If you're looking to create a minimal desktop design in Windows 7, using custom themes is essential. The default theme is clunky, blunt and does not suit minimalism. To use custom themes a simple 1 click process can patch the necessary system files; it's a fool proof process. Also note that this process will work on Vista and XP but there are some minor differences and if you are using either of those OSes you should do more research into it or leave a comment below.
Short version (for advanced users)
- Patch system files using Ultimate Theme Patcher
- Download a custom theme
- Move theme to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes
- Apply theme in Windows 7 'personalise' menu
Patching the files
First we need to patch the 3 system files:
The easiest way to do this is through a desktop patching client such as Universal Theme Patcher (v1.5). You can download Universal Theme Patcher in the links.
Once downloaded,extract the files from the .zip and run in administrator mode either the 'UniversalThemePatcher-x64.exe' for 64 Bit OS or the 'UniversalThemePatcher-x86.exe' for 32 Bit OS. To run the software in administrator mode simply right click on the .exe and select run as administrator. The files won't be able to be patched without doing this.
In Ultimate Theme Patcher, patch the 3 files by pressing 'patch' on the right hand side of the window (do it for each one). Ultimate Theme Patcher even creates a backup so you can easily restore the files to their original state if need be. Restart your computer and you're ready to install themes.
'Installing' themes is really just downloading them and copying them into the correct directory.
I like to find themes on DeviantArt, there's a whole category designated to it so they're easy to filter through. However you will pull up many results by searching 'Windows 7 Themes' in your favourite search engine. One thing to note is that there are two types of themes, 'Aero theme' and 'custom themes'. An aero theme is like the built in themes that came with your PC, for example you probably have one called architecture, characters or landscapes. These themes do not need your system files to be modified and can even be downloaded off the Microsoft website. 'Aero themes' will usually be in the .themepack format. 'Custom themes' which can also use Widnows Aero features (confusing isn't it?) are usually in a compressed format as there will be multiple files to download. If you have a theme in this format you can be almost certain that it is a 'custom theme'; what you have just patched your system files to use.
Once you have downloaded a theme you need to extract the compressed files to the themes directory, commonly found at: C:\Windows\Resources\Themes the drive letter (C)is determined by where your Windows Installation is. When extracting the theme make sure to read the read-me or developers notes if there are any, there may be some special instructions or additional files that will complete the theme for example a custom explorer.exe (start button) or Explorer Frame colour that must be applied.
If there are no additional files you should have at bare minimum a .theme file and a folder with the themes name. These are the only two essentials for the theme to work. Ensure these are in the C:\Windows\Resources\Themes directory.
To apply your newly installed theme, right click on the desktop and press personalise. You will now be greeted with a window where you can change your theme, amongst other options such as Desktop Wallpaper, Window Colour and Screensaver. You want to find the 'Installed Themes' section of the main scroll box, it will be beneath 'My Themes' and 'Aero Themes'. Simply click on your theme to apply it. Now hopefully you can customise a new sleek, minimalistic desktop design!