Free or paid, here’s what you need to do to refresh your taskbar and give your Windows a new look.
Changing the desktop theme in Windows has been around since the days of Windows 98. In 2021, it’s easier than ever to install a full 4K theme on your PC that transforms not only the color scheme but also your icons and windows.
There are many methods for installing a Windows 10 theme, such as using the Microsoft Store or other apps that can change the color scheme to your windows and taskbar.
With rumors of a UI refresh coming to Windows 10 21H2 ‘Sun Valley’ and even Windows 11, there are currently plenty of opportunities to transform the look and feel of your PC into something special for you.
With that in mind, here’s how to install some themes to make your PC shine with RGB not just look but shine even more.
How to install official themes?
Before Windows 8, there wasn’t really an official method for installing new themes, but with the introduction of the Microsoft Store it has become much easier.
Go to the themes in the Microsoft Store. Browse the section and if you want to install one, click on a theme, hit ‘Get’ and it will be installed. Go to Settings > Personalization > Themes and it will appear next to the available themes, ready to make a change to the way your PC looks.
However, finding a theme you’ll like is almost like searching for a needle in a haystack, as the store isn’t the best at showing you how a theme can look on an entire PC, aside from the cumbersome user interface.
How to install unofficial themes?
This is where third-party themes come into play. An app called UltraUXThemePatcher must first be downloaded for third-party themes to be installed. It replaces certain files responsible for changing the user interface in Windows 10, but if UltraUXThemePatcher is removed it will return them to normal.
Once installed, you can go to DeviantArt or ThemePack and search for the theme that suits you best.
When you find a theme you like, drop them in ‘WindowsResourcesThemes’.
Restart your computer, then go to Settings > Personalization > Themes; they will appear next to the official variants, ready to go into effect.
There is another app that we should mention that can show your desktop even more.
The Wallpaper Engine includes a large number of animated backgrounds that you can download more of thanks to the Steam Workshop integration, where many users contribute their own designs. If you wish, you can program a different wallpaper for each day, or at certain times throughout the day.
You can customize the colors, objects, the speed of the animations, and much more. It even works across multiple monitors, so you can have a wallpaper with an animation that works across all your screens to stunning effect.
Our pick of the best Windows 10 themes
Simplify Orange Blue
The Simplify theme flattens the user interface but gives it a warm gradient that makes it look like a modernized theme from Windows XP. Everything in this theme is optimized for 4K displays, while everything looks more organized and very clean when browsing File Explorer. The theme costs $2.99, but you get a very complex theme with a deep color scheme for your PC.
macOS Big Sur
Want to have the look of Apple’s operating system without owning a Mac? Here’s the best of both worlds for you. This macOS theme turns your entire Windows 10 theme into the latest macOS Big Sur version with a ready-to-drag dock where you can drag and drop icons, wallpapers and even app shortcuts. It’s very easy to set up when turning your computer into an iMac.
In 2003, Microsoft was working on a successor to Windows XP, codenamed Longhorn, and had concept drawings showing how it would redefine the user interface. Although it doesn’t work, this theme seems so close to that vision as a great contrast with dark blue and green hues throughout the theme to add sophistication to the UI.
Instead of one theme, you get five themes here, each showcasing bright, vibrant colors that look like a cross between Linux and Google’s Android.
Windows XP themes are now in Windows 10. Some of these were once only available on certain editions of Windows XP, and the Royale theme is a nostalgic throwback to 2004 exclusively.
The taskbar and color scheme are two highlights here that can easily be confused with today’s Windows 10. Even in 2021 with the latest 20H2 update, all the themes work here, Royale especially looks great with its almost fluorescent blue and green colors, while Zune brings a great mix of black and orange to the desktop.
All of this looks very sharp for any monitor, as they are all optimized for displays up to 4K. While it costs $11.99, it’s a small price to pay for a complete and elegant refresh of your Windows 10 PC from 2001.