Windows 10 uses white window title bars by default. This is a big change from Windows 8, which allowed you to pick any color you wanted. But you can give those title bars some color with this quick trick.

This trick only affects traditional desktop apps, not the new universal apps. Universal apps will always use white unless their developers specify a different window title bar color. However, you can also make many universal apps use a hidden dark theme.

Update: Windows 10’s First Big Update Added This Option

RELATED: What's New in Windows 10's First Big November Update

Thankfully, the below steps are no longer necessary. Windows 10’s first big update added an official way to do this.

Now, you can simply open the Settings app, navigate to Personalization > Colors, and activate the “Show color on Start, taskbar, action center, and title bar” option.

By default, it will automatically select a color based on your desktop background. Disable the “Automatically pick an accent color from my background” option here and you’ll be able to select any color you like from the Colors screen.

Modify the Windows Theme Files

Microsoft chose to force white title bars in an odd way. In the uDWM.dll theme file in Windows, there’s code that looks at the current theme file name and compares it to “aero.msstyles” — the default theme file. If it matches, Windows ignores the color specified in the theme file and sets the color to white. So, all you have to do is modify the default Windows theme file to not contain the name “aero.msstyles”.

First, open a File Explorer window and navigate to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes. Select the “aero” folder, press Ctrl + C to copy it, and then immediately press Ctrl + V to paste it and make a copy of it. Click “Continue” to the UAC prompt. Select “Do this for all current items” and click “Skip” when you see the File Access Denied window.

You’ll get a folder named “aero – Copy”. Rename it to “color”. (It doesn’t have to be “color”, but we’ll be using color throughout here — you just need to use a consistent name.)

Go into your new folder. You’ll see a file named “aero.msstyles”. Rename it to “color.msstyles”. Click Continue when you see the UAC prompt.

Next, open the en-US folder and you’ll see an “aero.msstyles.mui” file. Rename it to “color.msstyles.mui”. When you see the UAC prompt, click Continue.

The en-US folder may have a different name if you’re using a different language edition of Windows.

Go back to the main Themes folder and you’ll see a file named aero.theme. Select it and copy it by pressing Ctrl + C. Switch over to your desktop and press Ctrl + V to paste a copy of the file there. Rename the new aero.theme file to color.theme.

Right-click the color.theme file, point to Open With, select Choose another app, and open it with Notepad.

Scroll down in the file and locate the line under [VisualStyles] reading Path=%ResourceDir%\Themes\Aero\Aero.msstyles. Replace it with Path=%ResourceDir%\Themes\color\color.msstyles. Save your changes and close Notepad afterwards.

Select the color.theme file and press Ctrl + X to cut it. Go back to the C:\Windows\Resources\Themes folder and press Ctrl + V to paste it here. Agree to the UAC prompt when you’re done. You now have a theme that can use colored window title bars.

Activate the Theme

Double-click the color.theme file to activate your new theme. Windows will switch to the color.theme file and your window titlebars will immediately become colored.

Pick a Custom Color

As on Windows 8, Windows automatically chooses an “accent color” from your desktop background by default. But you can set your own custom color.

Right-click the desktop and select Personalize, or open the Settings app and select Personalization to find these options. Pick the “Colors” category. Disable the “Automatically pick an accent color from my background” option and you’ll see a list of different colors you can use.

This list is still a bit limited compared to the Color and Appearance options in Windows 8.1, which allowed you to select any color you liked. This desktop control panel has been completely hidden in Windows 10. However, you can still access it — for now.

To access this hidden control panel, press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog. Copy-and-paste the following line into the Run dialog and run the command:

rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL desk.cpl,Advanced,@Advanced

The “Show color mixer” option here will let you pick any color you want for your window title bars.

This process was tested on the final version of Windows 10 — build 10240. As Microsoft is committed to updating Windows 10 more regularly than previous versions of Windows, it’s possible they may change the way this works in the future. Or, if we’re lucky, they may add more theme options that don’t require this hidden trick.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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