Spruce up your desktop with Windows skins, desktop themes and other customizations!
For those of us who have to sit in front of our Windows PC’s for many hours, the blue and green colour scheme can quickly become boring. Because of this, the internet is full of Windows skins, themes and utilities that can radically change the way your desktop looks. Many of these customizations can be done for free, although the more sophisticated desktop enhancement software often requires a registration fee.
What are Windows skins and Windows themes?
People often use the terms “Windows skins” and “Windows themes” interchangeably. Usually however, Windows desktop themes let you change the colour schemes and fonts that Windows uses. Windows skins can go a step further and change the appearance of your Windows desktop entirely, so much so that you might not even recognise your operating system any more! Usually Windows theme files are distributed as ‘.theme’ files. These can be opened by Windows without extra software. Windows skins, on the other hand, require additional software in order to be used.
Frequently Windows desktop themes and Windows skins include additional files such as desktop backgrounds and sometimes sound schemes or fonts too.
What elements of Windows can be customized?
With the right software, it is possible to customize almost any element of your Windows installation. Below, we’ll list some of the most popular customizations and with our tutorials we’ll show you how you can transform your drab Windows installation into something visually much more stunning, like the picture of my desktop above! The most popular customizations include:-
Desktop Backgrounds – These are sometimes referred to as Wallpapers (and often incorrectly confused with Screen Savers). The desktop background is the picture that you see behind all the icons on your desktop. By default on Windows XP you get a picture of green hills and blue sky. Changing desktop backgrounds is easy and many users quickly learn to substitute the default pictures for pictures of their pets, children, favourite movie stars or any number of alternatives. If you want to learn how to change your desktop background, check out our desktop backgrounds in Windows 10, desktop backgrounds in Windows 7 or Windows 8, desktop backgrounds in Windows Vista or our desktop backgrounds in Windows XP tutorials.
Screen Savers – The screen saver is the animated pattern which appears on your monitor after you leave your PC unattended for any length of time. Screen savers prevent ‘burn-in’ occuring on your monitor. When a graphic is displayed for too long in one place, it can burn-in, leaving a ghosted image of itself even when the picture is changed. Modern monitors are not particularly susceptible to this kind of damage however, but the screen saver has remained a popular distraction. Many sites across the internet offer a wide range of screen savers for every theme and occasion. If you want to learn how to change your screen saver, look no further than our guide to screen savers in Windows XP, guide to screen savers in Windows Vista, guide to screen savers in Windows 7 and Windows 8 or our guide to screen savers in Windows 10.
Boot Screens – Certain software can change your boot screen, that is the screen you see when Windows starts. Care must be taken when doing this however, as not all Windows XP systems are compatible with this process. If you want to try changing your Windows XP boot screen, check out our tutorials for BootSkin below:-
Now Windows Vista users can customize their boot screens too, thanks to the new BootSkin Vista:-
Log-on Screens – It is also possible to change the log-on screen (The screen where you click your account name and enter your password). Doing so on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 requires special software. If you want to do this, have a look at our LogonStudio tutorials below:-
Windows 8 lock screen, start screen and account picture personalizations –Windows 8 users can change the lock screen (which is roughly equivalent to the log-on screen) easily and without installing any additional software. To do so, simply use the PC settings menu and select “Personalize”. The video below will show you how:-
Cursors and Pointers – Fed up with that boring arrow and egg-timer? Yes, it’s even possible to swap those. See our tutorials below:-
Windows cursors and pointers just too tame for you, even after customizing them? CursorFX can make your cursors as flashy as you like!
Fonts – Bored of the same old Windows fonts? Change them easily with the tutorials listed below:-
Microsoft have removed the option to easily change fonts in Windows 8. You can still change fonts either via a registry hack or by using a tool like Windowblinds.
Sounds – Complete your Windows customizations by changing the system sounds, from the jingles played at start-up or shut-down to the beeps and alarms of the desktop, they can all be changed, just see our tutorials below:-
Animated Wallpapers – Not content with a simple static desktop background? We’ll show you how you can get stunning, fully animated wallpapers instead.
Not running Windows Vista Ultimate? You can still get animated wallpapers thanks to Stardock DeskScapes. DeskScapes 8 supports Windows 7 and Windows 8.
DeskScapes 3 supports Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, but Windows 7 users should use our DeskScapes 8 tutorials as shown above.
Skins – Skins take themes to the next level and can radically change the appearance of your computer, even down to the shape and positioning of gadgets on window title-bars, for example. Skins usually require special software in order to install correctly. Ready to skin and theme your desktop? Then head over to our advanced skinning and theming tutorials.
As you can see, there are a vast number of ways in which you can transform your Windows desktop. A word of warning before we finish though. Be careful where you download screen savers, themes and other visual enhancements from. Spammers and hackers have long since realised the popularity of themes is a great way to sneak some malicious software onto your PC. Be very careful to read any end-user licence agreements and always virus check your downloads before considering installing a new theme. Be especially wary of any file that is distributed as an ‘.exe’ file. Themes do not need to be installed as ‘.exe’ files, all that is required is for the user to click the ‘.theme’ file to install it.
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