How to install Windows 7 themes This will be a guide how to install Windows 7 themes properly. You can install themepacks created on Windows 7 by double-clicking on it, but for 3rd party themes you will have to patch your uxtheme.dll and some other dll files first.

Overview: Update March 2014

Installing custom Windows 7 themes can be more difficult than you think. This is a comprehensive guide that will teach you what you have to do.

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Important: If this tutorial is too difficult for you or simply can’t install Windows 7 themes after following each and every step, you should simply download one of our custom Windows 7 themes. ALL of them can be installed with a simple double-click!

Installing .Themepack Themes vs. Installing Unsigned Themes

Before we start, answer this question:
Do you want to install a theme that has the file extension .themepack or is it a complex shell theme that actually changes the appearance of your operating system and has the file extension .theme and usually comes with a whole folder of files?

If the answer is that it is a .themepack theme, you can install the theme with a simple double-click. If it’s not, then proceed with the next step.

Before installing 3rd-party themes: Create a backup

Microsoft does not allow you to use themes that modify the shell of Windows 7 or other parts like the Start orb or the taskbar. In order to install those themes you will have to patch your uxtheme.dll, themeui.dll and themeservice.dll, which can be found “C:\Windows\system32\”.

Before you try to install any themes please make a backup of those files!! I won’t repeat this and you are doing any changes at your own risk, I don’t take any responsibility.

Method 1: Universal Theme Patcher

Alternatively, you can download the Universal Theme Patcher created by deepxw that works with Windows XP SP2 SP3/2003/2008/Vista SP1 SP2/Windows 7, 32bit(x86)/64bit(x64). This won’t create another background process, instead it will patch your files.

Download Universal Theme Patcher.

This patcher will automatically patch the following files on Windows 7: uxtheme.dll, themeui.dll, themeservice.dll

Universal Theme  Patcher

In order to patch the files, you will to run this with administrator privileges. To provide admin rights, right-click on the file and select “Run as administrator”:

run as  administrator theme patcher

The tool will automatically create a backup of the file, so it’s totally safe, because you can always restore the original file:

theme patcher backup  file

One last step: To install 3rd party themes, you have to copy the complete folder to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes

Click here for more instructions where to copy your Windows 7 themes

Method 2: Background Service UXStyle Core

The first and probably easiest way to install Windows 7 themes is to use the UXStyle Core tool (created by Rafael
The UXStyle Core tool can downloaded from or from our own server: Download UXStyle Core

This tool will create a new process “UnsignedThemesSvc.exe” that is running in the background and will allow you to run 3rd-party themes properly.

After rebooting your PC, you should check if the service “Unisgned Themes” is started. To do that follow a few instructions:

1. Step Click on Start
2. Step Enter services.msc into the search field
3. Step Enter “U” and look for the service “Unsigned Themes”
4. Step Double-click it and click on “Start”
5. Step If it could not find the specified file, you should download

Unsigned Themes Service

One last step: To install 3rd party themes, you have to copy the complete folder to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes

Click here for more instructions where to copy your Windows 7 themes

Troubleshooting Unsigned Themes service

Windows could not start the Unsigned Themes service on local computer.
Error 2: The system cannot find the file specified.

Download Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package

Microsoft Visual Studio

Sidenote: Before you use the UXStyle Core, you should deinstall any previously installed UXTheme.dll patches. The UXStyle Core is working on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.

If you have problems installing unsigned themes after installing UXStyle Core, check if the service is started: Enter “sc start UnsignedThemes” into command line or follow the instructions above.
Reboot your PC after installing UXStyle Core!

UXTheme.dll x64 Build 7100

I uploaded my own dll files, but you should only use them if you are using Windows 7 Build 7100 (RC) x64:
Download UXTheme.dll x64 7100#

If you found this tutorial useful, please retweet it, submit it to digg or stumbleupon. I would really appreciate it.

Where should I copy my themes to?

To install your 3rd-party themes you have to copy your themes to the folder C:\Windows\Resources\Themes
Let’s take a peek at that folder to understand how it works:

Windows 7 Themes Folder

The themes folder has some .theme files but also a folder called “Aero”. This folder is part of the Aero theme (aero.theme). The folder MUST have the exact name of the .theme file (in this case Aero). The folder name is case-insensitive.

Now let’s take a peek at a typical 3rd-party theme:

Install 3rd-party themes

A folder and a .theme file! For now, it doesn’t really matter what is in that folder. Now, when you extract the folder and .theme file you have to make sure that you are not creating a subfolder for the theme, it has to be exactly like above! If the folder Midnight and Midnight.theme are in a subfolder your theme won’t be recognized.

Installing Custom Windows 7 Themes

What should I do with shell32.dll, explorer.exe and other system files?

Many themes will include system files that you have to replace, e.g. explorer.exe, shell32.dll or other system files. You have to replace them to fully install your themes.

Be advised that modifying system files can render your system unusable! Always be VERY careful when you replace system files.

Read our tutorial: How to replace system files in Windows 7

Installing Shell Themes & Theme Installer 0.7

Update 8/8/2010:

A new guide has been added that explains how to install custom Windows 7 shell themes. This guide includes some special tips for 64-bit Windows 7 users. When you install shell themes on Windows 7 64-bit you’ll have to copy some files to the SysWOW64 folder, that’s explained in the guide:

How to install shell themes

Additionally, we have added a theme installer that makes installing themes a lot easier:

Download Windows 7 theme installer

Windows 8 Users

Last but not least, I want to explain to you how this work on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 – any themepacks you create on Windows 7 will work 100% on Windows 8, however all shell or 3rd-party themes won’t and require additional patching.

For the full instructions, you read this guide

Also, Windows 8 themes (deskthemepacks) do not work on Windows 7 – there is no backwards-compatibility, only forward-compatibility, keep that in mind when installing Windows 7 themes

If you have any questions regarding the installation, post a comment below