Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Make XP look like Windows Vista / Longhorn for free!


Change your boring old Windows XP theme to look like Vista using MSStyles (no shell-packs!) for free! Plus you don't need to download any software to do it either (so your computer won't get messed up!). You can do it all by yourself and when you are done it is surely going to look like Windows Vista.

Steps: 1. Theme 2. Wallpaper 3. The Fox 4. Cursor 5. Vista-ish applications 6. Fine Tuning 7. Shell Packs 8. Sidebar 9. Final Result

Changing the XP theme

First make sure that you have patched up your uxtheme.dll file. So go read my other recipe if you haven't so already. This recipe also tells you how to change your themes.

Now you are ready to do some downloading.

There are many msstyles themes out there that look super cool and look like vista/longhorn. You can also get shell packs and windows blinds themes but some people claim that this can mess up your computer badly.

The theme that I found works best is VistaXP by -kol! (but it was so popular that MS got it removed). Just go to the comments section to find themes you can download. These themes will make your computer look like Windows Vista for sure. So... go ahead and download it.
Then unzip or copy it to C:\WINDOWS\Resources\Themes

All right now you can change your computers theme to the Vista theme you chose.

Changing the Wallpaper

There are lots of Vista wall papers available... chances are that you have one included with your theme as well. If you don't then you can try your luck at WinMatrix's great post for Vista wallpapers. If not then you can always search on Google for Vista Wallpapers.

If you want you can also get this wallpaper which also a CoolGrass wallpaper by ApacheUser plus it has the Windows Vista logo on it!

Getting the Fox

Another great way of getting an impression that you are in fact using Internet Explorer 7, just like how it is on Vista is to get Firefox, and then use one of the many user designed themes and changing the look of the browser. If you don't have Firefox already, then make sure you get it along with the Google toolbar as well, as it will help you keep track of your e-mail and at the same time search the web! Get here.

Once you get Firefox install one of the many Vista like themes here. Vista-aero and myFireFox are one of the popular ones out there.

Changing the cursor

You can download the aero cursor pack over here. Just read the read me file supplied and enjoy. Additionally, you can go to How to change your mouse pointers article and change your mouse pointer to the 3D-White (system scheme), it looks very similar to the original cursor in Vista.

Getting Vista-ish applications

Now once you are done that. And you like some transparency on your computer get these two very cool tools.

Vista Explorer: Something like the original Vista explorer but for XP and plus it has..... transparency. YES! IT IS TRANSPARENT! Just like the original one. Internet Explorer (transparent version!): This is also very similar to the real internet explorer. Plus the internet explorer button on the task bar says internet explorer 7 (good for fooling people)! You can also get the real IE 7 (no transparency though)

Now your system should look like Vista for sure, but why stop when you have come so far?

Get the Alt-Tab Replacement PowerToy! This shows you the windows you are switching to (sort of something like in the real windows vista)...

Fine tuning

After that, fine tune your font settings and turn on ClearType fonts with the ClearType Tuner PowerToy (you can also do this online). Since the real Vista uses the font 'Segoe UI' which is a cleartype font, you can mimic the real fonts by using ClearType.

However, some themes already come with the Segoe UI font so don't forget to enable it while you are using it.

Shell Packs

If you really want to get shell packs to do what you can already do on your own then here are some of them:
- Vista Customization pack by JoeJoe
- The brico pack by CrystalXP
- The Windows X longhorn Transformation pack by Windows X

Please keep in mind that the shell packs don't customize your computer to look like the latest Vista/Longhorn builds, so your computer might not look like the recent Vista screenshots.

The Vista Sidebar

Since the links in Alex the Beast's recipe do not work anymore, you can head on over to Thoosje's website and get the Thooseje's Sidebar version of Windows Vista's Sidebar instead and put that on your computer too.

And when you are done that you can start celebrating! In fact you can claim that you have Windows Vista already, and nobody will doubt you. One last step enjoy and don't forget to show-off your new look!

Take a look at these screenshots of how your PC will look once you are done. If I didn't put that System Properties window up there then I'm sure I could have fooled you too!

note: I haven't included a screenshot with the longhorn sidebar. If you want to view a screenshot of it then please go to Go to Thoosje's website.


Things I used in these screenshots: The YAFVC3 VS (and all the things included in the download, wallpaper from Winmatrix and icons for recycle bin and my computer from modified version of explorer found in YAFVC theme (install modified explorer.exe > right click on desktop > properties > desktop tab > customize desktop > change icon > type in 'C:\WINDOWS\explorer.exe' > select icon > OK). Enjoy!


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Hi, I am Hua, a chinese expat residing in India excited about windows, linux and all things tech

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