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Is it safe to install unofficial themes in Win7?


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24 replies to this topic

#1
JorgeA

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I'm thinking of installing a Vista or Longhorn theme or visual style on my Windows 7 system, but before I do that, I'd like to ask:

Is it safe to do this? Are there any security, stability or other concerns that I need to keep in mind, or that should warn me off the whole idea?

I know that I'll have to patch the file uxtheme.dll. Is this safe to do, and if I do that can it lead to any possible issues I should be aware of?

Thanks very much.

--JorgeA


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#2
vinifera

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its only unsafe if you install "packs" which include modified dll's (ieframe etc...) and explorer.exe
(longhorn themes often have this)

but .msstyle itself is harmless

also you don't have to patch uxtheme, you can use (not advertising) rafael riviera's uxstyle (which is service running and in-memory patcher - thus theoretically not illegal :D)

Edited by vinifera, 19 October 2012 - 09:14 PM.

If you want true Windows user experience
try Longhorn builds: 3718, 4029, 4066

#3
MagicAndre1981

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for me uxstyle doesn't work and I've bought AveStyler some years ago and it works fine under Windows 7. And yes, unless you don't patch any files it is safe to use the msstyle files. I'm also using an unofficial Windows 8 RP Aero Theme on Windows 7 :)
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#4
JorgeA

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its only unsafe if you install "packs" which include modified dll's (ieframe etc...) and explorer.exe
(longhorn themes often have this)

but .msstyle itself is harmless

also you don't have to patch uxtheme, you can use (not advertising) rafael riviera's uxstyle (which is service running and in-memory patcher - thus theoretically not illegal :D)

vinifera,

Thanks for the info. I will watch out for packs that include files with extensions other than .msstyle, and check out UXSTYLE.

A question about what you said -- is it not really allowed to install themes that patch EXPLORER.EXE or other system files?

--JorgeA

#5
JorgeA

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for me uxstyle doesn't work and I've bought AveStyler some years ago and it works fine under Windows 7. And yes, unless you don't patch any files it is safe to use the msstyle files. I'm also using an unofficial Windows 8 RP Aero Theme on Windows 7 :)

Andre,

Cool!

I'll try UXSTYLE first and then dig deeper if that one doesn't work for me either. Most of the themes I've found on the Web (on DeviantArt, for example) seem to require patching UXTHEME.DLL, but that makes me nervous. :unsure:

--JorgeA

#6
vinifera

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A question about what you said -- is it not really allowed to install themes that patch EXPLORER.EXE or other system files?


you can install these packs
but atleast for your own safety be sure its from verified source, for example from deviantart where people commented on it :P

usually when explorer or ieframe is patched, they make it so you have info panel in explorer below address bar (as Longhorn had)
and not at the bottom (as vista/7 have)

also by patching explorer they are changing start button icon which isn't in .msstyle

Edited by vinifera, 20 October 2012 - 06:19 PM.

If you want true Windows user experience
try Longhorn builds: 3718, 4029, 4066

#7
dencorso

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@JorgeA: With all due respect, "safe" is to have a known-good, ready-to-be-deployed, full backup. All else is not safe.

Sorry, but is it stronger than me :ph34r: it sounds to me very like ;):
http://www.imdb.com/...es?qt=qt0247572



#8
JorgeA

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you can install these packs
but atleast for your own safety be sure its from verified source, for example from deviantart where people commented on it :P

usually when explorer or ieframe is patched, they make it so you have info panel in explorer below address bar (as Longhorn had)
and not at the bottom (as vista/7 have)

also by patching explorer they are changing start button icon which isn't in .msstyle

vinifera,

Very good, thanks!

I was planning to scan the heck out of anything that I downloaded (with Norton, Spybot, Windows Defender, MBAM, ...), but it's still better to see reports from people who actually used it, so that's a great idea you just gave me. :thumbup

--JorgeA

#9
JorgeA

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@JorgeA: With all due respect, "safe" is to have a known-good, ready-to-be-deployed, full backup. All else is not safe.

Hey, dencorso! :hello:

I much appreciate the advice. When thinking "safe" it was more along the lines of whether one of these theme packs might contain malware, but you're right that things could get royally messed up, so I will add a full backup to the precautions. The box that I'm trying this out on doesn't have anything irreplaceable on it, but why risk the rebuilding tedium that a catastrophic crash would mean.

--JorgeA

#10
MagicAndre1981

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uxstyle and AveStyler patch the uxtheme.dll in memory, so that you don't have to modify files
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#11
CharlotteTheHarlot

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its only unsafe if you install "packs" which include modified dll's (ieframe etc...) and explorer.exe
(longhorn themes often have this)

but .msstyle itself is harmless

also you don't have to patch uxtheme, you can use (not advertising) rafael riviera's uxstyle (which is service running and in-memory patcher - thus theoretically not illegal :D)

vinifera,

Thanks for the info. I will watch out for packs that include files with extensions other than .msstyle, and check out UXSTYLE.

A question about what you said -- is it not really allowed to install themes that patch EXPLORER.EXE or other system files?

--JorgeA

The safest thing is to just not run any EXE setups from a skin/theme/wallpaper/etc site. At least one of those, maybe WinCustomize ( but don't quote me ) distributes some of the resources in EXE setups.They drop some relatively harmless adware or toolbars or make you first download a "downloader" ( unnecessary of course ).

I am certain that every one of the EXE's can be unpacked or disassembled to pull out the necessary files. If you see one let me know the link and I will try to unpack it and tell you what they did.

I would not expect any virus scanner ( online or offline ) to be 100% trustworthy on these files. So play it safe and never run them, a theme or other resource is not worth the risk.

... Let him who hath understanding reckon the Number Of The Beast ...


#12
JorgeA

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uxstyle and AveStyler patch the uxtheme.dll in memory, so that you don't have to modify files

Andre,

I found this FAQ for UXSTYLE, and it looks promising.

So, after applying this program, all I need to do is to locate the .msstyle file inside the downloaded theme package, put it in C:\Windows\Resources\Themes, and run Personalization -- is that right?

--JorgeA

#13
JorgeA

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The safest thing is to just not run any EXE setups from a skin/theme/wallpaper/etc site. At least one of those, maybe WinCustomize ( but don't quote me ) distributes some of the resources in EXE setups.They drop some relatively harmless adware or toolbars or make you first download a "downloader" ( unnecessary of course ).

I am certain that every one of the EXE's can be unpacked or disassembled to pull out the necessary files. If you see one let me know the link and I will try to unpack it and tell you what they did.

I would not expect any virus scanner ( online or offline ) to be 100% trustworthy on these files. So play it safe and never run them, a theme or other resource is not worth the risk.

Charlotte,

Thanks very much for the scoop, and especially for offering to look into one of these packs to see what's going on.

Here are my top three candidates: Longhorn M7 R2 Nightly, Longhorn Revealed for Windows 7, and Aero 6519 theme for Windows 7. The Longhorn themes are visually stunning IMHO, but I'll settle for the Vista look if necessary. :)

Of these three, the leader is Longhorn Revealed, if it can do the Vista-type convex taskbar (not shown on the screenshots).

Let me see if I'm starting to understand this. It sounds like the first two contain modifications to system files, while the Vista one is simpler and maybe safer? (Although even that one still calls for using the UXTHEME patcher.)

--JorgeA

Edited by JorgeA, 21 October 2012 - 11:04 AM.


#14
MagicAndre1981

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So, after applying this program, all I need to do is to locate the .msstyle file inside the downloaded theme package, put it in C:\Windows\Resources\Themes, and run Personalization -- is that right?


yes.

But the Longhorn Themes requires that you replace files, which is not good. So use the 6519 Theme.
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#15
JorgeA

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So, after applying this program, all I need to do is to locate the .msstyle file inside the downloaded theme package, put it in C:\Windows\Resources\Themes, and run Personalization -- is that right?


yes.

But the Longhorn Themes requires that you replace files, which is not good. So use the 6519 Theme.

Thanks, Andre. That's a shame!

How about using something like WindowBlinds. I found some pre-made Vista and Longhorn skins that look promising on their companion WinCustomize website -- is that OK, or do the same problems apply?

--JorgeA

Edited by JorgeA, 21 October 2012 - 02:46 PM.


#16
MagicAndre1981

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How about using something like WindowBlinds - is that OK?


This is a good question. I have no idea, because I've never used it :blushing:
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#17
JorgeA

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Hopefully somebody else reading this will have used WindowBlinds and can tell us.

--JorgeA

#18
MagicAndre1981

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btw, does WindowBlinds supports Windows 8? Is it able to bring Aero Glass back?
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#19
JorgeA

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Andre,

According to what I read on the WindowBlinds forum, they do intend to release a Windows 8 version. It is unknown, however, whether this will have Aero capability.

BTW, while researching this topic, I came across this, which I thought you might find interesting (if you don't already know about it). I'd be curious to know what you think of it.

--JorgeA

#20
CharlotteTheHarlot

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Here are my top three candidates: Longhorn M7 R2 Nightly, Longhorn Revealed for Windows 7, and Aero 6519 theme for Windows 7. The Longhorn themes are visually stunning IMHO, but I'll settle for the Vista look if necessary. :)

Of these three, the leader is Longhorn Revealed, if it can do the Vista-type convex taskbar (not shown on the screenshots).

Let me see if I'm starting to understand this. It sounds like the first two contain modifications to system files, while the Vista one is simpler and maybe safer? (Although even that one still calls for using the UXTHEME patcher.)


All thee of those packages contain plain files, no installers, that's great. But unlike the Vista Aero package ( it only has proper "theme" files ), both of the "Longhorn" packages have patched Explorer.exe's and a couple of DLL's. They're probably okay since it is a very popular site and they have a bunch of positive comments. I don't have time to scan them right now but you can send them up individually ( Jotti - VirScan - VirusTotal ) for peace of mind.

Actually I now see that the Longhorn M7 R2 Nightly package has a lot of system files, while the Longhorn Revealed only has three. You can easily make a list of the files to be replaced, feed it to WinRar and it will make an archive with your originals for safekeeping.

EDIT: not required for transparency obviously on Win7

Edited by CharlotteTheHarlot, 22 October 2012 - 06:28 AM.

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#21
JorgeA

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Fantastic explanation and advice, Charlotte :thumbup -- and thanks for the links!

--JorgeA

#22
robertwm

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Windows 7 offers plenty of personalization options already, but there are some nice unofficial (and unsigned) themes out there that you can't install without a little tinkering. Normally that requires downloading and patching several Windows .dll files, and it can be kind of a pain in the butt -- especially if you're not the DIY type.

Kishan Bagaria has put together Windows Theme Installer for The Windows Club and it makes the process a whole lot easier.

#23
JorgeA

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robertwm,

Thank you (and welcome). I don't mind doing a bit of tinkering, that's part of the fun.

I'll check out the Windows Theme Installer, keeping in mind the cautions given earlier in this thread.

--JorgeA

#24
MagicAndre1981

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but replacing files is dangerous! The patched files have often older file version and so you are in risk of security issues.
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#25
Iain

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I use Tune Up Utilities Windows Styler which offers a wide range of free themes for XP, Vista, 7 and 8. Makes it easy to change too.

Plus you get a whole bunch of excellent utilities and automatic maintenance every three days.

Try it out! TUU 2013

I have used TUU for years on XP SP3 without mishap.

Mac.

Edited by Iain, 02 November 2012 - 07:22 AM.





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