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Microsoft has long moved on from Windows XP, an operating system which launched a decade and a half ago. Though Windows 10 is now the latest and greatest, for some people XP cannot be beat. As such, we’re going to show you how to revive Windows XP on Windows 10.
Whether it’s bringing back XP features like the Quick Launch bar, making Windows 10 look like its younger sibling, or going all out and running XP in a virtual machine, there’s sure to be something here which will be a blast from the past.
If you have your own tips to share for having a bit of XP in 10, be sure to let us know in the comments.
1. Run XP Software
Software and games are designed to be compatible with specific operating systems. That’s great if the program is newer or still updated, but problematic if there’s something that was built for the XP days that you still want to run. This could be a bit of legacy enterprise software or maybe a retro game.
Windows is pretty good at backwards compatibility, but you’ll probably need to do some fiddling to get anything for XP to run. As a simple solution, try right-clicking the program and selecting Run as administrator.
On XP, users were usually administrators by default so such an option wasn’t necessary. Windows 10 has more stringent security measures in place, so you might find that this easy action will make the program run.
If not, right-click the program again and click Properties. On the window that opens, click the Compatibility tab and click Run compatibility troubleshooter. This will try to automatically detect and resolve problems.
Choose Try recommend settings and then Test the program… to see if the program launches properly. The troubleshooter will ask if the fix was successful: select Yes, save these settings for this program to that and close the troubleshooter. Select No, try again using different settings to work through a series of questions and their suggested solutions.
If that’s still not getting you anywhere, head back to the Compatibility tab and tick Run this program in compatibility mode for: and select the relevant Windows XP version from the drop-down menu.
You can then use the Settings section beneath to try out different options, like reduced color mode, a smaller resolution, or overriding DPI scaling. It’s worth playing around with all of these settings because it can be trial and error.
Still not getting anywhere? Check out our full guide to make your old games and software run in Windows 10.
2. Get the XP Look
Anyone who remembers Windows XP will probably first think of the famous blue color scheme. We can bring some of this back using a program called Classic Shell. Head to the website, download it, and launch the installer. When prompted, choose to install Classic Start Menu Settings.
Once installed, open Classic Shell and go to the Start Menu Style tab. Select either Classic style or Classic with two columns, depending on your preference. Then click Select skin… beneath.
From the Skin drop-down menu, select Windows XP Luna. You can also use the options below to customize the skin further, like switching between the various color options, icon and font size, and whether to display the user picture.
We’re well on our way to getting the XP look, but we can do more. Head over to Winaero and download their Classic Shell XP suite. This is a ZIP file that contains some images for further customization. Once downloaded, extract the files.
Back on Classic Shell, go to the Start Menu Style tab and tick Replace start button. Select Custom > Pick image…, browse to XPButton from the extracted ZIP, and double click it. If the Start button is the wrong size, click Advanced button options… > Button size and input 0.
Next, tick Show all settings and go to the Taskbar tab. Tick Customize taskbar and click … next to Taskbar texture. Browse to the extracted xp_bg file and double click it. Under Horiztonal stretching choose Tile. Note that this particular tweak might not work perfectly on more recent versions of Windows 10.
Finally, open the extracted ZIP folder, right-click the bliss file and Set as desktop background. Ta-da! It’s like you’re running Windows XP, but with all the features of Windows 10.
If you fancy even more tweaks, check our article on how to customize Windows 10 with Classic Shell.
3. Revive XP Features
Do you remember the Quick Launch toolbar in your taskbar? It was a staple Windows feature from 95 to XP and seemingly vanished thereafter. But you can actually bring it back in Windows 10.
To do so, right-click the taskbar, go to Toolbars, then click New toolbar…. Input this into Folder and press return twice:
%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
Next, right-click the taskbar and untick Lock the taskbar. You can now left-click and drag from the left of the Quick Launch toolbar to expand it out. Right-click Quick Launch and untick Show Text and Show title to get it to look like how it did on XP.
Finally, to customize the icons on your Quick Launch bar, press Win + R, input the folder path above and press return. You can then put shortcuts to files, folders, and programs here to have them appear on the taskbar.
If you want to check out some more old XP features, read our article revealing Windows XP traces inside Windows 10.
4. Run a Virtual Machine
There are many reasons to run a virtual machine and if you’re looking for the true Windows XP experience then it’s the only way to go. Virtulization is when you take your computer’s resources and collectively separate them into chunks to be read as separate systems.
As such, although you’re actually primarily running Windows 10, you can create a virtual machine that’s running Windows XP. Not only will give it give you the genuine and full XP experience, but it also won’t affect your main Windows 10 installation. Everything you do inside the virtualization will stay there.
The process to set this up isn’t as simple or quick as some of the tips outlined above, so check out our guide on how to set up a Windows XP virtual machine. It details all the software you need, along with how to obtain a legal copy of Windows XP from Microsoft. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully and you’ll be fine.
Blast From the Past
Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft from a security perspective, so we don’t recommend that you actually run it as your primary operating system, but there’s certainly no harm in bringing back some of its features and design to Windows 10.
If you are forced to use Windows XP (which often applies to long-time enterprise customers), be sure to see our guide about how to tweak Windows XP and keep it healthy for the future.
What tip do you have to revive XP in 10? Do you miss using XP?