Custom Visual Styles in Windows 10

It's boring to stick to default look of Windows 10 for long time. Windows supports Visual styles that allows you to change the window decoration of the shell. Though by default Windows doesn't support changing themes and visual styles unless system files are patched. But we are going to use external apps to do just that. In this article, you'll learn how to change the visual style and the default system themes.

Windows 10 supports visual styles and themes just like prior versions of operating system released by Microsoft. By default Windows 10 is shipped with very limited set of themes and visual styles. So you have to get the different visual styles from external theme hosting websites.

Where to Get Third-Party Themes and Visual Styles

There are many designer communities out there who develop Themes and Visual Styles for Windows. For example deviantart has many members who regular create new visual styles. If you search with some patience then you can find at least one theme that suits your design taste. Other places to look for visual styles and themes - GuiMods, Neowin and Customize. Unless otherwise explicitly mentioned you may not find theme that requires any additional dependencies.

What is the difference between Visual Style and Themes

Themes are the packages that contain visual styles, icons, cursor, wallpaper and other shell improvements. Visual styles on the other hand only change the Window decoration. That's pretty much is the difference between the two of them.

Patch System Files

By default Windows restricts you from adding new visual styles into the system. Also you can't modify existing system files unless you patch the core ms style files. The check for the Microsoft signed files makes it harder for you to use external themes or visual styles without patching. So you have to use the programs that has the patched version of files that bypass the Microsoft signing restrictions. You can do this manually by booting into safe mode or by using external apps.

There are some of the third party programs that take the backup of existing theme files. And then you get to use the patched system files that allow you to change themes and visual styles. There are two different theme patcher programs that you can use - UXThemePatcher and UXStyle.

Both of these apps support 32 bit and 64 bit version of Windows. The apps also take the backup of existing system files so if any visual style or theme corrupts the system then you can use the same apps to rollback the files. This way you don't have to worry about losing the original installed files being deleted or lost. After you finished the installation of this program you system needs to be rebooted. After that you can change to any new visual style or theme of your choice.

Where to Install Visual Styles

In order for Windows to access the new theme or visual style, It needs to be stored on specific location. This location is as follows:

{Drive} \Windows\Resources\Themes\

Whereas the drive name could be C: or D: depending on where you installed the Windows operating system. Each theme and visual style needs to be stored into the different folder. If any theme requires you to have specific font then you have to either store the font in "windows/fonts" directory. You can also perform system wide installation of the font.

If you choose to use Themes instead of visual styles then your theme appears in the "Personalization" settings.

Note: Using external visual styles and themes may slow down your computer. You have to make sure that themes you're applying are not resource heavy. If you're using Laptop then it helps your battery when you're using dark themes and wallpaper. As the more color variations drain the battery power required for rendering the color. If you're using the desktop then you can experiment with different types of themes and visual styles.

Third Party Visual Styles

There are plenty of premium and free visual style generator programs that can help you skin the Windows. The program like WindowBlinds help you generate your own Skin for the window decoration and Shell. WindowBlinds is a paid program and you can only apply those custom visual styles if that program is installed on your system. There are few other similar programs like Talisman Desktop and Deskspace that has the same functionality.

You can also try free programs like CustoPack and SphereXP. Though you can't expect much quicker support and quality designs from open source and free community due to development and support cycle being slower. If you're serious about theming your desktop then it is better to go premium with tools like WindowBlinds.

You don't have to stick with the default Visual styles that Windows offers. Changing themes and visual styles is very easy once you patch the Windows with system file patcher. If you choose one of the programs listed in the article then you'll be able to skin the Windows the way you want.


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