Personalize Your Working Environment in Windows 10

  • 11/12/2015

Apply and manage themes

Previously in this chapter, we worked with the desktop background and system colors. You can configure those elements through the Windows 10 Personalization settings, or if you prefer you can apply an entire package of personalization elements at one time by applying a theme. The most common elements of a theme are a desktop background image or series of images, and a corresponding system color (or colors that change with the background image). These are the same elements we worked with in “Set the desktop background and system colors” earlier in this chapter. A theme can also include custom notification sounds that play to notify you of Windows events (such as a low battery or User Account Control request for Administrator approval of a change) and app events (such as an incoming instant message, a blocked pop-up window, or a completed transaction).

Three colorful themes (Windows, Windows 10, and Flowers) and four high contrast themes (#1, #2, Black, and White) come with Windows 10. Most of the images in this book depict the “Windows” theme desktop background.


The built-in themes supplied with all Windows 10 installations

The high contrast themes increase the color contrast of text, window borders, and images on your screen to make them more visible and easier to read and identify.

The manufacturer of your computer might also install a theme that is specific to the brand of computer you have. If you work in a managed computer environment, your company might have a corporate theme that is installed by default with the base computer image.

In addition to these theme options, thousands of themes are available online, from the Themes page of the Windows website. You can access the Themes page directly at or from the Personalization panel that displays the themes that are already installed on your computer. The desktop backgrounds of these themes feature some breathtaking photography and creative artwork across multiple subject categories that include not only general photography (landscapes, animals, plants, people, and places) but also themes tied to specific movies or games. You could spend hours browsing through the options.


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Theme categories and themes in the Natural Wonders category

Themes in the Panoramic category are designed to span across two screens, for people who work with a second monitor that is connected to their computer system. For panoramic themes to work as intended, both screens must have the same resolution.


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Panoramic images span across monitors

Clicking any theme thumbnail displays information about the theme, including the full selection of background images and the name of the photographer if the images are attributed to an individual person. Many of the themes in the From The Community category are contributed by photographers as showcases of their work.


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You can preview the background images before you download a theme

You can download any online theme to your computer, and then open the downloaded file to unpack the theme elements and apply the theme. The theme elements are saved in the hidden AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes folder in your user account folder; you can access them there when you customize themes, or copy them to a more convenient location.


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The unpacked theme files

After you apply a theme, you can customize elements of it to suit your individual taste. For example, many themes come with multiple desktop background images, and you can choose the one that you like best, or choose a selection to display in slide show fashion. If you use your Microsoft account credentials to sign in to multiple computers, you can choose to synchronize a custom theme among all of your accounts.


Custom, downloaded, and synchronized themes

At the time of this writing, themes are ultimately managed in Control Panel, but you can also get to the theme settings through the Personalization category in the Settings window.

Any changes that you make after you apply a theme create a customized version of that theme, which is designated in the Personalization panel as Unsaved Theme. For example, you can change the system color or select a single background image from among several that come with a theme. If you like the changes you make to a theme, you can save it as a custom theme, either for your own use or for distribution to other people.

To display the installed themes

  1. In the Settings window, click Personalization, and then click Themes.
  2. In the Themes pane, click Theme settings to open the Personalization panel.


  1. Open Control Panel, and then do one of the following:

    • In Category view of Control Panel, under Appearance and Personalization, click Change the theme.
    • In Large Icons view or Small Icons view of Control Panel, click Personalization.

To apply an installed theme

  1. In the Personalization panel, click the theme you want to apply.

To apply a theme from the Windows website

  1. In the My Themes section of the Personalization panel, click the Get more themes online link to display the Themes webpage in your default browser.
  2. On the Themes webpage, locate the theme you want to apply.
  3. Click the theme thumbnail to display the description.
  4. On the theme description page, click the Download theme button to download the file that contains the theme elements to your Downloads folder. A notification box displays the download status.


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    Open the file to install the theme

  5. When the download completes, click Open in the notification to unpack the theme file, add the theme to the My Themes section of the Personalization panel, and apply the theme.

To save a custom theme

  1. In the My Themes section of the Personalization panel, right-click the Unsaved Theme thumbnail, and then do one of the following:

    • If you want to save the selected theme as a named theme in the My Themes section of the Personalization panel, click Save theme.
    • If you want to save the selected theme as a file that you can send to other people, click Save theme for sharing. Then in the Save Theme Pack As window, browse to the folder you want to save the Desktop Theme Pack (.deskthemepack) file in, enter a descriptive name in the File name box, and click the Save button.

To remove a theme

  1. In the My Themes section of the Personalization panel, right-click the theme you want to remove, and then click Delete theme.