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Force Firefox 3 to Use the Vista Default Theme in Windows XP

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This article was written by Leon Steadman, the same helpful reader that showed us how to Use a Custom Theme for the XP Classic Logon Screen.

Do you use Firefox 3 on Windows XP (or Windows 2000) and wish you could have the sleek blue style of the Windows Vista theme instead of the multi-coloured playschool XP one?

Instead of this…


…you can have this:


Normally, the only way to do so is to download a Vista-style theme from the Mozilla Add-ons site. However, they are often big, resource-hungry and can slow down your Firefox. Plus they can break when Mozilla updates Firefox, or have ugly missing parts where the theme author has not been as comprehensive as they should have.

Well, the good news is that Firefox for Windows-only has both the Vista and XP themes built in and there’s a simple trick to tell it which style to use. If you’re on a Mac or Linux (or on Windows and want to use the Mac/Linux themes), I’m afraid you’re out of luck and will have to continue to use the themes that have been created on the Mozilla Add-ons site.

Easy steps

First of all, make sure you completely exit all Firefox windows, and download and extract the file (link at bottom of page).

Once you’ve extracted the files, go into the Strata folder then the Aero folder.


There will be a file there called classic.manifest. We will replace the default Firefox version with this one.


Next you’ll need to open up the Firefox application chrome directory by going to Start \ Run and pasting in the following path, or just manually browsing down through windows explorer.

%programfiles%\Mozilla Firefox\chrome


Inside this folder, you should see the classic.manifest file that we will replace with the one from the downloaded zip file.

Important Note: Before we proceed, we need to backup our original classic.manifest file. Right-click classic.manifest and select rename. Now rename it to classic.manifest.bak.


Next copy and paste, or drag the classic.manifest file from the Aero folder you just extracted to the Chrome folder.

Open Firefox and enjoy the Vista-like goodness!

Vista to XP

If, for some strange reason, you are using Vista and would like to use the XP Firefox 3 theme, we’ve got you covered too.

Follow the same steps as above, but instead of replacing the classic.manifest file from the Strata > Aero folder, use the one from the Strata > XP folder instead.




If you ever want to go back to the original Firefox theme (or if your Firefox starts acting up because of it), all you have to do is delete the classic.manifest file in the Chrome folder and rename the backup copy from classic.manifest.bak back to classic.manifest.

Download Firefox3WindowsThemes Hack

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 08/3/08

Comments (14)

  1. Jared

    There’s also an add-on for Firefox 3 that will do the same thing – check out the Lifehacker article here:

  2. darkkosmos

    Isn’t it easier just to install the Vista theme?

  3. Ky

    Great tip, thanks!

  4. Adam B.

    For those looking to the the complete classic look in Vista, check out this theme:

    It works great!

  5. Desides

    Or you could just use this theme at Mozilla Add-Ons, which saves you the work:

  6. Tregonsee

    Seems like a lot of trouble to replace a green BACK button and a yellow HOME button with blue ones!?

  7. The Geek

    It’s definitely easier to simply install one of the alternate themes… this guide is just to show you how to do it without installing a third-party theme.

  8. Leon

    Hi all. I realise it is often easier to use a third-party theme instead of all this hackery malarkey, but I explained the rationale for not doing so in the article above. In a nutshell, these themes are often bloated and buggy and can cause problems with Firefox and even affect speed and performance.

    The method above uses the built-in theme already present in Firefox so adds no performance overheads to Firefox, and is official so you know it will work correctly as intended. Hope this helps.

  9. Keystroke13
  10. Kadir

    wow BIG thx, now its much better on xp :D

  11. Dudley

    Mozilla should just release the themes (if it’s 100% compatible, that is) instead of having to actually do this.

    Just my two cents, y’know!

  12. zrstr

    I installed this, and got the blue icons as show in the 2nd picture, but the background is still as shown in the 1st picture (with the seam lines between toolbars). Am I doing something wrong? (I’m on Win2000.)

    Additionally, this method doesn’t give you the bluish background with the gradient at the top, like in the 3rd picture (it stays beige)?

  13. zrstr

    “Additionally, this method doesn’t give you the bluish background with the gradient at the top, like in the 3rd picture (it stays beige)?”

    Last picture, I should say, not “third picture”.

  14. jant

    Can I use this tutorial on my youtube video?

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