Quick Tip – Enable Aero on 3rd party Vista themes

PC ProTips1 sent me a message on YouTube asking how to make 3rd party Visual Styles in Vista support Aero. He told me that his theme he was trying to use wasn’t working with Aero.  I managed to solve his problem, and figured I would create a blog post on this issue as I have not done a tutorial(ish) post in quite some time.  Read on to find out more.

I will also cover two methods of patching the system to use custom themes in Vista later on in this post.

Copying the theme to the right location.

Although you downloaded and extracted the theme folder, you need to copy the folder to the right location. Which is “C:\Windows\Resources\Themes” (Without the quotations). You can easily access this by typing it in on the start menu or in the run command. Windows will automatically save the location when you search for it on the start menu which is handy if you keep changing the theme every day.

start

Applying the theme.

Most themes will require that you copy the Visual Style out of the folder its in and paste it into the root themes directory.  (Make sure you have copied the Visual style’s folder to C:\Windows\Resources\themes first) While you do this, do not delete the Visual Style’s folder.

So it should look like the image below.

Capture

However some themes, are easier and quicker. It is just a case of copying the Visual Style folder to the themes directory and then going inside the Visual Style folder and then activating the Visual Style.

There is one major issue that PC ProTips1 had and it was that the theme he was using was supposed to support Aero and it doesn’t work with Aero.

The very big issue with Vista in this case is that it doesn’t actually name the Visual Styles when you try to choose them, so it becomes difficult to tell one from the other, which is a nightmare if you have a lot of visual styles installed.

Capture2

Back onto the Aero support, if the Visual Style is not in the right location when you activate it, the Visual Style will be called “Aero Style” on the list (Above Screenshot) and it DOES NOT support Aero, and it could potentially mess up Aero Support for other Visual Styles. The way to avoid this is to experiment (do not apply though) with activating the Visual Style in different locations. If this does not work and you are still getting the “Aero Style” on the list then you should contact the person who made the Visual Style.

Difference between .theme and Visual Styles

The main difference is that .theme files add more than just a visual style. They can change the wallpaper, the sound effects, mouse cursor and icons. Visual Styles only change the look of the OS, and leave everything else as they were.

.theme Files are activated in the same way as Visual Styles, you’ll be presented with a different Window to that of a Visual Style.

Capture3

How you can patch Vista to use custom themes.

It all depends on how you want to patch the system. There are 2 methods, Manual and Automatic. In most cases I would choose Automatic.

Manual Method

I have a video from Mobilephone2003 on YouTube who explains how to patch the system manually in Vista. I should let you know that this method can be had to undo if you do not follow the video correctly.(Recommended for Advanced users only)

Automatic Method

In most cases I recommend using the Auto method. It saves time, and it can also be safer as there is less risk of compromising your system.  There are some good freeware applications that can do this for you.  Also patching this way can preserve transparency on maximised Windows. (ala Windows 7)

Vista Glazz

Vista Glazz is one of the easiest apps to use, just two clicks and a restart and its done. Highly recommended, it can also undo the patch as well if needed.  It is worth taking a look at the documentation on the website as it can help you a lot.

Capture4

Download Link – http://www.codegazer.com/vistaglazz/

Universal Theme Patcher

The Universal theme patcher does the same thing as Vista Glazz, but is more light weight on the system and doesn’t install as its ran as a portable app. Its not got a good UI though, but its not too difficult to use.

I have done a video on this myself which you can watch below.

Download Link – http://www.askvg.com/how-to-install-use-3rd-party-custom-themes-in-windows-7/ (Worry not for it works for Vista too)

I want 3rd party themes but I don’t want to patch the system.

There are two main ways you can have 3rd party themes without patching the system.  One is a paid option and the other is free

Windows Blinds

Windows Blinds is a good application that can change the theme without having the patch, however its paid software so you are limited to a trial of 30 days before you have to purchase it.

I have another video from Mobilephone2003 on Windows Blinds.  If it seems alright for you then give the trial a try and see if you like it.

The one potential issue I had with Windows Blinds is it’s heavy system resource usage.

CustoPack Tools

You can also try Custopack Tools.  It still patches the system but its less risky than the other methods I had described above.  All you need to do is download the application and then download Custopacks from the Custopack gallery, it will modify all the system files and it will also apply any themes, icons and sounds to your system.  It works on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.
Custopack tools running on Windows 7
Custopack tools running on Windows 7
You can download it here.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped PcProTips1 and anyone else who needed to read this.  Keep in mind that you should create a restore point before attempting to do any of this as you can really mess up your computer if you make a mistake.

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