Select Pure Windows Freeware RefreshXP  A Safe Freeware Collection and Guide, by TheFreeWindows   5 Steps to change your Windows eXPerience safely

Customize XP to Vista - A Safe Freeware Collection and Guide, by TheFreeWindows

Welcome to RefreshXP!, a collection of safe freeware tools along with a Wizard made by TheFreeWindows to help you give a Vista/7 PLUS look to the Windows XP system, without risky changes of your system files.

This guide features a nice and clean customization of WindowsXP, without changing system files; it is meant to influence mainly the looks, but also some of the functionality. Windows Explorer in particular will gain new power - without hacking the Windows system.

Step 1: Windows Explorer
Step 2: Animation
Step 3: Taskbar / Windows
Step 4: Icons and Cursors
Step 5: Transparency

Follow the steps of this guide to start customizing your Windows XP. You can stop any time safely, or skip a step and follow any other; each step is self-reliant and all changes can be reverted. Wallpapers are not included; you don't need a guide to change your wallpapers, and chances are you'd like to keep your nice collection of them. RefreshXP is only about essentials. If you use a Pentium 4 processor, or above, these changes won't slow down your computer.

All applications here featured are absolutely free, and checked for adware, spyware, etc. - Let's start!

To the First Step »


Step 1: Let there be Tabs in Windows Explorer!

If you don't like tabs in Internet Explorer, you may not want them in Windows Explorer. In this case you can skip this and go on to the next step, otherwise add now tabs to Windows Explorer.

There is a program named QTTabBar. The name is ugly, but the program performs miracles! It will let you have in Windows Explorer tabs and other cool features, like the Vista clickable address bar (known also as breadcrumb navigation), a chance to reopen recently closed folders or to open a group of folders upon start, and more! This is a strongly recommended download - a useful, safe and fast application, offering services that even Windows Seven does not include natively:

Tabs in Windows Explorer » Read more and Download 

Breadcrumb navigation in Windows Explorer » Read more and Download 

Start Page   » 2nd Step

Step 2: Let there be Life in Windows icons!

Now that we started from Windows Explorer, let's stay here. How about giving some life to your Windows icons? By using UberIcon (OverIcon) you can select between various effects to be performed whenever you click an icon in Windows Explorer or on your Desktop. Folder icons, file icons, system icons - all become animated when you click them.

Animation in Windows icons » Read more and Download 

1st   » 3rd Step

Step 3: Let us give to XP the final Vista/7 look

This will change the TaskBar and the Windows, buttons, etc. It comes in 4 parts. In case that you use the original XP (sp1, sp2, sp3) with just the official Windows themes (blue, silver, olive), you need to patch a Windows file (uxtheme.dll) in order to be able to use more themes, including the Windows Seven theme. This time is the only one you are going to change a system file. However, thousands of people have used the same patch, you don't need to fear too much.

XP-Vista Taskbar
Of course, you are going to proceed at your own risk. No matter how safe I might know this patch is, it still remains a system change for which I'm not willing to be responsible. Arm yourself with Achilles' courage and go on!

After that (or skipping that, in case you have already patched Windows and use 3rd party themes), you need to download a Windows Seven Theme for XP.

If you want some level of transparency on the XP taskbar, you can have Transbar apply it for you. Transbar is a small utility that will not consume memory. However, you won't need Transbar, if you'd like to have not only the looks but also the functionality of the Windows Seven taskbar, provided by a small freeware called ViGlance.

If you don't like bold lines and acute 3d objects emphasized by black shadows, you can apply the Smooth 3D Scheme for Windows. This will change nothing but colors. And, if you are a reader rather than gamer, you may like to try Ellopos' Reader-Friendly skin for Mozilla Firefox

Finally, download ObjectDock, a fun taskbar where you can add standard widgets and your favorite programs or files, Taskbar Control, a small and free utility that will let you hide the Windows taskbar with a toggle key, and ClocX, a skin-supporting transparent analog clock - or Rainlendar, a nice transparent desktop calendar that will let you see dates and setup reminders, etc.

Please note: If you prefer the Office 2007 look, you can download the Office 2007 Theme for Windows XP, instead of the Windows Seven theme.

RefreshXP - Windows Seven Taskbar with Rainlendar

If you use WinAmp, you may also like to get a
Vista skin for WinAmp, or, a sexier and more functional, named Drone

If you use Mozilla Firefox and you are a friend of reading
you may like to try Ellopos' Reader-Friendly skin for Firefox

3,1: Enable the use of 3rd party themes in Windows XP » Read more and Download

3,2: Read more and Download Windows Seven theme for XP

3,2,2: Read more and Download Transbar for XP, or ViGlance - Windows 7 Taskbar for XP

3,3: Read more and Download the Smooth 3D Scheme for Windows

3,4: Read more and Download ObjectDock, Taskbar Control and ClocX, or Rainlendar


2nd   » 4th Step

Step 4: Let us give to XP the icons and cursors of Vista

Some of the Vista main icons

If you want. Personally I prefer Vista icons and cursors. This is a step in 3 parts. First you download a file with Vista icons and cursors. Then you download a program to install them on your system, and finally you download a program to repair the icons cache file in order for the changes to become permanent. The last part is optional. You can first install the icons, and if XP reverts to its default icons upon restart, then you can return here and download the fix for this annoyance. You can also save your theme using the "Display" applet of the Control Panel, in order to have it available along with other themes you may like to use.

Note: It is important to follow this step after you have applied the visual theme (previous step), in order to avoid any changes the theme might cause in icons and cursors.

Some of the Vista main cursors

4,1: Vista Icons Theme » Read more and Download

4,2: Install Vista icons and cursors with IconTweaker » Read more and Download

4,3: Repair the Windows icons cache file with ActivIcons » Read more and Download


3rd   » 5th (Last) Step

Step 5: Let there be Transparency in Captions and Frames!

Unless you are a big fan of black, you are going to like this effect. Just have a look at the screenshot to see in action the transparency we are speaking about. You can also disable it for a while to enjoy a black dominance, and then enable it again. Windows TaskBar does not change (it needs a different tool, we saw before, in order to become as transparent as you want it to be).

You need to download an application that will provide transparency for captions and frames, along with a shadow effect at the right and bottom frames of the windows you open. You will also have the option of selecting between different modes of transparency and shadows. However, this is the only application that may cause some annoyances. A serious one is with MS Office 2007, which doesn't follow the general Windows theme but uses instead its own skin; the menus (toolbars) of Office applications become almost unusable, but fortunately TrueTransparency includes an Exception List, where you can add this and whatever programs face problems.

Please note: If you don't want the "Aero"/Transparency effect, and/or if you prefer the Office 2007 look, you can download the Office 2007 Theme for Windows XP.

Let there be Transparency » Read more and Download


This is the end of TheFreeWindows RefreshXP Guide. We wanted to upgrade the looks of an XP system without messing with system files. There exist packages that perform deep system changes in order to bring XP even closer to Vista, reaching to the point of being ridiculous (as, for example, when you have a logon "Welcome to Windows Vista"!, when you know that you use XP). What we have done in this guide is, I hope, of good taste, and it certainly can be reverted easily, safely and completely, bringing you back your system intact, just in case you face even small problems or you don't want the changes. - Enjoy!

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