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Make Windows XP Use a Custom Theme for the Classic Logon Screen

This article was written by our excellent reader Leon Steadman.

In a previous article, we covered how to customize the logon screen for Windows XP, but that method only worked if you are using the regular logon screen. What about all the people that are forced to use the boring classic logon screen instead?

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For the purposes of this article, we’re assuming that you are using one of the custom themes for XP, either official or unofficial.

Copy Background Image to Logon Screen

You can copy your current background image to the logon screen desktop using Tweak UI. Just navigate down to Logon \ Settings on the left-hand side, check the box for Wallpaper and click the Copy Now button:

image 

Choose Custom Theme for the Logon Screen

In order to copy the custom theme to the Logon screen, we’ll have to do a little digging, and then some registry hacking.

First, go to %SystemRoot%\Resources\Themes in Explorer and go into the folder of the name of the theme you wish to use on the logon screen, e.g. %SystemRoot%\Resources\Themes\Royale Remixed. Make a note of the name and path of the .msstyles file, e.g. “Royale Remixed.msstyles”.

image

Next, in Regedit go to HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ThemeManager and double-click the DllName key. Now change the value to the path of the .msstyles file you just made a note of (however be sure to replace the “C:\Windows” part – or wherever your Windows folder is – with %SystemRoot%).

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Back in Explorer, navigate into the Shell folder inside your theme folder and make a note of the name of the folder of the colour scheme you wish to use on your logon screen, e.g. “Noir”. NB this may not exactly correspond with the colour scheme listed in the Appearance tab of the Display control panel dialogue, but you can make an educated guess.

E.g. for my theme there are three colour schemes listed in the Appearance tab (Royale, Royale Noir and Royale Zune) and three folders in Explorer (Noir, NormalColor and Zune).

image

Back in Regedit, double-click the ColorName key and change the value to be the name of the folder you just made a note of retaining capitalisation/spaces etc.

image

Close Regedit and log off. You should now see that your logon screen has the same theme as your desktop.

logon

The custom theme used in most of the images is called Royale Remixed and can be found at DeviantArt (requires uxtheme patch).

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/16/08

Comments (13)

  1. Ayush

    I usually just copy the theme info from HKCU..ThemeManager (current theme settings) to HKU\.Default..ThemeManager. Much easier than guessing/copying scheme names/file paths..

  2. rothgar

    You can also just change you background by setting this key to whatever you want (bmp only)
    HKEY_USERS\Default\Control Panel\Desktop\Wallpaper
    you can change the default screensaver (pre-login) with this key
    HKEY_USERS\Default\Control Panel\Desktop\SCRNSAVE.EXE
    One note on the screensaver is if you are setting it to show pictures you need to put your pictures in
    “c:\windows\system32\config\systemprofile\My Documents”

  3. Kafka

    Good stuff. How about changing the image on the dialogue box (where it says “Microsoft Windows XP Professional” or whatever your version is)?

  4. krhainos

    The folks who are hardcore and want to take it a step further can take a copy of Resource Hacker and do bitmap replacement on msgina.dll (for XP Home, XP Pro users) or winbrand.dll (for TabletPC and MCE) and change the banner logo that appears around the OS.

    http://krhainos.tk/ginadll.png is what I had before I went to Vista.

  5. BigGunn

    @krhainos

    which one of the bitmap folders in Resource Hacker needs to be changed? I have lots!

  6. krhainos

    @BigGunn
    To be completely honest, it’ll be different depending on your edition of Windows. Browse through everything under Bitmap until you find the images that correspond to your edition of Windows. There are a total of three images to make the “hack” possible — two banner logos (msginal.dll Bitmap resources #101 and #107 for me), and a strip of color that scrolls for activity (blue and orange in XP, #103)

    I believe the images need to be 256-color (8-bit color), and you should stick to the original dimensions — pay attention! Despite two banners looking the same, one’s taller than the other. I don’t remember if i had to tinker with the Dialog resources to make larger images possible. Backup and explore!

    Keep in mind, a ruined msgina.dll will result in Windows throwing up an error instead of the login screen, and you’ll be stuck in a reboot loop. So be prepared to have a way to replace the original file without booting Windows (a live CD or console would work)

  7. Jake Stevens

    Nice one, thanks. i saw at my local school had done this and i have spent years trying to find out how to change this. once again, thank you!!!!!!!!

  8. Tom

    I made the logon screen saver open up explorer.exe and then then I log off wait 20 min and explorer.exe pops up then I go to Control Panel and set my background and style.

  9. Alfredo

    After changing the theme to Vista’s style the font displayed when the logon screen is displayed is the same as the XP Luna theme it is white and the background is black just like the theme (VISTARTM Theme). How do I make the Segoe UI font appear on the logon screen.

    How can I take a snapshot of how it looks like so I could get some assistance?

  10. Elliot Taylor

    I cant find the folder in the registry!What should i do?

  11. youfdhdjdgdhgharegjhffhghjgayyhfjkfkffkjfk

    you are all gay

  12. iphoness

    thanks for sharing..i like your blog..

  13. Kieran

    How could you apply this method over GPO?

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