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I was looking to theme my PC in an XP style but nowhere can I find a reliable way to replace my icons (i.e. Recycle Bin, Hard Drive, CD icons) with XP's. I was curious as to whether I could perhaps create an XP VM, pull the shell32 off it and replace my W7's. Alternatively, are there other avenues I could try?

  • You cannot use Windows 7 system files within Windows XP. – Ramhound Oct 7 '18 at 23:30
  • I want to replace the Windows 7 files with XP's, not the other way around. – Remona Minett Oct 7 '18 at 23:39
  • I would expect that to fail. Years ago I tried to replace the shell32.dll in NT4 with a somewhat different version designed for NT4. It would not boot. What you want to do is far more drastic. Windows expects the versions of system files to match. If you somehow got around that there would be other problems. – LMiller7 Oct 8 '18 at 0:48
  • If all you want is the icons, you may be able to pull them out of Windows XP's shell32.dll and transfer the icon files to Windows 7. Try using IconsExtract. – Worthwelle Oct 8 '18 at 4:27
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No, you can't do that.

Shell32.dll is a core file of the operating system which provides the functionality needed to make the shell works (although it's a simplification the shell is more or less Desktop + Start menu + Windows Explorer). Yes, it has a lot of icons but only because that icons are used by the shell so they are stored the same place.

So changing that file would affect a very important part of Windows that need to be synchronized with the rest of files of the OS, even using another file from the same version of Windows but with a different Service Pack applied would make the operating system unbootable.

Anyway, nowadays you couldn't even try that because starting with Windows XP (or maybe 2000) Microsoft added Windows File Protection, which maintain a copy of the core operating system files and if it detects that one of those files have been replaced it replaces it again from the backup copy.

  • Thanks. I appreciate the clarification. I will find another method. – Remona Minett Oct 9 '18 at 7:06
  • It have been a lot since I tinkered with this things, but I think that you can manually change a lot of that icons. What you can make is copy the shell32.dll from an XP system and put in another folder, and then manually point to that DLL when customizing the icons. That would not generate problems since you are keeping the Windows 7 DLL in place. – Alberto Martinez Oct 9 '18 at 11:43

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