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  • Customizing Windows XP's appearance

    I'm going to try and gather everything in one place here... WinXP's default theme is cute. If you're happy with "cute" then go ahead and stick with it. I wanted something a little less bubbly and sweet looking...

    First off, go to http://www.themexp.org/ and realize just how spectacular you can make your desktop look with custom visual styles, logon screens and boot screens. I no longer suggest you download anything from ThemeXP.org, as it appears that they package adware with their themes!

    Then use this handy little program to patch your UXTheme.dll file: http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=140707 Once you've got that patched, all you do is download the visual styles (*.msstyles files) into your C:\WINDOWS\Resources\Themes directory. Double click on the .msstyles file of your choice and that visual style will be applied. If it's a full theme (including custom fonts, font size, cursors, icons etc...) you'll save the .theme file directly into your "themes" directory along with it's accompanying folder. Most of the themes that you download will automatically extract to the correct location if you point to the C:\WINDOWS\Resources\Themes directory. And besides, if you can't figure this out on your own, you need to just stick to the default crap and stop messing around with this stuff right now before you break something.

    Now you might want to customize your Log On and Log Off screens: http://logonloader.danielmilner.com/ This makes it simple. Perhaps even idiot-proof?

    Custom boot screens? Here's how I do it without having to go to safe mode in order to change 'em..(thanks to someone at NeoWin):

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I was testing this earlier and it worked:
    here is how...

    1.) Rightclick on the My Computer Icon and bring up Properties.

    2.) Go to Advanced tap, and under Startup and recovery hit settings.

    3.) Uncheck "time to display list of Operating System"

    4.) Hit Edit

    5.) hightlight and copy the last line, mine says multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Micro soft Windows XP Professional" /fastdetect, your might be different.

    6.) paste the line that you copy right under the last line,

    7.) now on the line that you pasted change the Part that says "Microsoft Windows XP Professional" to something different just in case you ever need to use the boot loader.

    8.) on that same line after "/fastdetect" add a space and the following "/KERNEL=Mboot.exe" with out the the quotations.

    9.) now save and exit (you might want to make a copy of the original in case you made a mistake.)

    10.) now on the screen where i told you to disable the list of operating system (step 3) on the operating system list pick the one that says "/KERNEL=Mboot.exe" at the end, and hit ok.

    now you just have to save the boot screen as Mboot.exe insted of ntoskrnl.exe in system32, and everytime you want to change it just ovewrite it. but you still need to have a ntoskrnl.exe under that same directory because you need it for the other OS option.

    *note: you could name Mboot.exe to what ever you want aslong as it is not ntoskrnl.exe and that there is a boot screen under the name that you want to use.

    enjoy:


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    If you don't want to go through all that, then all you have to do to change your boot screen is boot to safe mode, copy the new ntoskrnl.exe (this is what the boot screen needs to be named) into your system32 folder and reboot. Voila!


    Now, TGTSoft has an all-in-one program that is supposed to do all of this, but I've heard of people having problems (right, Sean?). If you use the things I pointed you to above, it may be a bit more difficult to set up, but you shouldn't have any problems at all...

    Anyway, once you're up and running with a custom theme, you may want to check out www.neowin.net 's forums. There are a lot of theme designers that hang out there. You can request a theme, make suggestions on themes in progress and thank/congratulate the designers on their fine work. Obviously there are a LOT of people that use custom themes there, as well, so there's bound to be someone that can help fix any problems you might have...

    This is a LOT easier than it seems by reading this little tutorial! In fact, with the exception of the boot screens, it's just as easy as changing your wallpaper.



    Here's a great article that describes the differences between the different ways to customize Windows XP, written by a Stardock employee that posts as Frogboy on www.neowin.net.

    Originally posted by Frogboy
    Since this topic comes up so often here at Neowin, here is a simple guide to what's what on these different ways of applying visual styles.

    [Dislaimer: I work for Stardock]

    In Windows XP if you want to apply additional visual styles beyond blue, green, and silver you have to install additional software to do it.

    That software will take one of two paths: Either use .msstyles files, which is the skin format Microsoft used to create its 3 bundled visual styles or it will use its own format.

    Microsoft runs .msstyles files through a bundled DLL called uxtheme.dll. For compatibility and branding reasons, Microsoft made uxtheme.dll only run Microsoft digitally signed .msstyles files.

    So if you want to use third party .msstyles files you have to either convert it to a different visual style format or disable Microsoft's digital signing protection.

    WindowBlinds takes the former route. It has its own visual style format and sends skins through wblind.dll instead of uxtheme.dll (i.e. using WindowBlinds does NOT take extra memory).

    Style XP, Star Skin, Tune-Up, uxtheme patches take the latter. They patch out a few bytes in uxtheme.dll to make the API CryptVerifySig() always return true. Style XP 2.x does this in RAM using a driver that loads when you boot. Most uxtheme patchers literally replace the uxtheme.dll on your hard disk.

    Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages.

    WindowBlinds has the advantage of being continually updated. So performance and other enhancements suggested by users are able to be implemented. Because it has its own skin format, its visual styles can have additional features (borders of any size, buttons can be placed anywhere, sound effects, colorizing, etc.). You can learn more about it HERE.

    WindowBlinds has the disadvantage that is not free. It's $20 to register (or you can get it as part of Object Desktop.

    Also, because its skin format is more free-form, you end up with a lot of strange looking skins. So users looking for something that's like the standard Windows UI may have to sift through a lot of strange (or ugly) skins.

    Using SkinStudio, a free program you can download HERE you can use .msstyles files under WindowBlinds. Its accuracy in conversion continually improves but some visual styles still may have to be tweaked to be perfect.

    Another WindowBlinds disadvantage is that if you have a patched uxtheme.dll you have to hold down the CTRL key when opening display properties to see the .msstyles files in your themes directory.

    The advantage for using a uxtheme.dll patch is that it is free. You simply replace your uxtheme.dll and you can make use of the hundreds of .msstyles files available. Here on Neowin.net, many high quality .msstyles can be found. You can find completed ones HERE.

    The disadvantage of using uxtheme.dll is that it's a bit more technically involved to get installed and has to be replaced every time you update Windows XP's build. This is pretty minor if you're technically savvy.

    Replacing uxtheme.dll WILL NOT increase your vulnerability to viri or spyware. It does not disable Microsoft digital signing globally, only on .msstyles.

    Obviously uxtheme.dll can't make use of visual styles in the WindowBlinds format.

    As for Style XP, the advantage of using Style XP is that it makes it much easier to patch uxtheme.dll. It does it in memory and is pretty seamless in doing so. So a "non-techie" ends up with a nice easy interface for using third party msstyles.

    The disadvantage is that it's $20 to use and requires updating it every time Windows XP gets updated to a new build #.

    Which you use depends on what your needs are. None of these methods use up very much memory. In an age where the typical web browser uses 20 megabytes of memory, visual styles use hardly any memory at all. And none of them, on a modern machine, should slow down your computer in any noticeable way.

    Have fun!
    Last edited by CingularDuality; 06-25-2005, 08:17 PM.
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  • #2
    If you love the look and feel of the mac checkout http://www.aquaxp.com or www.aqua-soft.org also checkout http://www.hardwaregeeks.com


    Remember: Opinions are like A$$holes everybodies got one

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    • #3
      Just wanted to provide a link to TGTSoft that compares their full program with the UXTheme.dll patch that I linked to above: http://www.tgtsoft.com/prod_sxp_benefits.php

      (It also outlines the benefits of the patch or StyleXP over other skinning software like WindowBlinds on the WinXP OS)
      Last edited by CingularDuality; 06-25-2005, 08:23 PM.
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      • #4
        Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

        Originally posted by CingularDuality
        Just wanted to provide a link to TGTSoft that compares their full program with the UXTheme.dll patch that I linked to above: http://www.tgtsoft.com/prod_sxp_benefits.php

        (It also outlines the benefits of the patch or StyleXP over other skinning software like WindowBlinds on the WinXP OS)
        I've also got a PM (request to copy his post here) in to the author of this post which is : StyleXP vs. the patch vs. Windowblinds

        Don't forget that Neowin is an excellent source for completed styles, too!
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        • #5
          Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

          One thing about that site is when you download themes and wallpapers it asks you to install other things like a toolbar or anything like that. Im cautious of that site because of its wanting to install unwanted software on your computer.

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          • #6
            Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

            Originally posted by Sgt.Weber View Post
            One thing about that site is when you download themes and wallpapers it asks you to install other things like a toolbar or anything like that. Im cautious of that site because of its wanting to install unwanted software on your computer.
            What site? Neowin?
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            • #7
              Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

              i think he was reffering to themexp
              powered by Windows 7

              . . . .

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              • #8
                Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

                Originally posted by Tonk View Post
                i think he was reffering to themexp
                Ah, yes, well, I thought the big red letters would help. It used to be a good site with free themes. Guess they couldn't pay the bills that way, now they require silly additional malware...
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                • #9
                  Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

                  That's to bad about themexp, I made and uploaded some wallpapers couple years ago to their website.

                  http://www.themexp.org/search.php?st...mtype=&limcat=


                  Someone used the work of my friend and mines art to make a theme.
                  http://www.themexp.org/preview.php?m...medesc=Tempest

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                  • #10
                    Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

                    For those that want Vista but do not want to upgrade I used this for a few months without any issues what-so-ever.

                    http://www.windowsxlive.net/?p=115

                    It gives the look of Vista to include the transparency options. Do not download 6.0 as it's full of bugs and can destroy your OS but I installed 5.0 on several machines and haven't had one issue.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

                      WhiteOut, does it work well with XP SP2?
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                      • #12
                        Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

                        Originally posted by Acreo Aeneas View Post
                        WhiteOut, does it work well with XP SP2?
                        As long as it's either 5.0 or 5.5. I used it with Windows XP SP 2 Media Edition.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

                          Its not all that custimized but if you want something darker than the bright blue / silver of XP check out "Royale Noir"
                          Download the theme file, put it in the theme directory, then go into Display Properties and change the top themes drop-down to "Royale" and the middle drop-down to "Noir"

                          There are also several programs out there that will let you easily customize your login screen. I cant remember the name of the prog I used.

                          edit: crud...apparently I cant put links in my posts until i have 15. just google "Royale Noir" and it is the first link that pops up.


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                          • #14
                            Re: Customizing Windows XP's appearance

                            Haha, welcome to TG kevlarorc.
                            Yeah, a lot of us like Noir for XP, and have talked about it in other threads.
                            Also check out the Vista Transformation Pack for XP. You really will think you are running vista.
                            http://www.windowsxlive.net/?page_id=15

                            Don't worry about the links. Stick around and soon you will be addicted like all of us and be up in the 100s.

                            LINKS

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                            Stoop and you'll be stepped on; stand tall and you'll be shot at.

                            -Carlos A. Urbizo-

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