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How to Install Custom Themes by neiio How to Install Custom Themes by neiio

How to Install & Use Custom 3rd Party Themes

I get asked quite often "how to install" or such...hopefully this is able to help those just starting
out with customizing. Feel free to use this as an open forum for those who are new, and those
who may be willing to help out.

Windows does not allow 3rd party themes by default thus we need to patch Windows to be able
to use those themes. You can use either of the following mentioned free utilities to patch your
Windows and to use your favorite 3rd party theme:

Many people know from experience, that the Windows design is nice, but sooner or later it will become boring and you wish to have a different design. And here is the problem, because to use 3. Party themes you have to modify some system files, which is not everybody's thing, or buy expensive software.

All this has now an end because the UltraUXThemePatcher for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows , Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 (for 32bit and 64bit version) can do this automatically for you. Fast, free and without problems, because if your version should not be supported, the tool will recognize this and changes nothing. Do you want to support and improve the tool, you can mail me your uxtheme.dll and maybe in the next version of this it is supported.


  • unproblematic installation
  • fast, easy and free
  • Modification of the own system files
  • multilingual
  • check the files for compatibility during the installation
  • backup from the original system files
  • rebuilding of the original system files through un-installation
  • silent installation with parameter /S


UxStyle is a bit of software that relaxes Windows theme signature requirements to enable third-party customization. Specifically, UxStyle consists of a tiny system service and a kernel driver that are loaded into memory where they hang out until reboot. No file system changes are made.

(First introduced on March 19, 2009.)

Operating System Support

  • Windows codenamed “Whistler” (escrow builds)
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2

Applying Custom 3rd Party Theme

Once you have patched Windows, copy your desired theme folder (containing a .theme file and
a folder containing .msstyles file) to "%windir%ResourcesThemes" folder (where %windir%
means "Windows" directory present in system drive where Windows is installed.
Most probably C: drive). Now double-click on .theme file and it'll apply the theme or you can
apply it using Desktop Properties. Also make sure to install any included fonts first.

How to Add "Take Ownership" Option to File or Folder Context Menu

Many times you need to take ownership of a file or folder in Windows. For example, when you
want to customize Windows UI (explorer.exe, explorerframe.dll, shell32.dll) and need to replace
existing system files with a new one.
You just need to download following zip file and extract it. You'll get a .REG file. Run the file
and accept the confirmation:
Take Ownership
It'll add an extra option "Take ownership" in file and folder context menu:

Now you can right-click on any file or folder and select "Take ownership" option. It'll make you
the owner of the file or folder and you can perform your desired operation on that file or folder
such as replacing it.
After taking ownership of the file, backup your original and rename it, then replace it with the
new modded version.
For example to replace explorer.exe, first takeownership. Then rename to, for example
explorer.bak, once that is complete replace it with the modified version of explorer.exe that you

Changing theme fonts

If you want smaller fonts or to change the actual font for a theme follow these instructions from
the WSB forums...
"Step 1: Open the theme you want to change in a resource hacker. (I use Restorator 2007.)
Step 2: Navigate to the string resource and expand.
Step 3: Drag/drop (or export) "Neutral" into Explorer.
Step 4: Open Neutral.rc in a text editor. (Notepad will suffice)
Step 5: Replace all instances of Font size with your preferred size.
Step 6: Save Neutral.rc
Step 7: Drag/Drop (or import) the new Neutral.rc from Explorer back into your resource hacker.
Step 8: Save the theme.
Step 9: Apply!"

Changing Icons

Blanked Icons! by neiio

This can be tricky, for those that want a blank icons.
It's very easy in Windows 7 with shortcuts to right click/Properties/Shortcut/Change Icon. With
application and system files you have to resort to an icon packager or/as well as reshackiing the
application and finding it's main icon and replacing it.

How to change super bar icons in Windows 7 & 8…

Alternate Applications/Tools

Windows 7 Start Orb Changer by | Kishan-Bagaria
Along with a huge gallery of Start Orbs to choose from Startorbs

Windows 7 Navigation Buttons Customizer: Change Windows 7 Navigation Buttons Easily by |

Theme Manager - Windows 7 by bickelk

CustoPack Toolsby David-PIERON

*Parts of this tutorial were adopted from the article on the askvg website entitled How to Install
& Use Custom 3rd Party Themes in Windows XP, Vista & 7 using Universal Theme Patcher,
VistaGlazz and UxStyle…

Add a Comment:
Hammer-and-Nail86 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015
Nice tutorial man. Do you experienced of explorer.exe crash or something?
Criticsauvage Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2014  Professional Writer
Can you let me ask you if you know wich win8 Os will tolerated a Shell32 replacement or patching if you dont mind.
Criticsauvage Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2014  Professional Writer
May you let me ask you if any of you fond a way to patch or replace the shell32.dll system32 file in windows 8.1 64 bits cause my system wont boot if i patch or replace the shell32.dll file in it. May i let you also note that i ave recently learn that the reason why i cannot patch the shell32 is that since 8.1 the shell32 is digitalize and the system wont boot if icons ave been change in that file and this even if i patched imageres.dll and some other system file without booting issue.
LeoCronis Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2014  Student Interface Designer
None of those Kishan-Bagaria applications work. Are there any alternative applications that can do the job?
Just-A-Micro Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much :D
Estecka Featured By Owner Edited Nov 8, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Do I have to go through the whole guideline, or should be UltraUXThemPatcher be enough to use this theme?
Because Concave VS is still not working for me...
rmteddy Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2014  Student Artist
how to download this themes? response please... thank you ^_^
RedAbsol0 Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The download button.
SoaringKiwi Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2014
I was using themes on here but then it suddenly stopped working
rsteve15 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2014  Student Interface Designer
Hi, could you be a little more specific on how to install this ? when I clicked on Download I got a zip file. Do I extract then move the file to the theme folder in Windows ? thanks
neiio Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2014  Hobbyist Interface Designer
This is just the instructions on how to install themes.
rsteve15 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2014  Student Interface Designer
Yes, so what do you after you get the zip file ?
Kaz89 Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2014
hi there well I got en error Uh oh, something went wrong with uxstyl.:( what shall I do? plz help
masterJehu Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2014  Student Writer
Thanks ;)
this is really helpful :D
NightmareInsperation Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
hey, i like your theme.

i got it working fine one time but now, it's not working.
(windows 7)
i got uxstyle and installed it.
i used the theme yesterday but i changed it away and back, and ever since then i cant get installed themes to work.
when i select the theme appears to have changed to it but visual styles gets automatically disabled every time, and when i turn it back on the style goes back to default- but in personalisation it says it's still the theme im trying to get.

my computer is playing a cruel game against a newbie to changing themes. -w-

im actually starting to think uxstyles is the cause.
i think i threw in the theme first and that's when it worked, but then i was playing around with some more themes and installed uxstyles and now none of the installed themes will work. (-i think-)
but i cant find the uxstyles folder to know for sure. w-w
flecheur Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2014  Student Interface Designer
i have windows 8 installed on my laptop an i5 and i wish to use these theme to change my graphics but i cant download it
so please if someone  can provide me with a step by step method in downloading and installing it

spartanhooah Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2014
Hi. I've admired your work for years (starting on Custo), but I've always had problems with themes after Windows XP. I followed your instructions and tried out your Discovery theme, but I think something didn't go quite right: What happened?
Gr1mW0lf Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Did a recent 8.1 update break 3rd party themes? I've followed these steps on two separate computers to install two separate themes made by different people, and they both have the same problem; some larger window elements and fonts don't get properly replaced.
It's just like in IBN5200's photo further down.
I tried using both UXStyle and UltraUXTheme separately. Same result in all cases.
Bukarus Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Try using oldnewexplorer, it fixed that problem for me.
joshynini Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014
Hi guys! I'm new to this 3rd party theme customization, and so I'm thinking which software to use to enable 3rd party themes in my Win 7 laptop. My understanding is that UltraUXThemePatcher will patch the system files, and UxStyle will not, but every boot there's a system service and kernel driver running in the background. So UltraUXThemePatcher is the faster one between the two? What are your comments on this?
Ray-AlaxDamion Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014
having trouble with system file replacement. i've taken control of all files and set full control permissions and it appears to copy new files into the system32/wow64 folders throws no errors, shows a progress bar, but the files never actually go into the folder, also it won't actually rename explorerframe.dll after i type it in and hit enter it just goes right back to what it was.

anyone heard of this happening?
arbaloft Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2014
Hi neiio,

I'm trying to install flextone on a win 8.1 (32-bit) system. I can install UltraUXThemepatcher without a problem, but every time I try to install UXStyle I get an error message: "Uh oh something went wrong." The log file shows the following:
Error 0x80070643: Failed to install MSI package.
Error 0x80070643: Failed to execute MSI package.
Error 0x80070643: Failed to configure per-machine MSI package.
Applied execute package: Installer32, result: 0x80070643, restart: None
Error 0x80070643: Failed to execute MSI package.

Any clues on how to fix this or to communicate with the developer? I see no contact link on his/her website.

Thanks! looking forward to using your themes.
neiio Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2014  Hobbyist Interface Designer
You only need one or the other. :)
pandatheme Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014
flex-tone ExplorerFrame
How to install it help me pls 

Now you can right-click on any file or folder and select "Take ownership" option. It'll make you 
the owner of the file or folder and you can perform your desired operation on that file or folder 
such as replacing it. 
After taking ownership of the file, backup your original and rename it, then replace it with the 
new modded version.
For example to replace explorer.exe, first takeownership. Then rename to, for example 
explorer.bak, once that is complete replace it with the modified version of explorer.exe that you 
vixxca Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for clearly explanation.

I am wonder whether this kind of stuff will cause my pc into some serious system error or performance slowing down?
I changed some files  into the one's in the "bAero" theme with the "change ownership" option, and now file explorer wont load!
(The window opens, but it doesn't load, freezes, and can't be closed.)

I'd change it back, I have the backup-files, but I can't access "file explorer"!

Please help!
IBN5200 Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2014
I tried using Universal Theme patcher and UxStyles but I still receive this issue when trying to use…

Image of issue:
Gr1mW0lf Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Same thing here, using UXStyle and Windows 8.1. I've tried that theme as well as others, and they have the same basic issue where certain window elements are not replaced and remain default.
kirbykirby56 Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Used Theme Manager, and now everything works! yay!
miregal123 Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
Installation is completely working fine but now i have a this white boarder:
Any idea how to fix this? i allready took ownership of Explorerframe and uxtheme etc dlll's + deleted and installed the theme again but it does not seem to be working

Hope anyone can help me, thanks :)
pcdaz Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2014
* Do the Themes and Cursor themes need to be at their default? I've downloaded and unzipped Windows Steam VS 8.1 and it just shows a black screen background?
Simba-Says Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2014
it wont let me open in my computer. it keeps asking to use an app to do it. help?
Dr-Bee Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014  Hobbyist Interface Designer
nevermind rebooted again and now it works lol thanks anyway
Dr-Bee Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014  Hobbyist Interface Designer
no matter what I do even successfully patching all the files I need and rebooting. I cant get this theme to work. Yes I placed it in the correct resources - themes folder. Any help would be appreciated. I love the screenshot and I'm trying to get it just like that. Thanks gents!
FstopMike Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2014
Anyone having problems finding the correct folder to put the themes in, it is here in windows 7, C:\Windows\Resources\   and there are the folders "Ease of access themes" and "Themes".  I don't know if windows 8 is the same?
Rhuwks Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks ! I've finally change my window theme...
PeckerwoodLV Featured By Owner May 6, 2014
Great work neeio. I'm a newb on Win 8 themes and tried to follow your directions; (containing a .theme file and
a folder containing .msstyles file) to "%windir%ResourcesThemes" folder (where %windir%
means "Windows" directory present in system drive where Windows is installed.

I d-loaded the Software  needed to do so but was unable to locate the file types---the ones we do not want this each day....
Gazlan-Sahmeiy Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2014
Hug +fav :happybounce: :happybounce: 
prlm34 Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014
interesting...I'm loving this ^^ 
DCTimberstone Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
This is great, hope your prepared for a multitude of questions.
josue64 Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014  Professional Artist
This is great information. I'm a Mac user, but have Windows 7 installed using Parallels. I'm envious of the themes available for Windows users. I find customizing way better on a PC. Your tutorial is quite helpful. I often enjoy your work so now I can use some of the themes. Thank you!
BeanieHatter Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Student
thank you very much for this. Now I can refer my computer customers to this link if they want to do their own! 
yuwa23 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
how i can change my explorer and taskbar icon to blank in win 8?
JoyfullJuneBug Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2014
Going to try this when I get my new computer. 
diaxis Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2014
I cant take ownership nad change the explorer frame.dll ...dunno why
ARGENTICIDE Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm rather frustrated :( I've followed the instructions to the line, but I still can't get any of your themes to successfully install. I downloaded UxStyle, installed it, rebooted, installed everything for the Theme, but when I double-click on the .theme file nothing happens beyond the Personalization window popping up... to no effect. The theme shows up as "installed" but nothing changes on my display. For the record, I have Windows 7.
yorgash Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014  Hobbyist Interface Designer
Try restoring the system files (with Universal Theme Patcher for example), then installing any of the system patch again.
It's almost always a problem with the system patch.
Runeraawr Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014
I'm having the same problem as the guy above. I've followed your steps and restarted my pc twice now, but still no luck.
It says it's installed but nothing is changed. Is there anything I can do?
Add a Comment: