How to make Windows 8.1 look like Windows XP

I never really got over my love for Windows XP.  I know it’s an antiquated OS, heck; it’s over 13 years old, but I still have a thing for it.  For the most part Windows XP was reliable.  And even though Windows 7 and Windows 10 have a litany of security enhancements over Windows XP, I still like the steel gray toolbar and the flowing verdant hills of that famous Bliss wallpaper.

Windows XP was great.  Sure, it would occasionally crash, but system instability felt like the exception rather than the rule.

But then something happened.

In Late October of 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 and in the following months everyone complained.  There were a bunch of big issues but the missing Classic Desktop Theme was one of the biggest foibles that perturbed XP junkies.

You may recall that the Classic Desktop Theme was the closest Windows XP approximation we had.  It wasn’t perfect but it was close enough and it effectively made moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 less nettlesome.

Making Windows 8.1 feel like XP

Today I want to show you the best trick I know for making Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 look like Windows XP.

It’s far from perfect but it’ll definitely bring back the memories…

First, go download Zoran’s Classic Theme for Windows from

Open the ZIP archive and drag and drop the classic.theme file to C:\Windows\Resources\Ease of Access Themes.

Windows 8.1 Copying themes to your computer

Now right click on the Desktop and choose Personalize from the context menu.

Scroll down to the bottom of the Personalization screen to the High Contract Themes section and choose classic.

Selecting the classic theme in Windows 8.1

Pick the Color button at the bottom of the window and change the Window background color from gray to white.

Changing the Color and Appearance of the window background

You can keep it gray if you want but I think white looks better.

Click the Save changes button.

Changing the Color and Appearance in Windows 8.1

Now we need to make the taskbar behave closer to the way the Windows XP taskbar behaves.

Right click the Taskbar, visit Properties and change the Taskbar buttons to Never combine.

This tells Windows to never consolidate multiple instances of the same application.  Rather than stacking instances, each will get its own horizontal space on the Taskbar.

Never combine Taskbar Windows

Great, now for the finishing touches.  We need the beautiful background with the lush grass and cerulean sky.

You can Google around but it’s easier to just grab the HD remix at

Now just download and set your new background image and you’re back in late 90’s.

Windows XP is so beautiful, don't you want to go here?

It’s kind of hard to beat the pastoral simplicity of this setup…

Now tell everyone who walks by your desk that you’re running Windows XP and then click the Start Button and watch ’em gasp.



Connect with Vonnie on Twitter

Posted in Windows, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with: ,