Unfortunately, Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 do not include the true Classic theme that was available in retro Windows versions.
So, you won’t be able to apply visuals that look exactly like Windows 95, 98, or 2000. Yeah, that’s a little bit of a bummer but it’s also because the theme engine is much different in later versions — Classic has been deprecated.
All that said, it’s still possible to give your Windows theme a retro feel. In fact, you can get pretty dang close to the original, so there’s no reason to shed any tears, at least not yet
It’s also important to note that there are several different methods for customizing the Windows theme, particularly when it comes to creating a classic look.
If one of the methods turns out unsatisfactory for you, then you can always try another.
Also, because of the Metro design in Windows 10, some of the elements may not jive or may even look a little funny. Sadly, it’s something you just have to live with.
Without further ado, here’s how to make your Windows 10 visuals a lot like those from 95, 98 or 2000.
Customize Your Own Theme Using High Contrast as a Base
- Right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize. This works in older versions of Windows too. Alternatively, you can open Windows settings and navigate to Ease of Access > High Contrast. Either way, you should be able to see several high contrast themes that are installed.
- Choose one high contrast theme. Unlike the standard theme, you can fully customize the high contrast theme, including various colors and accents.
- Click on the Color option to customize the various window, font, and border options.
What makes this method great is that you can customize the colors and elements to your own liking. But it’s definitely more time-consuming than the second method you’ll find below.
Applying a Custom Theme (from User kizo2703)
A designer from DeviantArt going by kizo2703 created a custom theme for the latest versions of Windows which applies the Classic style. It’s pretty easy to install and use, and only takes a few minutes.
- Visit kizo2703’s Classic Theme page on DeviantArt and click the green and blue download button. The file that download is compressed in a ZIP format. Windows 10 includes an archive tool already, but you can also use WinZip and 7ZIP to extract the file.
- Right-click and choose the Extract Here option from the context menu. This depends on what archive tool you’re using.
- Copy the theme file that was extracted to:
C:\Window\Resources\Ease of Access Themes
- Right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize. Alternatively, you can open Windows settings and navigate to Ease of Access > High Contrast. You should see the new theme listed under the high contrast themes section.
- Double-click on a listed theme to apply the theme.
Again, it doesn’t look exactly like the older versions of Windows but it’s definitely close!
Note: You can find a similar theme package at NewAgeSoldier along with detailed instructions on how to apply the theme. Inside each archive, you’ll find a readme with step-by-step instructions, and there’s a video tutorial on the download page, as well.
Of course, you could always use a third-party theme or customization tool to change the look and feel of Windows.
But the steps here are relatively simple and only take a few minutes, and there’s much to be said for such a thing.
If you have any questions or concerns feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond in a timely manner!