Make Windows 7 look like Windows 98 (Classic Theme)

When I upgraded from Windows 98 SE to Windows XP SP1a, I immediately switched to "Classic" theme. I didn't like any of XP's visual improvements. Then came Vista, one operating system I totally avoided, just like Windows ME. Finally, Microsoft decided to really work on it and released Windows 7, which really is the best operating system since 98 Second Edition.

Windows 7 was totally new to me and I didn't like that one bit. How could I make the new interface more friendly, make the upgrade from XP Classic as easy as possible? I found my answers in forum posts and after putting everything together, I'm satisfied with the result. It doesn't have the exact same look as XP Classic, but it's good enough for me. And it should work for the most of you as well.

I'm on Windows 7 64-bit edition. Makes no sense updating to the 32-bit edition anyway. Let's begin.

First and foremost: Control Panel (View by: Small icons) -> Personalization -> Set your Windows theme to Windows Classic.

Then go to System -> Advanced system settings: the Performance settings have Visual Effects set to Custom and I've only ticked the boxes for:

- Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
- Show windows contents while dragging
- Smooth edges of screen fonts
- Smooth-scroll list boxes

Next step: the taskbar. Here's the step to bring back the quick launch toolbar and make the taskbar behave the way you were used to:

- Right click on the taskbar and select properties -> Check the "Use small icons" box -> In the "Taskbar Buttons" drop-down menu, select "Never Combine" and hit "OK"
- Remove all of your pinned programs

To enable the quick launch toolbar:

- Right click the Taskbar and select Toolbars > New Toolbar...
- Paste the following into the folder field and click Select Folder: %AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
- Right click the Taskbar and uncheck Lock the taskbar
- Now adjust the Quick Launch toolbar to your taste

Some tips: To remove the text, right click the toolbar and uncheck Show Text and Show Title. To enable large icons, right click the toolbar and select View -> Large Icons.

The Start Menu also behaves differently. I've used Classic Shell 2.0.0 to bring it back 12 years. It's a small piece of software that runs at start-up and only eats up 348 KB of memory.

Another anoyance: there's a Show Desktop button in the systray, next to the clock. We need to remove that using a simple piece of software called Windows 7 Show Desktop Button Remover (you need to it run as Administrator, like most stuff you install in Windows 7).

The thing that really bugged me was disabling the Command Bar. It's not simple to do and requires editing of a system file (shellstyle.dll). I've put the modified file along with the original one in an archive, you can download it here. You'll need to replace "shellstyle.dll" file present in "Windows\System32" folder with the edited one. You will need to take ownership of default "shellstyle.dll" file before replacing it: right click -> Properties -> Security -> Advanced -> Owner -> Edit -> change to you!

One more thing: the network icon in the systray really sucks. Go back to the blinking computers using the Network Activity Indicator 1.6 (uses 1336 KB of memory).

That's about it really. Some things can't be changed, like the selection rectangle in folders that still behaves the way it wants. That is a Microsoft bug. Who knows, maybe SP1 will address it. And you have the Address bar in Explorer on top of the File menu, which is a bit confusing (but if you're used to it from IE7, then you're fine).

You can tweak Windows 7 even further if you want, just take advice from people that know what they're talking about, like the ones at SevenForums. Stay away from reg files coming from shady sources.

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