The file uxtheme.dll is a digitally signed file that validates themes during boot and theme installation. It is restricted which means that you can only install a handful of Microsoft certified themes but no third-party themes.
If you want to add and use custom themes in Windows XP, Windows Vista or newer versions of Windows, you have to patch the file uxtheme.dll first. Once the file is patched you can install and use custom themes.
Update: Probably the best program currently to patch Windows theme files to prepare the system for third-party theme installations is UxStyle. Not only is it compatible with all recent versions of Windows from Windows XP on, it is also loading the modifications in memory only. This means that it does not patch the actual files on the hard drive which improves the process significantly.
It is offered as a 32-bit and 64-bit version, and you need to make sure you run the correct one based on your operating system's architecture.
I would like to describe two methods of patching uxtheme.dll. The first method is automatic but sometimes not working. I would still suggest to use the Uxtheme Multi-patcher first if you use Windows XP or Windows Server 2003. Just unpack and start the application (no installation required) and click on Patch to patch uxtheme.dll. The software checks the operating system and asks if it detected the correct one for verification. If the information is correct click OK.
Windows File Protection will kick in which you have to bypass of course. File Protection would otherwise replace the patched uxtheme.dll with the original from the Windows XP CD which would mean that you would have to run the program again to patch the file. Once you have bypassed file protection, the file should have been patched correctly and you can start installing third-party themes on Windows.
Windows Vista users can replace the file manually instead. They need the application Replacer for it which can be used to replace files with system protection. They also need the patched uxtheme.dll which they can find at Uxtheme Patches. Make sure to download the correct version for your operating system.
Start Replacer and follow the on screen instructions. Begin by dragging and dropping the original uxtheme.dll file which is located in c:\windows\system32 into the program window and hit enter. Then drag and drop the patched dll into the window and hit enter again. Follow the instructions until File Protection kicks in again. Make sure you cancel the file protection window so that the patched file is not replaced with the original one again.
Custom themes can be added after a restart.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.