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Love the speed and security of Windows 8, but miss the transparent look of Windows 7? Or maybe the blues and greens of Windows XP 5 Reasons Why You Love Windows XP & What You Sacrifice 5 Reasons Why You Love Windows XP & What You Sacrifice Nearly 30% of computers are still running Windows XP. It was a stable and reliable system for years, but all good things come to an end. Almost no good reasons to keep using Windows XP... Read More ?

Here’s how to make Windows 8, or even 8.1, look like your favourite version of Windows from the past.

1. Get A Start Menu

First things first: if you want an experience that’s anything like the Windows 7/XP you remember, you’re going to want a Start menu. Nothing makes your system feel less like a classic version of Windows than the modern (aka Metro) Start screen.

I recommend Classic Shell which, as I’ve noted before, offers you a variety of classic Start menus 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 . You’ll recognize the three main options:

classic-shell-options

You can choose themes for your menu, and use custom images as your Start button. As you’ll see below, this makes it really easy to get a Start menu that blends perfectly with the look and feel of Windows versions past.

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Oh, and with Classic Shell installed, Windows will boot straight to the desktop. You can just about ignore the Start screen completely.

If you’ve been paying attention to the features in the upcoming Windows 10 Will Windows 10 Make Productive People Even More Productive? Will Windows 10 Make Productive People Even More Productive? It's official, the new Windows will be a perfect 10. Why Windows 10? Because Windows 7 8 (ate) 9. And here is what you will find inside the Technical Preview. Read More , you know Microsoft is bringing back the Start menu. That’s a year away, though, so for now if you want a Start menu you need to add your own. There other ways to get a Windows 8 Start menu 2015!? No Way Microsoft! How To Get Your Windows 8.1 Start Menu Now 2015!? No Way Microsoft! How To Get Your Windows 8.1 Start Menu Now Windows 8 won't get a native Start Menu after all. But why wait on Microsoft? Here's how you can help yourself with third party tools like Classic Shell or Start8 and other workarounds. Read More , but for retro-skinning purposes I recommend Classic Shell.

2. Enable Custom Themes

Got Classic Shell installed? Good. Now let’s set up your computer so that it can use custom Windows themes Make Windows 8 Sexier With These Background & Theme Tweaks Make Windows 8 Sexier With These Background & Theme Tweaks Does your Windows 8 system look too bland with the default settings? You can customize it in a variety of ways, changing a variety of backgrounds and colors -- whether on the Start screen, lock... Read More .

There are two main programs out there for the job: UXStyle and UXThemePatcher. Both patch Windows 8 so that you can use custom themes – something Microsoft disables by default. I personally had better luck with UXThemePatcher, but your milage may vary.

skin-windows-8-ultrauxthemepatcher

Once you’ve patched Windows, you’ll need to restart your computer. Then we’ll get to the fun part.

3. Install Custom Themes

Once everything is patched, installing themes will be as easy as dragging them into the C:\Windows\Resources\Themes folder on your computer.

skin-windows-8-theme-folder

Once you’ve installed a theme, right-click your desktop and click “Personalize”. If you’ve patched everything properly, and installed extra themes, you should see new options. Just click an option to use it – it’s that easy.

Now that you know how to install and use themes, let’s check out some of your options.

Make 8 Look Like 7

If you want that Windows 7 look, check out Windows Aero by xxinightxxcreative.. With this you’ll barely notice you’re not using Windows 7:

windows-8-looks-like-windows-7

Set this up with a Windows 7 custom start button, then set Classic Shell just right, and it’s hard to tell which OS you’re using.

windows-8-looks-like-7-start

It’s the closest thing to the Windows 7 look you’re going to find.

Make 8 Look Like XP

More than a few of our readers were upset when Microsoft announced the end of support for Windows XP It's The End Of Days For Windows XP - Microsoft Will Send Pop-up Reminders It's The End Of Days For Windows XP - Microsoft Will Send Pop-up Reminders It's the end of the line for Windows XP. Microsoft is planning to use pop-up warnings to remind users to upgrade and it could start as soon as next week. Read More . Most simply didn’t want to install a new system, but a few miss the green and blue look of that operating system.

If you’re one of them, I recommend checking out Royal VS, which brings back that classic look.

windows-8-like-windows-xp

Grab the proper Start button for Classic Shell and you’ve got a pretty convincing XP setup.

windows-8-like-windows-xp-start

Like Classic Mode

Of course, back in the days of XP, many users turned off the green and blue theme in favour of Classic Mode. If you want that back, the Windows Clasic Theme is a close approximation of what you’re looking for.

windows-8-like-windows-classic

It’s not perfect, but it is simple. Combine it with the proper Start button and you can just about party like it’s 1999.

windows-8-like-windows-classic-start

Which Windows Look Will You Use?

So there you have it: how to make Windows 8 look like Windows 7 or XP. Part of me wishes Microsoft would offer this option by default, but I suppose they want more control over the look and feel of their product – and to give it a modern feel. Not so long ago we also showed you how to make Windows 7 look like Windows XP How To Make Windows 7 Look Like Windows XP How To Make Windows 7 Look Like Windows XP Some people have a hard time letting go of Windows XP. If you know someone like that, follow this tutorial and they won't even know you upgraded them to Windows 7. Read More , and now we can do the same thing with Windows 8. Windows is pretty flexible, thanks to third party tools – we hope this never changes.

Be sure to check out other features missing in Windows 8, and how to get them back 8 Features Missing in Windows 8 and How To Get Them Back 8 Features Missing in Windows 8 and How To Get Them Back Microsoft removed a variety of features from Windows 8. Many of them aren't great losses to most people, but they are if you depended on them. Luckily, Windows 8 isn't yet a locked-down mobile operating... Read More . Installing a theme is just the beginning.

Oh, and let me know: which Windows theme are you using? Did you find a nicer one than those outlined above? Let’s talk retro skinning in the comments below.

  1. ???
    February 24, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Classic theme just makes it like windows 2000!

    • Justin Pot
      February 24, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      I mean, there are differences, but it's close!

  2. Naji Al Tayf
    October 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    yep thanks a lot man.

  3. Lewis Graver
    August 17, 2015 at 12:20 am

    I have two questions if you wouldn't mind... Did installing the shell just cover up UI or did it replace it? I'd like my processing power back lol. And two, can you install the shell on a separate user or will it be system wide?

  4. Jack Gartley
    August 2, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I need help when I change the theme the tools at the top of the page disappear help me

  5. Kenny Smith
    July 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

    "Once everything is patched, installing themes will be as easy as dragging them into the C:\Windows\Resources\Themes folder on your computer."

    Drag into Themes folder from where?

    Or where is the folder with the dragable themes

    • Justin Pot
      July 30, 2015 at 1:04 am

      Wherever you downloaded them to, Kenny, I like to a few sources in the article.

  6. Noah Nichols
    July 10, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    He modifyed systen files, i think

  7. Stroma Sutton
    July 10, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you. Now I can actually use my computer without wanting to chuck it out the window.

    • Justin Pot
      July 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      That's good! Throwing your computer out the window will cause long-term problems, probably.

  8. jane555
    May 8, 2015 at 6:54 am

    i want to download windows 8.1 key. but i don't know what kind of it is true. i just search ^^^windows 8.1 key sale&&on bing. can you do me a favour to find the best.

    • Justin Pot
      July 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Dude! I'm not going to help you pirate Windows.

  9. Rocketvan
    May 1, 2015 at 11:59 am

    At home, I have all my XP and Win7 machines set to the 95/98 classic look with a bit of customizing. I never liked the default 'nana' theme of XP (big green button makes things go, big red button makes things stop), and the look of 7 never really appealed.

    • Justin Pot
      May 1, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Glad you got that classic look working, then!

  10. Xn
    April 16, 2015 at 5:39 am

    "Like classic windows" is bad solution because it is only "like". Here is a screenshot of real "Classic Windows" on windows 8.1. http://i61.tinypic.com/21ju3vq.jpg

    • Justin Pot
      May 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      Hey, where'd you get that theme?

  11. Dale
    March 22, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    I am still running XP. For all the doom and gloom of Microsoft not supporting XP, it still works well and does everything I need on a computer( communication and entertainment). When my computers die of natural causes I will upgrade the whatever the current operating system is. As far as themes go, the theme that each new operating system comes with has more to do with marketing then real improvement in usefulness. I will stick with the Classic theme that I am used too. Bells and whistles that slow down the system are a waste of resources in my opinion.

    • Justin Pot
      March 23, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      Just be careful: XP not getting security updates means every security update offered to 7 and 8 are basically a "how-to" manual for compromising your system.

  12. Kerry Le Blanc
    March 7, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Have Win 10 on my computer, sadly the start up menu is cluttered every program you have is on it, but all in all win 10 feels and looks more like xp. Now if they just bring back our ability to load desktop themes, there are so many nice ones out there. Doubt if I ever go back to either win 7 or 8.

    • Justin Pot
      March 9, 2015 at 1:06 am

      I bet theming will come to Windows 10 eventually, it just won't be official. Enjoy the cutting edge operating system!

  13. pdullea
    January 20, 2015 at 8:59 am

    classic xp look is great for people that actually need to do work rather then waste time with the scatter brained 8.1 mess. Time is money!!

    • Justin Pot
      January 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Some people like it! But I'm hoping Windows 10 improves things a lot. For now, at least there are ways to make 8 workable for everyone.

  14. NT
    January 2, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Is there a way to make W8 email look like W7 email - i.e. don't have to run off page on top, side or bottom to bring up task bars?

    • Justin Pot
      January 2, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      If there is, I haven't found it. Sorry.

  15. Jiri
    December 18, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Not to mention the nonsensical, chaotic folder structure since Vista. Why can't a program have all the files, including profiles, savegames, screenshots, etc. in the same folder, instead of being spread over a thousand folders that never get cleared out when the program is uninstalled. I keep finding files from software I uninstalled years ago...

  16. Jiri
    December 18, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Been using the Win98 look for 15 years. WinXP with Classic Theme is the best combo ever. Win8 is just rubbish. Every new version of Windows makes me hate Microsoft more and more for making my life difficult, to the point of needing third party software (ClassicShell) to be able to use the old-school, perfectly functional, simple and user-friendly work environment.

  17. Dave
    December 8, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Bring back NT4 !

  18. Danila
    December 5, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Good day. Thanks for this article. I have done all steps but I get invalid borders. Please help me. Screenshots:http://imageshack.com/a/img909/7262/qfGQ64.png
    http://imageshack.com/a/img673/3439/WAKoZQ.png

    • Justin Pot
      December 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Hey! I can't tell what I'm looking at based on these screenshots, can you upload some bigger ones maybe?

  19. Dell
    November 24, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Thank you for this article, and to say to the people that's an old versus young or people who love the new versus people adverse to change is nonsense, I'm a techie and work in IT and also life the new. But I could not do my job using it Windows 8 as it was period, PC users and those that use for work do more than surf the net, look at photos, be on social media all day, etc etc. As for the live tiles, I am continually fixing friends devices as they have unknowingly dragged tiles on top of one another, also there is the issue in running multiple apps and programs, its pure nuts for a work pc, when I'm working I can have over 20 different software programs running like Putty, Work email Tool, RDP, Office etc and various documents, try doing that with the so called multitasking, its juts pure nuts.

  20. Syed Naimath
    November 13, 2014 at 7:17 am

    I went with the Windows Aero Rounded [Default] theme. Looks great. Thanks! :)

  21. Syed Naimath
    November 12, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Just found this article at the right time. I upgraded my Laptop but didn't want the Windows 8 feel. I think we still have some more time before we get used to adapting to change. The Windows 8 feel wasn't bad but the fact that we have been used to the Start Menu for years makes it a lot difficult to adapt, I guess.

    Anyway, thanks for this post, Justin.

    • Justin Pot
      November 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Glad I could help, Syed! Which skin did you go with?

  22. Kittie
    November 11, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for this assist. I work with seniors with their cellphones, computers & tablets. Unfortunately for them, sometimes their younger family members try to rush them in to new technology before they're ready to deal with it (while some may never be ready for it). This little fix here ought to save me a battle with a stubborn son & help his 80+ year old mom still be able to get her e-mail!

    • Justin Pot
      November 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      I'm really glad I could help! Thanks so much for leaving this note, it means a lot to us. :)

  23. kneistonie
    November 6, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    The EULA of Windows 10 will have a paragraph in which you will agree to the fact that Microsoft will have the right to monitor all what you click, write, hear and see, encrypted or not.

    #justsaying

    • Justin Pot
      November 7, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      I believe that was for the open beta, and that the tracking is part of what's going to make the beta useful for them. But I could be wrong, do you have a link to share on this? I'd be interested.

  24. John Williams
    November 6, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Windows 8.1 Pro x64 with Classic Shell set to Classic Mode, then:
    System Properties > Performance Settings > Visual Effects >
    Adjust for best performance. This turns off most of the bells and whistles in one or two clicks.

    When you run a video editing or similar program - all the computer resources that MS hijacked to make the OS look pretty are available for the running programs . It can make 4-5 year old processors run like an modern i5 machine.

    Let's face it, once my browser, Word and editing program are running I don't even see the tricky visual desktop effects all my working day.

  25. Jonas Hermansen
    November 6, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Well personally I always prefer the new and modern, no matter what. Of course sometimes you'll miss something that you're used to, but I always find a way to ignore the bad things and enjoy the new and good things. :-)

    • Medveedah Octonbarh
      December 13, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Wow, that's super special. I wish I was like you.

    • Charles C
      December 23, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      That's nice enough if you're a child with nothing important to do, and your PC and everything on it is just a way to occupy your time, but there are people who have actual work they have to get done. For those of us in that boat, time spent getting one's tools set up to where one can work is time one is not earning his keep. You'll understand someday.

      I hope.

  26. Eddie Orlofsky
    October 11, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Classic Shell is outstanding I love it! Microsoft made a mistake putting Live Tiles crap in Start Menu, they should have just acquired Classic Shell and hired the guys who would fix the rest of the broken OS for them.

    • Tina
      October 13, 2014 at 9:57 am

      The good news is, Classic Shell does run on Windows 10. :)
      http://www.classicshell.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3213

    • Justin Pot
      October 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Is there a way to turn live tiles off in the Windows 10 start menu, I wonder?

    • Tina
      November 6, 2014 at 10:52 am

      @Justin, you can remove all live tiles on the Start Menu and it will look like they were never there; just as good as disabling them.

  27. Anuj Pandey
    October 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Meh, Windows 8.1 looks lot better I would rather wait for MS to bring it back then to install pseudo looks.

    • Tina
      October 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Some people love the retro look of Windows XP or Windows 7. Each to their own.

  28. Fahad Ahammed
    October 8, 2014 at 3:47 am

    I will obviously go with XP look... :)

    • Justin Pot
      October 9, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Why is that obvious? :)

    • Fahad Ahammed
      October 9, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      Actually that XP-look is cool... at least to me. Windows 8.1 are much more over-colored than usefulness and xp looks familiar... :P

  29. Imran Ali
    October 8, 2014 at 2:17 am

    Good article, the change in user interface for Microsoft products like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows have attracted many users and might even have made things easier but for many users who knew exactly one way of doing things suffer a lot. I came across so many people looking for start menu in windows 8, the problem is not limited to users with limited skills and know how, even people who regularly trouble shoot windows find it difficult to locate various components.

    • Justin Pot
      October 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Happily the start menu is coming back for Windows 10, but I'm sure we'll hear people complaining about not being able to find the Smart Screen when that happens.

      Just kidding. No one will say that.

  30. firstclass
    October 7, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Good for people who cant' move forward. I prefer Windows 10 look.

    • Justin Pot
      October 9, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      I'm looking forward to the Windows 10 look as well, but some people prefer the designs they're comfortable with.

    • Andy r
      October 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      What comes after something is not always "moving forward".

      Discerning people often turn their nose up at fashionable trends, and rightly so - when you consdier fashion has given us such monstrosities as flares, or jeans which sag down at the back like a builder's backside.

    • John Wick
      October 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Thomas Kuhn established in The Structure of Scientific Revelations that the linear conceptualization of scientific progress, in this case the science being computer science, is not accurate. In the case of Windows 8/8.1, Microsoft let function follow form, evidenced by the swathes of wasted space in the Metro UI and the inability to access all relevant settings for anything from the same desktop environment. Linux has successfully managed to have productive spaces similar to the Metro environment for years now, but because the developers were concerned precisely with functionality they work far better. The look is irrelevant, criticizing someone for that is as dumb as criticizing them for drinking a different soda than you. However, the function was undoubtedly lost in 8.1. Once that is restored, however (I personally use Start8), the environment opens up significantly and if someone would like to alter the form, power to them. The underpinnings 8.1 are definitely stronger in terms of boot, file copy, battery life in laptops, and gaming performance, but the implementation was terrible and it's great that there are people such as the author of this article that tries to make it easy for others to fix that.

    • Clive
      December 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      I think FIRSTCLASS's sneer "Those who can't move forward" is utter rubbish.
      1 - First, let the Giant MS wait long enough to get just one of their OS's completely right before moving on to yet another half-right system.
      2 - Next, as computer technology advances in terms of speed, capacity, etc, I want these advantages for myself and not to have it all gobbled up by childish "advances" which move us "forward".
      3 - All we ever needed was XP+SP3 plus fixes to whatever bugs weren't corrected in SP3. Then the extra computer speed would work for me, not keep a room full of long-haired adolescents in a job making their software appeal increasingly to child-like illiterates like FIRSTCLASS - and maybe all of you twits out there.
      4 - In short, I want to be in charge of my own computer, not be led through such channels as the aforesaid adolescents wish to ordain.
      5 - Maybe I should take the time and make the effort to convert to LINUX MINT. Who needs all this MS rubbish anyway.
      Most sincerely, Clive.

    • Nick
      February 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      In response to firstclass's "Good for people who cant’ move forward" I should say that nearly all PCs I have seen in research institutes or universities used for any serious work use Windows 7 or XP. There was never that kind of response with previous versions of Windows. This has only really happened with Windows 8.

      Besides, I have had Windows 8 on a laptop for nearly two years and I do not think I have yet found any use for whatever is on the Start screen. Users should have the freedom to choose not to have to go through that to get to the desktop.

      Thanks for the helpful article.

    • Justin Pot
      February 18, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      Nick: did research institutions not skip Vista? I was under the impression they did...

    • A
      February 25, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      firstclass, do you know the first thing about computers?

    • Josh
      April 12, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Thank you for this post, windows 8.1 is nearly garbage to me, but with just the menu added, and not changing the theme, this computer is 100X better than it was before.

    • Justin Pot
      April 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      Really glad you found a way to make Windows work better for you, Josh.

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