The one change that I liked when I transitioned from Windows 98 to Windows XP was the new look and feel. Windows 98 was amazingly boring in looks and Windows XP just the hip thing that I wanted. A incredible long wait later came Windows Vista which took the oomph factor to a new level but unfortunately with Vista came heavy hardware requirements and the cost factor. That said I still wanted the looks and features from Windows Vista for my Windows XP PC. With the help of a few tools and utilities I was able to achieve that and all of it for FREE.
So if you are in love with the looks of Windows Vista but do not want to spend all those big bucks on buying additional hardware and of course the software itself then the tools below will help you change the visual style for Windows XP and add more functionality to it just like Windows Vista has.
There are tons of themes out there but the one that I liked the most is Windows Media Player 11 theme for XP. This theme changes the look of Windows XP to look like Windows media player 11. This is definitely one of the most cool looks I have come across. There are lots of other themes you can find at deviantArt.
If you bored of your logon screen then it is time for you to do with a change. LogonStudio is a free program that allows you to change and edit logon screen. I personally use the Windows Vista Logon Screen. You can find more logon screens at deviantArt or you can also browse the gallery at xptheme.info.
Boot screen is the basically the screen which shows up when you start your PC. The regular boot screen shows a Windows XP logo with a progress bar below. How boring. Well even though this does not really matter since it only shows up when you start or reboot your PC. It’s always better to look at something interesting while the PC gets powered up.
My personal favorite is the one below which cheers up my windows startup screen.
The best thing I like about Windows Vista is the new set of icons it has, it is definitely much better than what Windows XP has. IconTweaker is a great utility pack if you want to change the Icons of your system.
There are many free icon packs you can download and use to change the default icons in Windows XP. I personally use the Vista icon set for my PC. Unfortunately the site I downloaded it from does not exist anymore, but I have shared the icon set on my Microsoft Live SkyDrive for anyone interested in downloading it.
Vista Start Menu
One of the major change with Vista is the start menu, which allows you to load application simply by typing it into the search box. ViStart is a utility that brings the Vista Start menu to your Windows XP PC. Using this you can easily search for programs or documents from the start menu itself. The quick search function is a real life saver if you have lots of applications installed.
ViStart also comes with the transperancy quotient that is heavily used in Windows Vista.
Windows Vista Explorer comes with a new breadcrumb navigation that allows you to easily navigate with folders. QT Address Bar is a neat little utility that allows you to have a breadcrumb like navigation in Windows Explorer.
With the software installed not only do you get the Windows Vista feature but you will also be able to navigate your folders with ease.
The alt and tab keys are perhaps the most used keys on my keyboard since I make very minimal usage of the mouse. Alt+Tab are use to easily switch between different open applications without having to use the mouse.
Windows Vista has a nice little feature where the application can be previewed while you using Alt+Tab keys. Alt-Tab replacement provides the same set of features for Windows XP.
After installing the utility you will immediately be able to see the previews of applications while using Alt+Tab keys.
Windows Vista added another nice feature where you can view thumbnails of the application by hovering your mouse over them in the taskbar. Visual tooltip is a utility which adds the same feature to Windows XP. Using the software you can view the thumbnails for the application when you hover your mouse over it. This saves you some time when you want to see what the application is running before bringing it on top.
That’s it after installing the above software’s you can transform your Windows XP PC to look like Windows Vista and all that without having to spend a penny. You can also download the other bundled software’s like Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Photo Gallery which is only available to beta testers right now which I am.
I could achieve all this on my moderately configured HP Pavillion dv4000 Laptop with 2GB system memory and 1.6 Ghz Processor. The same hardware combination would give very poor performance if it is run on Windows Vista.
For all those who are lazy to download and install the software’s to make your Windows XP PC look like Windows Vista, there is Vista Transformation Pack which transforms it for you. The software changes the boot screen, logon screen, visual styles, icons, progress dialog, sounds, tray icons, wallpapers, media player skin and much more, so that your desktop will look like Windows Vista.
Do you use any other software that makes Windows XP look like Windows Vista, do share them in the comments. I am looking forward to your hear about you favorite themes etc so that I can give it a try.