How To Make Windows 8 or 8.1 Look Like Windows 7 or XP

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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?

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. 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, 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, 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.

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. 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, 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. 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.

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