Customize Windows 10 themes and sync them between computers

Some people like the default look of Windows 10, but some people want to customize the desktop, colors, sounds and more and make it their own. Here’s how to do it and sync it with other PCs.

One of the great features of Windows has always been the ability to customize the way that it looks and sounds and it is possible to completely change it and make it look like something different. It can even be made to look like the Apple Mac or a Linux desktop. Customization is built into Windows.

Extreme customization requires special utilities, but you can make some useful tweaks in Windows Settings.

It can be fun to change things around sometimes and a fresh new look can make using your computer easier on the eye, more entertaining, or more personal.

It is also possible to customize one Windows PC and have those customizations automatically appear on other Windows PCs you may use. If you have a desktop computer and a laptop or a home PC and a Work PC, you can make them look the same or keep them different.

What is a Windows theme?

A theme consists of one or more of these items:

  • Background image
  • Color scheme
  • System sounds
  • Mouse cursors

Many themes have all of these items, but some themes only have backgrounds, or backgrounds and color. Backgrounds and colors are obvious, but sounds? These are system sounds, such as notifications, alerts, warnings, successful completion of some task, or failure.

Change the Windows theme

In Windows 10, right click the desktop and select Personalize. Alternatively, press Windows+I and click Personalization in the Settings window that appears. Select Themes in the sidebar and it shows the current theme. Scroll down a bit and in the Change theme section may be several alternative themes shown as thumbnail images.

Windows themes in the Settings app in Windows 10
Select Themes and scroll down to Change theme

If you do have themes displayed as thumbnail images, just click one to apply it. It may only change the desktop, but it could also change the mouse cursor, color scheme for taskbar and windows, and assign new sounds to system events.

Under Change theme in Settings is Get more themes in Microsoft Store. Click the link to open the Store app and show Windows themes. This is the best way to find them, but manually opening the Store app and searching for ‘windows themes’ will also show them. Click the Show all link next to Apps.

Many themes in the Store are free. Click a thumbnail in the Store app to open the theme’s details page and then click the Get button if you want to install it. Afterwards, click the Apply button. This switches back to Themes in the Settings app and the new theme is among the thumbnails in the Change theme section. Click it to apply it.

Delete a Windows theme

Go to Settings > Personalization > Themes and the installed themes are shown as thumbnail images under Change theme. To delete a theme, right click it with the mouse and then click the Delete button that appears. You should select another theme if you want to delete the one currently being used.

Delete a Windows theme in the Windows 10 Settings app
Right click to delete a theme

Themes are not big, but deleting them removes some images and possibly other items from the disk amounting to a few megabytes.

Any of these themes can be customized and you might want to tweak them a little. Let’s look at how to customize the theme elements, background, color, sounds and mouse cursor.

Customize Windows theme background

You can choose to accept everything in a theme or you can customize its components. Go to Settings > Personalization > Themes and click Background, Color, Sounds or Mouse cursor. The first three are in the sidebar, but mouse cursors are elsewhere, so access them here.

Themes downloaded from the store contain multiple images that automatically change every so often and you get to see all of them eventually. The default Windows theme only has one desktop image, so you might want to change it manually when you become bored with it.

Click Background, select Picture in the Background list and click one of the thumbnail images or click Browse and select one on the disk.

Customize the Windows theme background
Click a thumbnail image or click Browse

Choose Slideshow in the Background menu and you can select a folder on the disk containing of photos and they will automatically appear on the desktop after a set amount of time, changing between one minute and one day.

Windows background slideshow settings

Customize Windows theme colors

Customize the Windows theme colors

Select Colors in the sidebar and at the top you can choose between Windows Light and Dark themes. This setting only affects the contents of windows. The title bar, taskbar and Start menu are set using the accent color.

Choose whether to let Windows automatically pick an accent color, or clear the checkbox and choose one yourself. Just click a color tile and it appears in windows title bars and other places.

Set Windows accent color options

Scroll down the color settings and there is an option to Show the accent colour on the following surfaces. You can always select Title bars and window borders, but Start, taskbar and action center depends on the theme selected. Some themes allow this option to be selected, but some don’t.

Customize sounds and mouse cursors

Customize the Windows theme in the Settings app

A theme may provide alternative sounds and mouse cursors, but not always. It used to be common, but most of the themes in the Store are mostly collections of images. However, there are still some options to customize.

Go to Settings > Personalize > Themes and click Sounds to see the system sound schemes bundled with Windows or installed by a theme.

Configure Windows system sounds

To customize the system sounds, look at the events list and select an item, like Calendar reminder. The audio file that is played is shown below and if you click the Browse button you can choose a different audio file.

Do not choose three minute music files or when a calendar reminder occurs you will have to sit through three minutes of music! Choose a short beep, ding or chime that grabs your attention, but does not last long.

Click Mouse Cursor in the Settings app to change mouse cursors.

Change the mouse cursor in Windows

Select the Pointers tab in the window and pull down the menu to see ready-made mouse cursor collections. It is possible to select an individual mouse cursor in the list and then click Browse to choose a different cursor.

There are mouse cursors on the web and you can have some fun downloading them and setting them to various mouse cursors.

Sync Windows themes between computers

Sync Windows theme

If you use more than one computer, such as a desktop and laptop, or a work and home PC, you can choose to sync the theme settings across them or keep them separate on each computer. It is up to you.

Go to Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings and turn on Sync settings at the top. Set the switches as you prefer – there is one for Theme.