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How to use themes in Windows 10 for a more personal desktop experience

A boring desktop siphons every drop of your creative juices.
By
June 8, 2022

Imagine a large white room with nothing more than a boring brown desk and a boring brown chair. That’s no fun, right? It’s sterile and seemingly siphons every creative drop from your soul. What you need is a work area that’s yours and feels comfortable just like home. We’ll show you how to use themes in Windows 10 so your PC’s virtual desktop isn’t boring and sterile.

You acquire Windows 10 themes in four ways — from the Microsoft Store, third-party websites, device manufacturers, and individuals who share their themes. Installing themes from the Microsoft Store is your safest bet while new desktops and laptops typically ship with a custom wallpaper (at the very least).

Our guide to using Windows 10 themes provides several ways to install, change, and even create custom themes. We also show you how to save custom themes as a file to share with friends and family.

Read more: The best antivirus software for your PC

From the desktop

This method takes the shortest route to theme management. You can get started from the desktop itself

Windows 10 right-click personalize

Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize in the menu.

Windows 10 Themes panel

Click Themes. Click a theme currently installed on your PC. Windows 10 will automatically load the theme. Close the Settings app.

Related: How to enable dark mode in Windows 10, Office, and Microsoft Edge

Create a custom Windows 10 theme

Since we’re here, you’ll see an option to create a custom theme. Let’s start the process from the beginning if you want to create a custom theme later.

Windows 10 right-click personalize

Right-click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize in the resulting menu.

Windows 10 Use Custom Theme

Click Themes. Click Use custom theme.

Windows 10 Custom Theme Choose Picture

Select Background to choose the images you want as wallpaper. For the Slideshow option, click the Browse button to use an image folder. Do the same for Picture mode only you will select a single image instead. The Solid color option provides 24 set colors. Click the “+” button to create a custom color.

Windows 10 Custom Theme Choose Color

Select Color to change the interface color. Windows 10 provides 48 color swatches and an option to click the “+” to create a custom color. Here you can also choose where the accent color appears, toggle between Light and Dark app modes, and toggle transparency effects.

Windows 10 Custom Theme Choose Sound

Select Sounds to change the Windows 10 sound scheme.

Windows 10 custom Theme Choose Pointer

Select Mouse cursor to change the mouse cursor appearance.

Windows 10 Save Custom Theme

Click Save Theme. Name your theme in the pop-up window. Click the Save button.

Related: How to use the Mail app in Windows 10 to access Gmail, iCloud, and more

Share a custom Windows 10 theme

Again, since we’re here, let’s go over how you can share a custom theme by creating a theme file friends and family can install.

Windows 10 Save Theme for Sharing

While remaining within the Themes section, click on your custom theme to activate it. Right-click your custom theme. Click Save theme for sharing.

Windows 10 Name Custom Theme File

Select a location where you want to save the theme. Enter a file name. Click Save to create a .deskthemepack file.

Related: How to use notifications in Windows 10

Use the Settings app

Windows 10 access Settings

Click Start and click the gear icon on the Start Menu. This opens the Settings app.

Windows 10 Settings Personalization

In the Settings app, click Personalization.

Windows 10 Apply a Theme

Select Themes. At the right, scroll down to Apply a theme and click a theme. Windows 10 will automatically apply the chosen theme. You can then close the Settings app.

Use the Control Panel

If your nostalgic soul just can’t let go of the old-school Control Panel, there’s a way to access the hidden Personalization panel we loved in Windows 7 and older Windows versions.

Windows 10 Personalization Run Command

Type Win + R to open the Run dialog box. In the pop-up box, enter this command.

explorer shell:::{ED834ED6-4B5A-4bfe-8F11-A626DCB6A921}

Hit Enter or click OK to run the command.

Windows 10 Control Panel Personalization

In the window that opens up, select the theme you want to apply. Close the window when done.

Related: How to split your screen in Windows 10

Use File Explorer

Use this method to install themes downloaded from third-party websites, or if you like taking the long, old-school scenic route. Here are two important locations where Windows 10 stores your themes:

  • Default themes — C:WindowsResourcesThemes
  • Manually installed themes — %LocalAppData%MicrosoftWindowsThemes
Windows 10 File Explorer icon

Click the folder icon on the taskbar to open File Explorer.

Windows 10 File Explorer Select Theme

Locate the destination where your downloaded theme resides, such as Downloads. If you want a default theme or one you manually installed, copy and paste one of the addresses listed above into File Explorer’s address field

Double-click the *.theme file you want as the current theme. Windows 10 will open the Themes section of the Settings app as well.

Also: How to scan and clean your drive in Windows 10

Get a new theme

Windows 10 access Settings

Click Start and click the gear icon on the Start Menu. This opens the Settings app.

Windows 10 Settings Personalization

In the Settings app, click Personalization.

Windows 10 Get More Themes

Select Themes. On the right, click Get more themes in the Store listed under Apply a theme.

Microsoft Store Windows Themes

In the Microsoft Store app, select a theme you want to install.

Windows Store Get Windows Theme

Click the Get (free) or Buy (paid) button. Select Install if the process doesn’t begin automatically.

Microsoft Store Apply Windows Theme

Click Apply to use the theme. Close the Microsoft Store app.

Related: How to change your screen resolution in Windows 10

Use a high contrast theme

If you need a theme that’s merely black and white like the old days of MS-DOS, you can find these in a different part of the Settings app.

Windows 10 access Settings

Click Start and select the gear icon on the Start Menu. This opens the Settings app.

Windows 10 Ease of Access

In the Settings app, click Ease of Access.

Windows 10 Use High Contrast

Select High contrast in the left navigation pane. Toggle the Turn on high contrast button, which is off by default.

Windows 10 High Contrast Colors

On the Choose a theme drop-down menu, select one of the four pre-installed themes. Customize the high contrast colors if needed. Close the Settings app.

You can take the File Explorer route too by heading to C:WindowsResourcesEase of Access Themes and double-clicking on a *.theme file.

Finally, for Windows 10 power users, the operating system keeps track of the current theme at this location in the registry:

Code
HKEY_CURRENT_USERSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionThemes

It’s listed as the CurrentTheme (REG_SZ) value.


Also read: How to text with iMessage in Windows 10