 7 was one of them. Thing is, Microsoft doesn't sell Windows 7 anymore. Here are your options. Read More , and you can make it look almost identical to Windows XP with a few quick modifications.

Step 1: Download The Luna Theme

The default look that most Windows XP users are familiar with is the Luna theme. This includes the blue taskbar and the desktop background of grassy, rolling hills.

lunatheme

Windows 7 does not include this theme, but you can grab it from DeviantART, where a user named Satukoro has put together a popular re-creation. You can’t use the .zip file yet, though, so set it aside for now.

Step 2: Download Universal Theme Patcher

Now you have the Luna theme, but Windows 7 does not fully support third-party themes by default. To use it you need another program called Universal Theme Patcher. You can grab this from Theme Bin, TCP-Z and a few other websites. Many other websites hosting this utility try to install adware Keep Your PC Clean of Ads And Viruses With Lavasoft Ad-Aware+ Free [Windows] Keep Your PC Clean of Ads And Viruses With Lavasoft Ad-Aware+ Free [Windows] I continue suggesting to everyone that running Ad-Aware is a good idea. It doesn't necessarily have to be run exclusively as the only anti-virus software, but I've found that the Ad-Aware team has done a... Read More alongside it, so be careful what you click.

Step 3: Install Universal Theme Patcher

Opening the UTP zip file What’s The Best File Compression Method? MakeUseOf Tests Zip, RAR & More What’s The Best File Compression Method? MakeUseOf Tests Zip, RAR & More File compression is an important and common task users frequently ask of their computers. Reducing a file’s size makes it easier to email or place on a flash drive. It also reduces bandwidth usage and... Read More  will present you with two executables. One will have x86 in its file name, the other x64. Remember that x86 is for 32-bit Windows installations, while x64 is for 64-bit installations. Install whichever is appropriate for your PC.

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universalthemepatcher

The installer will present a window telling you what version of Windows you’re using and how many files need to be patched. Click Yes to continue.

Now you’ll see an interface with three sections. Each lists a file that must be patched. Click each patch button, and then restart your computer.

Step 4: Install The Theme Files

Now find the Luna theme .zip you downloaded and open it. Also open Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes. Copy the files from the zip folder’s themes folder into the \Themes directory.

installlunatheme

Right-click any empty space on your desktop and open Personalize. In the window that opens you should see a new Installed Themes category, which includes Luna and Luna Aero. Pick Luna for that pure XP look.

Step 5: Adjust The Taskbar

That’s more like XP! But wait – you’re not done. There are some things that the theme won’t change, and we need to fix them, beginning with the taskbar.

Right-click the taskbar, click Properties, then change the following options in the window that opens.

Use small icons: Turn on

Taskbar buttons: Set to Never combine.

Notification area: Customize so that most icons are turned off, or adjust to your preference.

taskbar

Apply those changes and close the window. You’ll now see a taskbar that’s very similar to Windows XP. Some icons may linger because they’re pinned, but you can remove them by right-clicking the icon and then hitting Unpin this program from taskbar.

Step 6: Download And Install Classic Shell

To finish up the changes, you’ll once again have to move beyond the default options. Fortunately there’s a program called Classic Shell Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 usable for people who think it's not. Add a start menu to the desktop and tweak the way Explorer and Internet Explorer behave, all thanks to a piece of software called Classic... Read More that can change core interface features. Go to the Classic Shell website, download, and then install it. This should be simple; there’s no x64 version or adware to worry about.

Step 7: Change Start Menu Style To Luna

Open the Classic Shell Menu Settings application. When you do so, you’ll see the Start Menu Style tab selected. Begin by selecting the Classic with two columns option.

classicshellskin

Now go to the Skin tab. Click the drop-down option and selection Windows XP Luna. The skin applies automatically when you select it. You can play with a few other options, like turning user name on or off. I’ll leave those up to your preference.

Step 8: Change The Start Button

Now you’re close. You may notice that the Windows 7 start button remains and Classic Shell doesn’t provide an XP look-alike. Don’t worry. Check out the Classic Shell Forums and download the XP-style start buttons provided by the community. Save the image to your download folder or some other familiar location.

replacestartbutton

Now open the Start Button tab in the Classic Shell Menu Settings application, click the Custom radio  button option, and then click […] next to Button image. Navigate to where you saved the XP-style Start image and select it.

Step 9: Change The Look Of Windows Explorer

You’re almost done. Open the Classic Explorer Settings utility (it’s in the same folder as Classic Shell Menu Settings). In the resulting window you’ll see the Windows XP Classic option at the top. Select that.

windowsexplorer

Personally, I find this setting’s default buttons to be unrealistically large, so I suggest hitting the Show all settings checkbox. This will reveal a number of tabs, one of which is Toolbar Settings. Open that, then un-check the Big buttons box.

Now click OK to exit the utility. Close Windows Explorer 3 Advanced Tips & Tricks For Using Windows Explorer 3 Advanced Tips & Tricks For Using Windows Explorer Windows Explorer is the default Windows file manager. Last week I introduced you to 3 easy ways to improve Windows 7 Explorer by tweaking features and using it to its full potential. In this article,... Read More (if it’s already open) and then re-open it to see your changes.

Step 10: Enjoy Sweet Victory!

If you’ve followed these steps precisely, you’ll end up with an incarnation of Windows 7 that’s strikingly similar to Windows XP. You’ll find there’s surprisingly little compromise to this approach. The revised start menu, taskbar and Explorer should be smooth and stable.

You can further customize your experience by dinking around in Classic Shell. Your imagination is the limit, as the tool lets you change font sizes, spacing, button size, button type, and much more. These settings can be used to further emulate XP or to customize Windows to your liking.

Do you think Windows 7 looks good in XP’s skin? Let us know in the comments!

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