Getting started with themes

In Windows, you can use themes to help make your desktop feel a little more personal. Themes change the desktop background, window border colour, sounds and screen saver on your PC all at once, and you can switch between themes as often as you like. You can also create your own themes and share them with friends and family.

What's a theme?

A theme is a combination of pictures, colours and sounds. Themes include:

The parts of a theme
Parts of a theme
  • A desktop background. A picture, colour or design that acts as a backdrop to the open windows on your desktop. The desktop background can be a single picture or a slide show. You can choose from the desktop background pictures that come with Windows, or you can use your own pictures.

  • A window border colour. The colour of your window borders and taskbar. A theme can include one specific window border colour, or a colour can be chosen automatically based on the colours in the desktop background picture.

  • Sounds. A collection of related sounds that you hear when events happen on your PC. An event can be an action that you do, like signing in to your PC, or something that your PC does, like letting you know when you get a new email.

  • A screen saver. A moving picture or pattern that appears on your PC screen when you haven't used the mouse or keyboard for a certain period of time. The screen saver is turned off in the themes that come with Windows, but you can turn it on and add one to a theme.

You can find all of your themes in Personalisation in Control Panel. Tap or click any theme to apply it to your desktop.

Open Personalisation by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering Personalization in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, then tapping or clicking Personalisation.

Tip

  • On the desktop, you can press and hold or right-click the desktop, then tap or click Personalise to open Personalisation.

In Personalisation in Control Panel, there are four types of themes.

  • My Themes. Themes that you've created, made changes to, saved or downloaded. Any time you change a theme, the new settings appear here as an unsaved theme.

  • Windows Default Themes. Windows themes that you can use to personalise your PC. Most of them include a desktop background slide show.

  • Installed Themes. Themes that were created by your PC manufacturer or other non-Microsoft providers.

  • High Contrast Themes. Themes that make items on your screen easier to see. The High Contrast themes don't include automatic window border colours or desktop background slideshows.

Creating themes

You aren't limited to the themes that come with Windows – you can create customised themes using your own pictures and screen savers, and choose the colours and sounds that go along with them. To get started, tap or click any theme to apply it to your desktop. Then change each part of the theme until the desktop background, window border colour, sounds and screen saver are just how you want them to be. All of your changes will appear under My Themes as an unsaved theme.

An unsaved theme
An unsaved theme

To create a theme

  1. Open Personalisation by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering Personalization in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, then tapping or clicking Personalisation.

  2. To change the desktop background, tap or click Desktop Background at the bottom of the page, browse to the pictures you want to use, tick the checkboxes for the pictures that you want to include in your slideshow, then tap or click Save changes.

  3. To change the colour of your window borders and taskbar, tap or click Colour at the bottom of the page, then do one of the following:

    Tap or click Automatic to let Windows choose a colour automatically based on the colours in your desktop background picture, then tap or click Save changes.
    – or –
    Tap or click the colour that you want to use, then tap or click Save changes.

    The Automatic colour option in Personalisation
    The Automatic window colour option
  4. To change the sounds you hear when something happens on your computer, tap or click Sounds at the bottom of the page, tap or click an item in the Sound Scheme list, then tap or click OK.

  5. To add or change a screen saver, tap or click Screen Saver at the bottom of the page, tap or click an item in the Screen saver list, change any settings to suit your preference, then tap or click OK.

Tip

  • In File Explorer, you can select pictures you want to use in a theme, press and hold or right-click them, and tap or click Set as desktop background to create an unsaved theme. Then open Personalisation in Control Panel to make changes to the theme and save it.

Once you're happy with the way your new theme looks and sounds, save it so you can use it any time.

To save a theme

  1. Open Personalisation by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering Personalization in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, then tapping or clicking Personalisation.

  2. Under My Themes, tap or click your unsaved theme to apply it to the desktop.

  3. Tap or click Save theme.

  4. Enter a name for your theme, and then tap or click Save.

    The new theme name will appear under My Themes.

Sharing themes

Once you've saved a theme, you can share it with your friends and family. To send your theme to other people, first you'll need to save it in a file format that can be shared, called a .themepack file.

  1. Open Personalisation by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering Personalization in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, then tapping or clicking Personalisation.

  2. Tap or click your customised theme to apply it to the desktop.

  3. Press and hold or right-click the theme, and then tap or click Save theme for sharing.

    Right-clicking a theme
    Saving a theme
  4. In the File name box, enter a name for your theme, then tap or click Save.

    You can share your theme using email, a network, or an external drive.

Deleting themes

If you're no longer using a theme you've created or downloaded, you can delete it from your PC to save on disk space. (The themes that come with Windows can't be deleted.)

  1. Tap or click a different theme to apply it to the desktop. You can't delete a theme while it's being used.

  2. Press and hold or right-click the theme that you want to delete, then tap or click Delete theme.

Get more themes

You can find more themes to add to your collection in the Personalisation Gallery on the Windows website. See which themes are new and popular, or browse categories such as Animals, Automotive and Films.

Finding a theme you've downloaded

If you've downloaded a theme from the Personalisation Gallery, here's how to find it and add it to My Themes in Personalisation.

  1. Open File Explorer by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering File Explorer in the search box, then tapping or clicking File Explorer.

  2. In the left pane, tap or click Downloads.

  3. Double-tap or double-click the theme you downloaded to apply it to the desktop. It'll be added to My Themes in Personalisation automatically.

Getting more info about the pictures

If you're curious about the pictures that are included in a particular theme, you can see more info about them, including titles and the locations where the photos were taken. (This info might not be available for some pictures.)

  1. Open Personalisation by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering Personalization in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, then tapping or clicking Personalisation.

  2. Tap or click a theme to apply it to the desktop, then tap or click Desktop Background.

  3. Press and hold or point to a picture to see more info about it.

See your pictures on Start and the lock screen

In Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, you can see your favourite photos on Start and the lock screen too. To learn how, see See pictures on the desktop, Start, and the lock screen.

Note

  • You can't change the default font or font colour used for items in Windows (like window title bars, menus or tooltips). But you can make all of the text (and other things like icons) on your screen larger, or you can change the text size for specific items without changing the size of anything else on the screen. To learn more, see Getting the best display on your monitor.

Need more help?