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