I have had to switch up from Linux to Windows for a certain job I’ve been doing. I’ve also needed to get a Mac as well. The change is hard. I always enjoy customization as well as flexibility and Power. And Linux tends to tie all of that up into one nice bundle. Any how because I have to use Winblows. I decided to take some time out and find out how to customize it’s appearance.
In this blog post you will learn how to do the following.
- Change the Wallpaper (Easy I Know)
- Change the Window Theme (Another Easy One)
- Change the Start menu orb button
- Change the Login Screen
- Change the Boot Screen
Changing The Wallpaper
Changing the wallpaper is extremely easy in Windows 7. Their is also many ways to achieve this. You can simply navigate to the location of the picture that you want to make your wallpaper. Then right click on it and make it your wallpaper. It is that simple and to my knowledge most picture formats are accepted as a wallpaper.
Changing The Theme
Windows 7 has many different themes you can set for the Window border. You can set window appearance to look like the old Windows 9x systems or even Windows XP as well as the newer Windows 6.x systems such as Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7. To change these borders you need to right click on the desktop and choose the option that says Personalize. This will bring up the personalize Window. From here you will be able to choose Basic Themes and Aero Themes. Windows 7 by Default has a very basic theme that doesn’t have a transparent border for it’s Windows. If we choose an Aero theme we will get glass type of look to it. Lets choose the nature theme.
Once we have chosen the Nature theme we will notice the Window appearance change. If we minimize the Personalize window we will see that we have new Wallpaper as well. We may also notice that wallpaper changes. This is a nice slide show feature that Windows 7 has. We wont go into to much detail about this. But lets change those images for our Wallpaper to images we want.
To change the wallpaper slideshow we open up the personalize Window again and choose the option that says Desktop Background. It should be on the bottom of the Window towards the left. Click on it and another Window will appear.
In the top of the Wallpaper window we will see a drop down box that is labeled Picture Location. We will choose the My Pictures option from this drop down box. When we do this we will see all of the Pictures in the My Pictures directory. Now we can choose how ever many we want for our wallpaper. We can also change how the pictures will be displayed. Such having the pictures fill the entire screen have them stretched or Tiled. We can also decide on often we want the slide show to change the picture. Once we have made all of these changes we can click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the Window. The personalization Window allows you to change a lot of the main appearance of Windows 7 such as Window Borders, Sound, Wallpapers, Transparency and much more. You can also always save your settings so if you have made setup you like you can share it with other Windows 7 users or save your self the hassle of resetting it up when you make a change your not happy with.
Change the Start Menu Orb
First before we do this we will want to setup a System Restore point. I’m not kidding this change the orb on the start menu we will need to modify Explorer.exe. Microsoft does not approve of modifying this file, and doing so violates the EULA of Windows. Not only that but it can do some damages if your not careful.
So first we will make our System Restore point. To do this we will go to Start and right click on Computer. Then we will choose Properties. After that a Window will pop up. In that window we will choose the option that says System Protection. This will bring us to another Window. In that Window we will choose the tab that says System Protection. At the bottom of that Window you will see a button that says Create. We will click that button. We will then be asked to give a name to our Restore point. We will name it Explorer Mod. Then we click the create button. After the Restore point has been made we can start to hack away at the Explorer.exe file. There’s actually many ways to do this.
The old fashion way which still works is to use a Hex Editor and open Explorer up in it. You locate the image which is three Start Orbs lined up vertically in BMP format. You would then create 3 Orb Images your self using an Image Editing Program such as Windows paint and save them into single BMP file. After that you would replace the Orb Images found in the Hex Editor with the ones you made in Paint. After that you would have to recompile Explorer.exe and place it into %systemroot%\System32.
The problem that we will face here is the fact that we are trying to replace it with Explorer which is already running. So we will need to kill explorer. The way we will do this is to press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to get to the Task Manager. Once the task manager has opened up we will choose the Processes tab located explorer.exe then right click and End Process. This makes it extremely hard to put the file into %systemroot%\System32 mainlly because we can’t get any Windows. So we need to use our command prompt Window. To fire it up at this point we will need to go to File > New Task (Run…) inside of the Task Manager. We will then type cmd.exe which will fire our command prompt up. Now thatt we have access to the command prompt we will type the following.
The above command will bring us to the directory we need to be. Now we will type the following.
copy location/of/modified/explorer/file.exe explorer.exe
The last command will start explorer back up. When it starts this time you should see your new start menu orb. The easier way to do it, is to download Start Menu Changer.
Now Lets Change The Login Screen
First lets set up our system restore point. I talked about how to do that earlier. After that lets backup the registry. The registry for Windows 7 is stored in the %systemroot% directory and the file is named regedit.exe. The fastest way to backup the registry is to open up the command prompt by going to start and typing cmd. Then right click on the command prompt and run it as Administrator. Once the command prompt is opened up you would type the following.
copy %systemroot%\regedit.exe %userprofile%\Documents\regedit-backup.exe
After you have done the above commands you can simply type the following into the command prompt.
The above command will open up the registry program. From here you will go to Edit > Find then you will type OEMBackground into the search box. You will most likely see two results. Click the one result that says OEMBackground, and change the value from 0 to 1. If it is already set to 1 then leave it and exit the registry.
Now we will need to find an image that we want to use for our login screen. This is the difficult part. Since the login screen require specifics with the type of image we choose. The image can only be a jpeg or a bitmap. It also has to be the size of your current screen resolution as well as only being 250KB in size. Luckily if the image we want doesn’t fit those specifics we can easily use an image manipulations program such as GIMP to achieve the goal of getting the specifics.
Once we have the image we will navigate to %systemroot%\System32\oobe and create a new directory called info. If the directory already exist then go into it and create another directory called backgrounds. Then go into the backgrounds directory and copy your image into it and name it BackgroundDefault.jpg or BackgroundDefault.bmp depending on what format it is in.
After your image is in the %systemroot%\System32\oobe\info\backgrounds directory. We will need to create a registry file. To do this we will enter the following into our prefered text editor.
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
You can download my reg file that I created if you want.
After we have entered the above into our text editor we will save it in a .reg format. After that we will run the .reg file. This modifies the registry to make our Login screen show our image.
Next we will logout of our computer and see the new Login image. We will notice that we still see some ugly Microsuck branding. But we can fix that by going back into our account and firing up our Hex Editor. Once our Hex Editor is opened we will open the basebrd.dll file which is where the branding is done. The file is found in the %systemroot%\Branding\Basebrd directory and obviously named basebrd.dll. Once the file is opened in our text editor we will navigate to the Bitmap location and remove all of the bitmaps. After that we will recompile our changes and save them. The branding should now be done. We can find out by logging back out of our computer to see the changes.
Change the Boot Screen
Changing the boot screen or boot animation is a bit more difficult and a lot more risky. If you screw up here you may not be able to even access Windows in Safe Mode. I highly recomend that you do a full backup of your system to do the following.
To do it we will once again need our trusty Hex Editor and we will need to change a bitmap file called activity.bmp. This file will not be found on your computer because it is part of an DLL file called bootres.dll. Before we go and patch this file we will want to back it up. The file is located in %systemroot%\system32.
Lets navigate to that location and change the ownership of the file. To do this we will right click on the bootres.dll file and choose Properties. In the window that pops up we will click the Security tab. Now we will click Advanced. Now another window appears. Here we will click the tab that is labeled Owner. Next we click the button that says Edit. Now we will choose our self as the owner and click the Apply button. Now that we have ownership of the file, we can easily copy it to another location. Great now we have a backup.
Next we modify the bootres.dll file. To modify the file we need our trusty Hex Editor. So we will fire it up and open the bootres.dll file. From here we will be able to find out bit map image. As we can see the bitmap image consist of 105 different images lined up verticly. What we need to do is change all 105 images to change the logo. This can take some time. But we can easily achieve this goal with the GIMP. Once the image has been modified we recompile the DLL file. Change the Ownership back to the way it was originally. Boom we now have fully patched bootres.dll file. When we reboot our system we will be greeted with our custom logo.
Because of the time consuming process involved in modifying the bootres.dll file a wanderful hacker named Jeff Bush has made our life easier with his idiot proof program that patches the bootres.dll file for us.