Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
Maybe you’re happy with Windows 10 overall, but wish it looked more like an older version of Windows. Whether you’re nostalgic for the past or prefer the navigation system of a previous version, you’ll be happy to know you can change the look of Windows 10.
We’ll show you how to make Windows 10 look like Windows 7, Windows XP, or even Windows 8. Here’s how.
First, Install Open Shell
Classic Shell was a longtime favorite Start menu replacement app for Windows. Because of its customization options, it was also a great way to make your version of Windows look like an older one. However, as of late 2017, the app is no longer in active development.
Thankfully, a group of volunteers maintains a successor, called Open Shell. Most of the tweaks we’ll discuss below rely on Open Shell, so make sure you’ve installed it before proceeding.
To open its options, search your Start menu for “open shell” and select Open-Shell Menu Settings. You should check the Show all settings box at the top so you can see all available preferences.
Download: Open Shell for Windows (Free)
How to Make Windows 10 Look Like Windows 7
As of January 2020, Microsoft will no longer support Windows 7. This marks the end of life for a beloved version of Windows. Here’s how to revive it with a Windows 7 look on your Windows 10 system.
How to Restore the Windows 7 Start Menu
On the Start Menu Style tab of Open Shell, select the Windows 7 style option. Below this, click the Select skin text that appears. In the Skin box, choose Windows Aero.
Now you’ll have a recreation of the way Windows 7’s Start menu looked and felt. Feel free to edit the Skin options per your preferences.
Get a Windows 7-Style Taskbar
Head to the Taskbar tab of Open Shell and check the Customize taskbar box so you can change options. While Open Shell doesn’t have a direct Windows 7 theme clone for your taskbar, the Glass option closely resembles it. Below in the options, you can adjust the opacity and color as you see fit.
Windows 7 fanatics may notice that this theme doesn’t perfectly recreate the Windows 7 taskbar. In particular, it doesn’t show the “glass pane” on all open apps. If you’re unsatisfied with this, take a look at StartIsBack instead. It’s a Start menu replacement like Open Shell that offers a Windows 7 taskbar style, as well as a built-in Windows 7 Start button.
You can try StartIsBack for free, but it costs $3.99 for the full version. This is well worth it if you want to recreate Windows 7 as closely as possible on Windows 10.
Download: StartIsBack ($3.99, free trial available)
Add the Windows 7 Start Button
If you’re not using StartIsBack as mentioned above, head to this Classic Shell forum post to download images of the Windows 7 Start button for Open Shell. Extract the ZIP file and you’ll see several sizes inside, which are useful depending on the size of your taskbar.
Now, on the Start Menu Style page of Open Shell, enable the Replace Start button box and pick Custom. Click the Pick image button and browse to the location where you just extracted those images. Pick the right size for your taskbar and click OK on the options page.
If you need to make adjustments, go to the Start Button tab in Open Shell. Here you can adjust the size, alignment, and other options.
Windows Aero Glass in Windows 10
Windows Aero Glass was a large aspect of Windows 7’s allure, but it’s no longer part of Windows 10. However, we’ve shown how to get the Aero Glass theme back on Windows 10. Follow those instructions to get the familiar feel of Windows 7 back.
Finally, Set a Fresh Windows 7 Wallpaper
You can’t feel like you’re using Windows 7 without the right wallpaper, right? Go ahead and download the default Windows 7 wallpaper from Imgur and set it as your desktop wallpaper for the final decoration.
You can go further with making Windows 10 look like Windows 7, such as restoring the old File Explorer layout or setting internet Explorer as the default browser instead of Edge. However, these are the advancements that make Windows 10 worth using, so we don’t recommend them in most cases.
The visual changes above should be more than enough to restore your love for Windows 7.
How to Make Windows 10 Look Like Windows XP
Next, let’s jump back to the beloved Windows XP. The operating system has been out of support since 2014, so you’re much safer using a Windows XP theme in Windows 10 than using the ancient and dangerous OS.
Before you continue, you’ll want to download and extract the Classic Shell XP suite from Winaero. This contains a few files that help you get a Windows XP theme on Windows 10. Remember where you extracted the file contents to, as you’ll need them shortly.
Create a Windows XP Start Menu
First, head to the Start Menu Style tab. Select the button labeled Classic with two columns, then click the Select skin link that appears below it. In the dropdown menu beside Skin, select Windows XP Luna.
This will give your Start menu a familiar look and feel. In the Skin options box, you can change a few additional options, such as changing the color, showing your user picture and name, and whether to show icons in the right column.
Configure the settings however you’d like and click OK when you’re done.
Use a Windows XP-Style Taskbar
Next, head to the Taskbar tab and check the Customize taskbar box. Click on Taskbar texture, then on the ellipsis (…) button next to it. You’ll then need to select a file. Head to where you saved the XP suite earlier and select the xp_bg file, which appears as a thin image.
After this, click on the Horizontal stretching option to activate the skin. We had the best results when we chose Stretch for both the Horizontal and Vertical stretching options. Click OK when you’re done, and Open Shell will use this template to re-skin your taskbar with the familiar blue hue.
To continue with the authentic Windows XP look, head to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar. Here, set the Combine taskbar buttons box to Never. This will replace Windows 10’s single-icon taskbar entries with full descriptions, just like Windows XP.
Finally, Grab the Windows XP Start Button
Now there’s just one element we’re missing: the Windows XP Start button. Luckily, Open Shell allows you to change this option as well. Head to the Start Button tab and click Replace Start button. Then click Custom button, followed by Button image and the ellipsis (…) button next to it.
From the files you exported earlier, select the image labeled XPButton (it looks like three buttons stacked up). Finally, you may need to use the Button size field to make sure it fits your taskbar properly.
Use the Timeless Windows XP Wallpaper
That’s everything you need to recreate the look of Windows XP on your Windows 10 system. As a finishing touch, grab a high-quality copy of the classic Bliss wallpaper to enjoy that calming green hill once more.
How to Make Windows 10 Look Like Windows 8.1
Most people don’t have fond memories of Windows 8. However, if you’re looking to revisit the look and feel of Windows 8 for some reason, the built-in options below can help.
Restore the Full-Screen Start Screen
Windows 10 brought back the familiar Start menu that only takes up a corner of the screen. If you want to go back to the full-screen setup that Windows 8 used, go to Settings > Personalization.
Select Start on the left sidebar. Here, enable the Use Start full screen option.
Now, when you open the Start menu, you’ll see an interface that takes up the entire screen. It’s not exactly the way Windows 8 worked, but is nice if you want more room for your app tiles.
If you like, you can also use Windows 10’s tablet mode to make apps always open in full-screen and enable the Start screen. To turn it on, press Win + A to open the Action Center, then select the Tablet mode tile to enable it. If you’re using a device without touch input, this might not work.
Set a Windows 8 Wallpaper
As with Windows 7 and Windows XP, a wallpaper can help you feel like you’re using an older Windows version. Grab the default Windows 8 wallpaper or the stock Windows 8.1 wallpaper to revisit the past.
Go Deeper With Omnimo and Rainmeter
Most of Windows 8’s distinct visual features, such as the Charms bar, can’t be recreated in Windows 10. However, if you want to go further than what we covered above, third-party options can provide a closer look and feel to Windows 8.
Omnimo is a complete Rainmeter package devoted to simulating the Windows 8 desktop. Simply install it and you can configure it as you see fit. If you’re not familiar with Rainmeter, have no fear. Our Rainmeter guide will help you get started.
While this package is limited to Rainmeter, you’d be hard-pressed to find an alternative as smooth and natural as Omnimo. Best of all, it’s completely free.
Going Back to Past Windows Loves
Now you know how to make Windows 10 look like Windows 7, Windows XP, or Windows 8. Whether to enjoy a stroll through memory lane, or to combine the familiarity of a past OS with the security of a modern one, you can tweak your desktop to match a prior version in no time.
For more like this, check out how to change the look and feel of your Windows desktop. You might consider changing Windows sounds to match an older version.