Using themes

If you spend a lot of time looking at your computer screen, you know how important it is to like what you see. The pictures, colors, and sounds you choose can reflect who you are and what's important to you—and help make your PC feel like home. In Windows 7, you can change the desktop background, window border color, sounds, and screen saver on your PC all at once (and as often as you like) by using themes.

What's a theme?

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

Picture of the parts of a theme
Parts of a theme
  • A desktop background. A picture, color, or design that provides a backdrop to your open windows. 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.

    Picture of desktop backgrounds that come with Windows
    Some of the desktop background choices in Windows
  • A window border color. The color of your window borders, taskbar, and Start menu.

    Picture of window border colors
    Window border colors that are available with Aero
  • Sounds. A collection of related sounds that you hear when events occur on your computer. An event can be an action that you perform, such as logging on to your computer, or an action that your computer performs, such as alerting you when you receive new e‑mail.

  • A screen saver. A moving picture or pattern that appears on your computer screen when you haven’t used the mouse or keyboard for a specified period of time.

You can find all of your themes in Personalization in Control Panel. Click any theme to apply it to your desktop.

Open Personalization by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type personalization, and then click Personalization.

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

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

  • Aero Themes. Windows themes you can use to personalize your computer. All of the Aero themes include Aero glass effects, and many of them include a desktop background slide show. For more information about Aero, see What is the Aero desktop experience?

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

  • Basic and High Contrast Themes. Themes that are designed to help improve your computer's performance or make items on your screen easier to see. The Basic and High Contrast themes don't include Aero glass effects.

Creating themes

You’re not limited to the themes that come with Windows. Whether you want to show off the latest snapshots of your kids, remember the good times on a vacation or at a wedding, or pay homage to your favorite movie, band, or sport, you can create a theme to do it. You can save your customized theme—and even send it to someone else.

To get started, click any theme to apply it to your desktop. Then change each part of the theme until the desktop background, window border color, sounds, and screen saver are just how you want them to be. All of your changes will be saved under My Themes as an unsaved theme. For more information, see Create a theme.

Picture of an unsaved theme
An unsaved theme

If you're happy with the way your new theme looks and sounds, you can save it so you can use it whenever you like.

To save a theme

  1. Open Personalization by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type personalization, and then click Personalization.

  2. Click your customized theme to apply it to the desktop.

  3. Click Save theme.

  4. Type a name for your theme, and then click Save.

    The theme will appear under My Themes.

Sharing themes

You don't have to stop there. You can send themes you've created to your friends and family members who have Windows 7. To send your theme to other people, you'll need to save it in a file format that can be shared, called a .themepack file. Then you can share your theme using e‑mail, a network, or an external hard disk.

To share a theme

  1. Open Personalization by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type personalization, and then click Personalization.

  2. Click your customized theme to apply it to the desktop.

  3. Right-click the theme, and then click Save theme for sharing.

    Picture of right-clicking an unsaved theme
    Saving a theme
  4. In the File name box, type a name for your theme, and then click Save.

    By default, Windows saves the theme in your My Documents folder.

    Picture of a .themepack file in the My Documents folder
    A .themepack file in the My Documents folder

Deleting themes

If you get tired of a theme you've created or downloaded, you can delete it from your PC. (The themes that come with Windows can't be deleted.)

To delete a theme

  1. Click a different theme to apply it to the desktop. You can't delete a theme while it's in use.

  2. Right-click the theme that you want to delete, and then click Delete theme.

Get more themes

You can find more themes to add to your collection in the Personalization Gallery on the Windows website.

Get more information about the pictures

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

To find information about a picture

  1. Open Personalization by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type personalization, and then click Personalization.

  2. Click a theme to apply it to the desktop, then click Desktop Background.

  3. Point to a picture to see more information about it.