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The answers I've seen are themes, which only give me the colours and not the appearance/performance of the UI; in addition, I want to keep Metro.

Basically this:

Windows Classic, with bevels and shit

Instead of:

Fake as shit Classic; it's Aero pretending to be Classic

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currently, there is no theme. Ask a designer on deviantart.com to create one for you. –  magicandre1981 Dec 2 '12 at 6:57
But it's been built into Windows for years now, I don't expect it to disappear. –  Calvin B Dec 2 '12 at 14:24
"But it's been built into Windows for years now, I don't expect it to disappear." - Ah, how many times have I said this about some feature or another, only to have it promptly disappear from the next Windows version. –  Karan Dec 2 '12 at 19:05
Actually, the classic theme is still there, even in Window Technical Preview 10. There's a guy on thinkpads forum has got your question figure out with his very own method. ... he figured out that the classic theme can be restored for new processes by closing the handle to a shared memory section named "\Sessions\<Session ID>\Windows\ThemeSection" in the WinLogon process. He had written a quick and dirty program to automate the task at startup. For more detailed and download link go to forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=67&t=113024so go there and try on your own. –  Edward Nov 1 '14 at 12:51

5 Answers 5

Actually the Classic theme does not get you more performance on the modern hardware:

  • Classic theme uses CPU to render all its elements;
  • New theme (it's Aero-based but without transparency) uses the power of GPU to render UI.
    Graphics Processing Units have enough memory to keep many window images in memory, so that the windows does not have to be repainted when you switch to a window which wasn't visible. Thus you save processing resources to other tasks or merely preserve battery energy.

Having the above in mind, with Windows 8, Microsoft decided you can't turn off Desktop Window Manager (DWM) any more. However, if you stop Themes service, Windows will have to fallback to CPU-based window rendering similar to Classic theme.

However, the approach from How-To Geek in another answer seems better alternative to stopping a service.

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"Classic theme uses CPU to render all its elements" - this depends on whether DWM is running and not on the theming. –  Anixx Feb 27 at 21:48
"New theme (it's Aero-based but without transparency) uses the power of GPU to render UI." - if DWM is running, Classic theme also uses GPU. –  Anixx Feb 27 at 21:49
@Anixx Classic theme doesn't use GPU. Well, of course, both use GPU to display graphics. The difference is Aero-based themes use hardware acceleration and video memory to cache rendered windows. It isn't the case with the classic theme which uses only GDI interfaces, and window needs repainting whenever it becomes visible. Surely, application itself can use hardware acceleration. –  Alexey Ivanov Feb 28 at 18:01
you are wrong, see my answer. Classic theme works well with DWM enabled and GPU 3D acceleration working. –  Anixx Feb 28 at 18:27
@Anixx What I said is Classic theme does not use DWM or GPU 3D acceleration. –  Alexey Ivanov Mar 2 at 6:50

You can use the following program:


It allows you to have Classic look (disables the themes) but keeps DWM running:


If you want DWM disabled as well, try this program:

Windows 8 no DWM

But do not forget to enable Auto-login to desktop because both login screen and StartScreen need DWM (additionally you may need to rename the Aero folder).

enter image description here

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This theme is described by HowToGeek as the closest one can get :

How to Get Classic-Style Themes Back on Windows 8

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I have classic theme working. Quite simple.. Just setup auto logon, rename dwm.exe so winlogon.exe can't find it, and do the same for the resources folder ..\Windows\Resources\

Also good to import the classic theme colours registry settings from windows 7..

Use penetwork for metro network ui, use turn system icons on or off to get rid of Windows network icon. Use Windows pe task manager (old style non dwm dependant, can be pulled out of Windows setup using shift f10, notepad, open file, all files. Need en-us\taskbar.exe.mui). Use clearlock instead of locking pc, replace sethc.exe for lock on 5x shift key. Use classic shell for start menu, disable all metro and start screen references. Google how to disable the explorer ribbon ui, do it. Google how to disable Command bar, edit the shellstyle.dll in system32. Use batterybar and disable low battery notifications if using a laptop, also disable icon using turn system icons on or off. Disable lock and switch users. Disable password on wake. Set force auto logon key to automatically log on if you accidentally log off. Google how to disable all hot corners, charms bar & mouse edge ui

Only problem with this.. Can't see any startup/shutdown messages Can't use multiple user accounts Insecure due to clearlock Can't use metro apps Can't use startscreen Can't use ctrl alt del security screen Can't use open with dialogue Can't use network UI dialogue Can't use autoplay dialogue Can't use charms bar

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As the other answers have stated, the old, non composited classic theme is gone, and all the other answers do is suggest you tweak the theme. Lets face it - its not a classic theme without a proper start button and menu. On the other hand, if you want all that modern/metro/windowsui/whatevertheycallitthisweek goodness, you need a start screen. You can probably use my solution, in conjunction with either classic, or new shiny windows 8 themes to get something that close enough to a windows XP or 7 system UIwise. It also contains a explorer tweaking tool that brings it closer to a classic windows explorer window

It takes a bit of tweaking to get it just right but you can get something pretty close to what you want with a combination of classic shell and small taskbar buttons set to "never combine" through the regular taskbar settings. You can also tweak to select the explorer style you want
enter image description here. In this case, I've created a new account (the horrible yellow wallpaper is a default!) and set this up like an XP system. You can also use a 7 style start button, and/or 7 style explorer settings.

You can use the start screen menu as you see here to access the start screen/metro.I do believe you can also pin that in order to get a modern ui/strat screen launcher, and presumably set another shortcut to it.

enter image description here

Unlike a theme hack, this is a standalone application that can be easily installed and uninstalled, without having to resort to ugly things like patching and other hacks. It also uses the DWM (unlike the classic themes), so you're not missing out on the graphically accelerated (and actually faster) UI with aero. You can also uninstall it cleanly if you're not happy with it

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I've minified my images - since they're huge screenshots. Full sized links i.stack.imgur.com/OZiNp.jpg and i.stack.imgur.com/H1jx7.png –  Journeyman Geek Dec 9 '13 at 7:24

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