The beta version of Windows 7 was met with a warm reception when it was released nearly two months ago. Throughout January anyone could download the beta and give it a try, but Microsoft then chose to close this and continue work.
Until another development version is released, or the full version of Windows 7 hits the shelves towards the end of the year, you'll just have to stick with good old Windows Vista. That's no bad thing, of course.
After all, Windows Vista still works well. But if you want to get a taste of what's coming, or need something to keep you going in the meantime, then follow our guide, which shows you how to make your Windows Vista desktop look and feel like Windows 7.
We've included exclusive wallpapers taken from the Windows 7 beta release – which are no longer officially available – plus Windows 7-style applications, a refreshed Startup and more. We can't promise to make your Windows Vista PC function like Windows 7, but what we can guarantee is that you'll get the same sort of appearance and feel. Who knows, when the time comes, you might decide to stick with Windows Vista.
1. Get spectacular Windows 7 wallpaper
Windows Vista has an amazing range of wallpapers and Windows 7 hasn't disappointed with an even bigger, better collection. There are 18 new wallpapers, six of which have a British theme to them. If you live in the US, you get local versions, too.
To get your hands on the wallpaper, head over to www.windowsvistamagazine.com/7wallpapers and follow the download links to get your own copies. Replacing your current wallpaper with a Windows 7 one is easy.
Move the downloaded files to your Pictures folder, or if you want to be really clever, place them in the Wallpapers folder, which you can find by opening the Local Disk (usually, C: drive) and browsing to Windows\Web\Wallpapers.
Once they're in, you can select the new wallpaper by right clicking your desktop, selecting Personalize\Desktop Background, and in the Windows Wallpapers menu making your choice and clicking OK.
2. Transform your Taskbar
When you've chosen a wallpaper that best suits your mood, your desktop will already look much more polished, so now it's time to start overhauling the other areas of your interface. One of the best features found in Windows 7 is the newly improved Taskbar, which now boasts large, easy-to-read icons instead of the usual tiled graphics.
You can make your Windows Vista Taskbar look almost identical with a few simple tweaks. First of all, download the Windows 7 Style for Vista theme from here. This is a RAR file, so you'll also need to download a RAR extractor, such as WinRAR, in order to be able to open it.
Once you've done this, you'll need a program that can apply the theme to your desktop. Download TuneUp Utilities 2009 from here, install and then open it. Click Customize Windows in the left hand menu. Then click Visual Style\Add (underneath the Visual Styles heading) and select Install visual style from file.
Browse to the Windows 7 Style for Vista theme you extracted earlier, open the Theme folder, then open the Windows 7 folder and finally click the Windows 7 style file and open it. Once complete, click Apply in the main window.
Your Taskbar will now look a bit chunkier and the Start Menu button will glow when you hover over it with your mouse, just like it does in Windows 7. The Taskbar might look a little too transparent though, so we recommend right clicking the desktop, selecting Personalize\Windows Color and Appearance and choosing the blue colour option.
3. Improved substance as well as style
This is only half the job done, though, because there's still quite a way to go if you want to get your Vista Taskbar looking spot-on. To get the full Windows 7 effect you need to add Windows 7-style icons and Taskbar windows.
Download the Windows 7 Taskbar Iconizer from here and double click the EXE file. In the window that appears, click the Windows 7 Type 'Iconized' portion of the image, log out of Windows Vista and then log back on.
Now, when you open up your programs or folders in Windows Vista, they'll display as little icons along the Taskbar. This little modification doesn't just look good, it also gives you some extra functionality. When you have multiple documents open in the same Program window on the Taskbar, a click of the window will bring up a menu from which you can choose which document to open – a very handy feature.
The Windows 7 Taskbar also has large icons that run alongside its left-hand side. When you click them they launch programs. To add these to your Windows Vista Taskbar, you first need to download EnhanceMyVista from here, then open it and select Customization\Taskbar and check the Iconize your Taskbar box. Save the changes made, close it and apply the modifications by restarting your PC.
We're not done yet! Once your PC has restarted, right-click the Taskbar and click Lock the Taskbar to unlock it. Right-click the Taskbar again and choose View\Large Icons. If you have a lot of icons in here, you'll need to grab the edge of the bar and drag it to the right. If your Taskbar is a little on the empty side, you can add more icons to it by dragging those you want from the Start menu.
4. Start-up/log-on screens
As well as giving your desktop the Windows 7 theme, you can also change the start-up and log-on screens so you feel like you're in Windows 7 from start to finish. Download the start-up screen from here, double-click it and the previously-installed TuneUp Utilities 2009 should recognise and install it.
If this doesn't happen, open TuneUp Utilities 2009, click Customize Windows\TuneUp Styler, choose Boot Screen and select Add\Load Boot Screen from file.
When you start your PC, you'll get a screen similar to the one in Windows 7 – albeit a still instead of animated one as Windows Vista doesn't support this feature. Now you've got past the start-up screen, you can also change the green background of the Windows Vista log-on screen to the Windows 7 blue one.
Get the Windows 7 screen from here, go to the Windows_7_Login_Screen_by_ pugalenthi folder and browse to LogonStudioVista. Double-click and install this file. Open Stardock LogonStudio and click Load. Go back to the Windows_7_ Login_Screen_by_pugalenthi folder, open the LogonVista File folder and double-click the Windows 7 file.
The blue background will be in place on restart, but will still say Windows Vista, so to get the full effect, change it to Windows 7 Ultimate. Open the Windows_7_Style_ For_Vista_by_giannisgx89 folder, go to the Take ownership folder, double-click the InstallTakeOwnership file.
Open the Windows_7_Login_Screen_by_ pugalenthi folder, browse to the Dll file folder, right-click basebrd.dll and select Take ownership. Double-click basedbrd.dll and click Yes. Job done – phew!
5. Enjoy Windows 7 action with Aero apps
Shake it up
AeroShake offers an intuitive way to minimise open windows on your desktop. When you click an open window and shake your mouse left to right, all the windows behind it disappear. With another shake of the mouse, they reappear – magic!
You can download an AeroShake application here. Don't forget, when you shut down or restart your PC the application – which sits in your Taskbar – will be removed, so you'll have to double-click it each time you restart.
Snap out of it
AeroSnap enables you to drag open windows to the edge of the screen, minimising or maximising them depending on where you drag them to. Drag it to the top and it'll maximise, drag it away from the top and it'll return to its original size. If you pull it to the side, it even snaps into a smaller window.
Download and install the AeroSnap application from here. As with AeroShake, you'll need to run it every time you turn off or restart your PC.
6. Upgrade the Windows Vista Calculator
As well as giving your desktop the Windows 7 look and some of its functionality, you can also upgrade a few of your current applications to have the Windows 7 touch. The first of these is the tried and tested Calculator, which is much bigger and prettier than the standard one and has many new and useful features, including the useful Measurement Conversion and Programmer modes.
You can get the new Calculator and replace your current one in a few easy steps. First, download it from here, then unzip the file using WinRAR. Now open the Windows 7 Calculator folder, right-click calc.exe and select Take ownership from the drop-down menu. Now browse to the en us folder and do the same thing to the calc.exe.mui file.
After you've done this, replace your existing Calculator Registry files with the new ones. Browse to the Local Disc (normally C: drive)\Windows\System32 and replace the calc.exe file with the new one. Then find the en us folder, open it and replace calc.exe.mui with the new version.
7. Paint Windows Media Player in Windows 7-style
Aero livery Windows Media Player 12 is newly available to Windows 7. Visually, it's not that different from Windows Media Player 11, but has a better menu and is outfitted in Aero Glass, so it's see-through. If you want to replace your current Windows Media Player with a Windows 7-style version, download it from here, unzip it with WinRAR and open the 7_for_Windows_Media_ Player_11_by_bogo_d folder.
Right click the wmploc.dll file and select Take ownership. Copy and paste this into Local Disc\Windows\System32, replacing the old version. In the 7_ for_Windows_Media_Player_11_by_ bogo_d folder once more, double click the Settings file. It won't make your music sound any better, but it will be nicer to look at!
First published in Windows Vista: The Official Magazine Issue 29
Liked this? Then check out How to get the best from the Windows 7 beta
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