How to customize desktop themes in Windows

Windows is a versatile operating system when it comes to customizing the way it looks. You can easily change many of the visual aspects like the desktop backgrounds used by your theme, the sounds played when different events happen, the colors used for displaying windows on the screen as well as their transparency level, the screensaver and so on. While all these can be changed individually, you might prefer to select a new theme and change everything. Windows themes include some or all of the above personalization aspects packaged together in one file that you can install with a single click. Here's how to customize any theme in Windows:

How to find the available Windows themes in Windows 10

The fastest way to find the themes available in Windows 10 is to use Cortana. Type the word themes in the search bar from your taskbar, and then click or tap on the “Themes and related settings” result.

Windows, desktop, themes

The previous action will launch the Settings app and will automatically take you to the Themes section of the Personalization category. If you don’t like using search, you can also manually open the Settings app and follow the same path: “Personalization -> Themes”.

Or, if you like right clicking on things, you can right click or tap and hold on any empty space from your desktop, and then click/tap on the Personalization option.

Windows, desktop, themes

Either way, now you should click or tap on the Theme settings link in the Settings app.

Windows, desktop, themes

Windows 10 will now launch the Personalization settings from the Control Panel. This is where you will find all the themes available to use in Windows 10.

Windows, desktop, themes

Another way to get to the same place, is to directly open the Control Panel, go to Appearance and Personalization and then click or tap on “Change the theme” shortcut from the Personalization section.

Windows, desktop, themes

How to find the available Windows themes in Windows 8.1

In Windows 8.1, switch to the Start screen, and start typing theme on it. Once the search results are displayed, click or tap on “Change the theme”.

Windows, desktop, themes

If you want to find your desktop themes even faster, you can also right click or tap and hold on the Desktop and then click/tap on Personalize.

Windows, desktop, themes

And, a third way to find the themes available in Windows 8.1, involves opening the Control Panel. Right click or tap and hold on the Windows icon from the bottom left corner of the screen, and then click or tap on the Control Panel shortcut. In the Control Panel, go to Appearance and Personalization. Then, click or tap on Change the theme, in the Personalization section.

Regardless of the method you chose to follow, this is what the Personalization window - the one where all the available themes are - will look like:

Windows, desktop, themes

How to find the available Windows themes in Windows 7

In Windows 7, you will find all the available themes in the Personalization panel. To open it, right click on the desktop and then click on the Personalize option.

Windows, desktop, themes

Another way to open the Personalization panel is to search for it. In Windows 7, open the Start Menu, write “theme” in its search box and then click on the “Change the theme” search result.

Windows, desktop, themes

The long way to open the Personalization panel is to use the Control Panel. Click on its shortcut from the Start Menu, and then go to Appearance and Personalization -> Change the theme.

Windows, desktop, themes

No matter what method you choose to follow, this is what the Personalization panel with all the available Windows 7 themes looks like:

Windows, desktop, themes

NOTE: From here on, the settings and configuration options work and look pretty much the same way in all modern Windows versions. To keep things simple, we’ll use screenshots taken in Windows 10, and we’ll point out any differences in Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 when appropriate.

What you’ll find in the Personalization panel

Inside the Personalization panel, you'll find all the themes installed on your device. They are divided into three sections:

  • My Themes – contains all the themes that were installed, created or modified by you.
  • Windows Default Themes (in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1) or Aero Themes (in Windows 7) – contains all the themes that are included in Windows by default.
  • High Contrast Themes (in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1) or Basic and High Contrast Themes (in Windows 7) - a set of themes that use high contrast colors and do not contain any transparency features. If you're using Windows 7, you also get a “Windows 7 Basic” and a “Windows Classic” theme. The “Windows 7 Basic” theme is the same as the default “Windows 7” theme, but with no Aero effects. The “Windows Classic” theme has no Aero effects and uses no visual styles, making your desktop look similar to that from the old Windows XP.

What can be customized in a Windows theme

There are four aspects of a theme that you can personalize. You will find all of them at the bottom of the Personalization panel: Desktop Background, Color, Sounds and Screen Saver.

Windows, desktop, themes

Go to the next page of this tutorial to learn how to customize things like the desktop background, the colors used by Windows, the sound scheme, mouse cursors and more.