Dark themes are growing in popularity; from smartphone apps to computer operating systems, it’s harder than ever to find something that doesn’t provide some form of darkened offering.
Their benefits are easy to understand – less eyestrain, easier-to-read text, and well, they just look cool, don’t they?
Since its earliest days, Windows has let you customize a theme with your own color preferences – but what if you want someone to do the hard work for you?
Luckily, there are lots of awesome, ready-to-download dark themes out there, and more than enough to suit every taste and style. Here are five of the best:
How to Change the Theme
We’ve covered how to changes your Windows theme in the past, but here’s a quick refresher for anyone who’s forgotten.
First, either right-click on your desktop and select Personalize > Themes or head to Start > Settings > Personalization > Themes. Then choose Theme Settings and edit the necessary options.
1. Windows 10 Official Dark Theme
Microsoft has received criticism from some users for not including an official native dark theme. Yes, there are gaudy high-contrast options available, but there hasn’t been a pleasant, easy-on-the-eye option.
That’s all about to change with the Windows 10 anniversary update.
The update, which is scheduled to be released on August 2, will see a host of new features become available – including a system-wide dark theme. It has been possible to activate the theme via a registry hack for some time, but it will finally become available through the Theme Settings menu.
If you can’t wait until August, follow these steps:
- Open Run (either right click on Start > Run or press Windows key + R).
- Type RegEdit and press Enter.
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Themes\Personalize.
- Create a new DWORD value called AppsUseLightTheme with a value of 0.
- Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Themes\Personalize.
- Again, create a new DWORD value called AppsUseLightTheme with a value of 0.
- Restart your computer
Either delete the new registry entries or change their values to 1 to re-enable the light theme.
The “Dark / Grey Windows 10 – High Contrast” theme is available for download from DeviantArt.
Unlike some of the other themes on this list, it can be installed without using any third-party tools or editing any system files – thus making it great for users who want a hassle-free option.
The developer warns that due to Microsoft’s limited dark theme options he was forced to make it a high contrast theme. You’ll have to check whether or not it suits your needs.
To start using it, download the file and place it in [USERNAME]AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes.
3. Penumbra 10
Before proceeding, be aware that this is a Windows 10-only theme. If you’re reading this article trying to find themes for Windows 7 or 8, this won’t work for you.
It’s been designed to use neutral dark colors, so there won’t be any jarring contrasts or unpleasant colors anywhere on your screen.
The installation process is more complicated than the previous options. Before installing anything, make sure you’ve downloaded these three essential tools:
To get the theme up and running, firstly install the Open Sans font (included in the theme download). Then install UXThemePatcher, and finally, Ribbon Disabler.
Next, disable the ribbon using Ribbon Disabler, then move the contents of the theme’s Visual Style folder to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes.
Lastly, select the theme in Theme Settings.
(You might need to reboot your computer before getting it to work.)
You can further customize this theme by changing the Taskbar’s color and opacity. The tool is available for download on the theme’s DeviantArt page.
Once again, this is a Windows 10-only theme. Despite sharing the same name as its Windows 8 counterpart, it will not work on older versions of the operating system.
This is arguably the most complex to install. You will need four third-party apps before installing the main theme. They are:
Firstly, open OldNewExplorer and check the boxes next to Use Command Bar and Hide Up Button. Next, disable Show Status Bar in Classic Shell and import the includes XML file by following Classic Start Menu Settings > Backup > Load from XML.
Finally, install the Sans Semibold font (included in theme download) and the actual theme.
5. Ades Theme
Rather than going for total darkness, Ades Theme uses various tones of gray and introduces some color.
While it still requires a third-party tool, it’s easier than both Nocturnal and Penumbra to install. You will still need UXThemePatcher, but can otherwise download the file and put it straight into C:\Windows\Resources\Themes.
To make it look even better, install the developer’s associated icon pack. That’ll let you apply the cool icons you see in the image below.
Note – this theme will only work with Windows 10 Threshold 2 (build 10586) and later.
A Word of Warning
I hope this list has given you a small taste of the different ways you can customize your Windows computer. There are hundreds of themes out there, each of which will appeal to different people.
I’d love to hear which dark themes you use – do you prefer sticking with ones that don’t have complex installation processes, or are you happy to tweak everything in the name of customization?
As always, you can let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.