Last night I was feeling particularly nostalgic and I decided to try and make my Windows 8.1 computer look like Windows XP. It turns out this is a fairly simple, though somewhat lengthy process that uses free software. This process will also work on Windows 7.
If you want to do the same on your computer, follow these steps carefully:
1. Get the old start menu back
This can be accomplished using a program called Classic Shell. After installing, just open the settings and choose classic style. At this point you do not have the proper start button, so just choose Aero. We will fix this in the next step.
Next, under the skin tab, choose a theme from the drop down menu. I went with the classic Windows XP Luna Blue theme, but you can choose another and still achieve a classic look. You can also adjust many options from the various tabs, so feel free to have a look.
2. Download an XP Theme
The best theme I could find is available at Windows XP 4 Life. The first step is downloading the Theme Patcher. At the site choose either Windows 8 or 7 depending on which version you are running. It is important to install the correct version, so pay close attention. After downloading, install the patcher and restart your computer.
Next, choose from the available themes. After downloading the theme, unzip to your Windows\Resources\Themes directory. Then right click the desktop and select “Personalize.” The theme you just installed should be available. Select it and you are one step closer to an XP look.
Now you can make your start button look like XP’s too. On the same site, download the .zip file of start buttons, then go back to the Classic Shell settings menu. Under start button style, choose custom and pick one of the images you just downloaded. This will look slightly off if you are using big taskbar buttons, so go right-click the taskbar and choose “Properties.” From here, select “Use small taskbar buttons.” Keep this window open for the next step.
3. Tweak the taskbar
The taskbar still doesn’t look quite right, so we need to do some tweaking. First, in the taskbar properties window, choose “never combine” the taskbar buttons. This will help mimic the look of the XP taskbar. The last bit of tweaking can be done with the app 7+ Taskbar Tweaker.
From left to right, the options I choose were “standard window menu,” Hovering shows “list,” and “Don’t group.” There are also some other neat options that were available in XP, such as control volume by scrolling over the notification area.
A more detailed tutorial of the tweaker can be found here.
4. Theme other apps
While the XP theme does a fantastic job with most apps, some aren’t affected by it. In chrome you can apply this theme, to achieve the same effect.
Luna Olive Green
XP Royale Blue
XP Royale Noir
You can also mimic this look in Thunderbird by downloading the Office 2013 theme found here. I tried to find a theme for Firefox, but unfortunately there are currently none available for the latest version.
Now you should have a computer with all the perks of Windows 7/8/8.1 with the classic look of Windows XP. I hope you found everything easy to follow, but if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.
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