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How To Make Linux Look Like Windows Vista

Windows Vista was Microsoft’s first attempt to modernize Windows. Things looked much more polished and glossy, rather than the look that Windows XP had going for it. Vista has long been retired, and Microsoft discourages users from using it.  If you liked the look of Vista though, you can make Linux look like Windows Vista with just a little work. You’ll be able to keep that familiar look, while using something a bit more modern.

Choosing A Desktop Environment

One of the key features of Windows Vista was the search functionality. Before this release of Windows, users had to sort through the start menu and look through categories to find anything. When it comes to replicating this look on Linux, it’s important to find a desktop environment with a similar search feature.

By far, the best candidate for this is Cinnamon, as the menu works very similar to how Vista did. Additionally, it has a modern theme engine, snappy window effects, and overall can closely match windows in a lot of ways.

Don’t have a powerful graphics card? Consider using XFCE4 with this menu plugin, or the Mate desktop environment coupled with the Brisk menu plugin. Both of these desktop environments have the potential to closely resemble Vista when these menus are added to them.

If you care more about the overall look of Windows Vista rather than making a nearly identical desktop that copies most (if not all) of its features, feel free to use any desktop environment for this process. Just keep in mind that some are less ideal than others.

Installing The GTK Theme

Overhauling a Linux desktop environment requires a few things, but by far the most important is changing the overall theme of everything. This is because the essence of any Linux desktop is its theme. To get started, open up a terminal. Using the terminal, search for and install “git”. This tool will help you interact with Github, and download the latest version of the Vista theme easily.

Not sure where to find Git? Check your Linux distribution’s software manager, package manager or software store for “git”, and click the install button.

git clone https://github.com/B00merang-Project/Redmond-Themes.git

This will download every theme inside of the B00merang Redmond collection. Once downloaded, use the CD command to enter the Redmond-Themes folder.

cd Redmond-Themes

From here, install the Windows Vista theme directly to the theme directory on the system.

sudo mv Windows\ Vista/ /usr/share/themes/

Want to make the theme only accessible for one user, rather than the entire system? Do this instead:

mkdir ~/.themes

mv Windows\ Vista/ ~/.themes

After the theme is installed, go up one directory using “..”.


Then, delete the Redmond-Themes folder from the system, using rm -rf.

rm -rf Redmond-Themes

Lastly, apply the theme within your desktop environment’s theme settings. However, please keep in mind that every desktop environment is a little different, and applying themes requires following different steps. If you’re unsure as to how to enable the GTK theme, check out our list below. We go over how to customize each individual desktop environment, change themes, icons and more!

Installing The Icon Theme

Unfortunately, there aren’t many popular Windows Vista icon themes out there for Linux. As a result the only icon theme available is one that is largely under-developed. Downloading this icon theme requires the unzip tool to be installed. To install it, open up a terminal and search your operating system’s package manager for “unzip”. Alternatively, search the software store or however you install programs for it. When it is installed and running on your Linux PC, open up a terminal and download the theme.

wget -O vista-icons.zip wget https://orig00.deviantart.net/50c0/f/2011/043/9/2/vista_icon_theme_by_hermes37-d2gnwko.zip

unzip vista-icons.zip

tar -xvzf Vista.tar.gz

Extracting the archives gives a Vista folder in the same directory. This is the icon theme. To install it, you’ll just need to move it from where it currently is, to the /usr/share/icons/ directory. Placing the theme here makes this icon theme available for every user that has access to this Linux PC.

sudo mv Vista /usr/share/icons/

If you don’t want this icon theme available for every user to access, consider installing it in your home directory instead. To do this, first create the ~/.icons folder.

mkdir ~/.icons

Then, move the icon theme from where it was extracted to, to the ~/.icons folder.

mv Vista ~/.icons

After installing the Vista icon theme, everything needed to make Linux look like Windows Vista is on the system.

The next step is to enable these themes on the Desktop Environment itself. Not sure how to do this? Refer to our list above about customizing Linux desktop environments to find out how.

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