Windows

Copy desktop themes to other Windows XP computers

Familiar desktop themes are can be a great comfort to Microsoft Windows XP users. You can copy a unique or particularly creative desktop theme to another computer just by copying the right files. Greg Shultz shows you how easy it is to make the move.

If you have created a favorite desktop theme and you work on more than one Microsoft Windows XP computer, you may have considered recreating that theme on your other computers. However, manually recreating the desktop theme can be a tricky and time-consuming operation. Here's how you can easily copy your favorite desktop theme from one Windows XP computer to another.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Steps

  1. On the computer containing your favorite desktop theme, right-click the desktop and select Properties. On the Themes tab, with your theme selected, click the Save As button and save the file to the My Documents folder (or folder of your choice).
  2. Launch Windows Explorer and access the My Documents folder.
  3. Look for files with the .theme extension, locate your file, and copy it to a floppy disk or USB thumb drive.
  4. Go to the other computer on which you would like to have your favorite desktop theme and copy the .theme file to My Documents.
  5. Right-click the desktop and select Properties to open the Display Properties dialog box.
  6. On the Themes tab, click the Theme drop-down list and select Browse.
  7. In the Open Theme dialog box, access the My Documents folder, locate your theme file, and double-click it.
  8. Click OK to load the new theme and close the Display Properties dialog box.
  9. While Windows XP loads the desktop theme, you'll see a Please Wait message in the middle of the screen. Your current desktop colors will fade to gray while the new settings are applied.

There is one caveat to this approach -- if part of your theme involves wallpaper you created or other graphical elements unique to that particular PC, those elements will have to be copied over along with the .theme file.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

44 comments
Mantion
Mantion

For those of you who use the run window for everything.

Tink!
Tink!

back before I was heavily IT. Used to switch Win98 themes alot. Now I pretty much use the Windows Classic Style and just change my wallpaper now and then. (Usually a most recent pic of my kids at work. At home it's cool scenics I pull off the internet.) Oh and there is my toolbars for work - I autohide the taskbar and have my custom one always on top: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3206/3046040191_71e1c2e896_o.jpg

adeal
adeal

I used to remember a setting for these, but it escapes me now. While using a custome theme, I think you need also copy (or give access to) the wallpaper file in the theme - which is usually in the profile it was copied from - otherwise you won't see it.

finkey
finkey

I like the bells and whistles of Windows, and have make good use of them. This tip has been around for quite a long time. I had suggested to MS development that they match the send files to the theme, instead of flying folders, why not birds, fish, shells, spaceships, horses or butterflies?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I admit it -- I am not much of a theme person. I few icons, a nice World of Warcraft screenshot for wallpaper and increase in default font size is all I really tweak. But what about you? Do you have a Windows theme you are particularly proud of? Describe it, perhaps link to an image.

Tink!
Tink!

on my co-worker's computer - so every Halloween I can have it screaming at her. :D Maybe next year I'll throw the spider back on her wallpaper again. Now just to get a spider cursor.

Tink!
Tink!

How do I get the Desktop shortcut back onto Quick Launch? Somehow it got removed from the shipping dept's computer and for the life of me I can't get it back. I want the "Show Desktop" kind of shortcut (a.k.a. Minimize all Windows), not the open an Explorer window to the Desktop folder kind. For WinXP Pro

chraigs
chraigs

Love the idea of theme based send animations, surely this function is easy to create for the guys in microsoft, presume its an animated gif encapsulated in a DLL file somewhere that ms doesn't want us to know.

john3347
john3347

I love desktop shortcuts. I have a custom icon library consisting of about 200 custom icons and icons lifted from the website appropriate to the application or website concerned. I have been customizing my desktop this way for a few years until I came up on Vista. Vista seems to have a mind(actually mindlessness)of its own and refuses to accept anything but the default Internet Explorer icon for any website shortcut. I would love to learn how to use my custom icons for my website shortcuts in Vista. Just another "thing" that got broken by Vista.

john3347
john3347

I love desktop shortcuts. I have a custom icon library consisting of about 200 custom icons and icons lifted from the website appropriate to the application or website concerned. I have been customizing my desktop this way for a few years until I came up on Vista. Vista seems to have a mind(actually mindlessness)of its own and refuses to accept anything but the default Internet Explorer icon for any website shortcut. I would love to learn how to use my custom icons for my website shortcuts in Vista. Just another "thing" that got broken by Vista.

whatisnew
whatisnew

Group policy controls the theme in my corporate environment. I don't allow users to pick and choose their theme.

---TK---
---TK---

At home, I try to keep my Gaming box under 30 process Idle, and the least amount of 3rd party apps as possible. On my tare down pc, I usually mod the UXtheme.dll and find different skins on the net to try, I also mod explorer.exe change string 37(?) to what ever I want (save as), and regedit to point to the new .exe, reboot. Presto, Start no longer says Start :)... However, I recently tried stardock's new version. I have to say I was impressed! Their animated themes are pretty cool..

aureolin
aureolin

About the only customization to my desktop is the use of Webshots and the free images. I've got this set to auto-update my background every half hour, and cycle every 10 seconds as a screen saver. Very nice. And, did I mention that it's free? Add a few Yahoo widgets and life's good! ;-)

finkey
finkey

I especially like the sounds of Photo Disk from Win 95-98SE. When Windows XP came out, I imported all theses older themes in and then mix and match to heart's content! I also keep Outlook 97 around, because of the contact "cards", but then, I'm old school. For Window dressing, the silver Luna Theme to me is the best. Wish they had it for Linux, too.

LarryD4
LarryD4

Been using winblinds and the Stardoc suite for about two years and I have multiple themes and widgets. With Nvidia's mutli desktop tool I have different themes for each desktop. LCARS is my favorite :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

1. Open Notepad or another text editor. 2. Paste the following text into the window: [Shell] Command=2 IconFile=explorer.exe,3 [Taskbar] Command=ToggleDesktop 3. Save the file to your desktop as Show Desktop.scf. If necessary, suppress automatic extensions or delete the ".txt" extension. 4. Drag the Show Desktop.scf icon to the Quick Launch toolbar or another location where you want the shortcut to appear. 5. Click Move Here. Extracted from http://support.microsoft.com/kb/190355. Edited for intelligence.

chraigs
chraigs

Not sure why anyone disables staff access to there themes, providing they are not offensive then why not? themes can provide a fascinating insight into the mentality of the user. This method wouldn't work on your system however as the user has no access to the display theme properties box tbh if the content doesn't exist on the computer then it wont work either which makes this entire article kind of pointless

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Why not just leave all the junk the vendor installed while your at it?

chraigs
chraigs

stardock is great as is XPstyle but with either of those apps you will need to get a hacked dll file for it to work in XP once you get sp3

foss.paul
foss.paul

Well, what is stopping you to put something in we haven't seen before.

Tink!
Tink!

As I'm the keyboard navigator guru! (and actually I use Windows Key + M - does the same thing) But for the rest of my users, they're all mousers. And that little button on the Quick Launch is very convenient!

---TK---
---TK---

Why not use the hot key "windows button + d"? i

Tink!
Tink!

Cycle through the icons, that is. I haven't installed SP3 on any of the XP systems yet. Waiting for a "quiet time" where I'd have time to deal with any problems that might arise. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

You are in XP, right? That icon number works properly on my SP3 system. You'll just have to cycle through till you find the right one.

Tink!
Tink!

Did it and it's working fine - although the icon is wrong. Will fiddle with that when I have more time. Thanks again! :x

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

While I may be able to tolerate Christia (if not enjoy), I had a user that kept pics of half naked firemen on her computer. I did't particularly like sitting down at her pc! I never ratted her out though, that one wouldn't be blamed on me so whatever floats her boat. She jokingly asked when I was going to do an "IT calendar" like fireman do. I kindly reminded her the rest of the it staff there were older guys that never missed a meal. She agreed that it was a bad, bad idea. I still bump into her from time to time and she calls me Mr July, lol.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and let them decide if the material is offensive and / or what action they'd like me to take.

Tink!
Tink!

showed up in different poses and fashions on someone's screensaver at one of my old jobs. The President (female) didn't appreciate that being on a work computer.

whatisnew
whatisnew

There are some gray areas for the definition "offensive". Instead of looking forward to see fascinating and offensive themes, the company uses standard logo background and screensaver. Standardize logo and screensaver are not exciting but nobody will complaint his/her theme isn't offensive and should be allowed.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

[i]themes can provide a fascinating insight into the mentality of the user.[/i] Thanks for making it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I should have said up front that I haven't looked at Webshots since they first came out. At that time the app came bundled with other apps and automatic subscriptions I didn't want, and the installation had no 'opt out' options. I failed to acknowledge that they may have changed their business model since then.

foss.paul
foss.paul

Same here, I even pay for the high res pictures. No crapware here. But if you don't like it that is fair enough with me.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Get out of the wrong side of bed, Palmetto? I too use Webshots to rotate my wallpaper and have done so for years. What exactly do you mean by crapware? I'm sure I've installed every version available for the last couple of years and am yet to discover any crapware installed on my 'puter. I of course UNcheck the box to install the Yahoo toolbar, but that's just un-checking a box. Is THAT the crapware to which you refer? Because it's very easy to un-check that box during the install, and (surprise, surprise) Webshots won't install it. Easy peasy. Best (free) wallpaper rotater and screensaver software that I've ever used, and I've tried a few. The one thing against it is the limitation of 128 images per folder, but I'm yet to run out of folders. I have a lot of wallpapers!

techalon
techalon

You're confused if you think you have to hack anything to run Stardock Windowblinds.

---TK---
---TK---

I didn't have any issues with stardock when I installed it... I use SP3 also... but then again I had already Moded the UXtheme.dll, prior to installing it...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

As I noted in the first post, I'm not big on themes. I'm usually satisfied with the default fonts, colors, icons, pointers, and sounds of the OS or distro I'm using. What's stopping me from putting something up is that I have nothing to put. It's just possible someone will post something unique beyond the range of what a theme usually covers. So far most of the other responses are just wallpapers.

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