Changing Windows 7 back to the ‘old’ Windows

Reading Time: 4 minutes

boxshots Windows 7 has a mass appeal to Windows XP users and their system administrators. While major advances were made in Windows Vista and Windows 7, you will always find people opposing change. And, boy! A lot has changed in the user interface since Windows XP!

In the past opposition has been dealt with with deception many times. The first sewing machines, for instance, were disguised as furniture, so they’d lack any resemblance with the industrial sewing machines found in factories.

In this post I’ll show you how to revert parts of the user interface in Windows 7 back to Windows XP. Using clear step-by-step procedures you’ll find how to:

  • Go back to grey windows and bars
  • Change back the Taskbar and re-enable the Quick Launch


Fade to grey

To lose the transparency on the taskbar and revert it back to grey, all you need to do is select the Windows Classic theme. To select it, right-click on an empty space on the desktop and select Personalize from the context menu. Under Change the visuals and sounds on your computer scroll down to Basic and High Contrast Themes (6). Select Windows Classic as your theme. Close the Personalization window.

The Windows Classic theme will also automatically change the Window borders to Windows XP-style dimensions.


The taskbar

One of the major improvements in Windows 7 is the new taskbar and the Aero capabilities, Flip 3D, Aero Shake, Aero Snap and Aero Peek, coming with it. The taskbar even got a new name: “The Superbar”. It, of course,  is the first giveaway to Windows XP users, something has changed.

Correct the buttons and the height

To correct the lay-out of the taskbar itself, you need to edit its properties. Right-click on an empty space on the taskbar and select Properties from the context menu. Perform the following actions:

  1. Under Taskbar appearance select Use small icons
  2. Under Taskbar appearance select Combine when taskbar is full as value for Taskbar buttons.
  3. Click OK.

Now all you need to do is unpin the programs, currently available on the taskbar.

Re-enable the Quick Launch icons

With the standard Windows 7 buttons gone, you can start re-enabling the Quick Launch icons Windows XP users love. For this you need to add the Quick Launch Toolbar to the taskbar. Your first step is to right-click on an empty space on the taskbar, expand Toolbars and click on New toolbar…. The New Toolbar – Choose a folder window appears. Type the following location in the Folder: field:

%appdata%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

Click Select folder to add the Quick Launch folder to your taskbar. It should appear on the right side of your taskbar. Of course this is not the place where you’d want the Quick Launch bar or how you want it to look, so let’s change that.

First off, right-click on the Quick Launch label and deselect both Show Text and Show title. Now right-click on en empty space on the taskbar and deselect Lock the taskbar. Drag the Quick Launch bar next to the Start Button, where Windows XP lovers would expect it to be. If necessary swap dragging the Quick Launch with the other taskbar areas.

Fix Windows Live Messenger

One of the annoyances in Windows 7 is the way Windows Live Messenger interacts with its taskbar buttons. With the Windows XP settings you’ll find starting Windows Live Messenger results in two taskbar buttons. To fix this you’ll need to run Windows Live Messenger in Windows Vista compatibility mode.

In the Start Menu Search field type msnmsgr.exe. Right-click the search result and select Properties from the context menu. Open the Compatibility tab. Under Compatibility Mode select Windows Vista for the Run this program in compatibility mode for: field. Click OK.



It’s not hard to revert parts of the user interface in Windows 7 back to Windows XP and fool users at first glance. This might just be what you need to convince your users their new desktops are up to spec.

Further reading

Get Windows 7 Taskbar On Windows XP
Windows 7 Superbar for XP: ViGlance
Windows 7 Tips: Round One
Tweak the Windows 7 Taskbar with Taskbar Overlord
Taskbar Overlord Tweaks the Windows 7 Taskbar
Windows 7 Taskbar: Some Beta to RC Changes
Windows 7: Superbar Overview
How to Get the Old Thin Taskbar Buttons with Text in Windows 7?
Make the Windows 7 Taskbar Work More Like Windows XP or Vista
The New Windows Taskbar in Windows 7
Restore classical Taskbar in Windows 7
Evolution of the taskbar in Windows 7 – “Superbar”
More on the Windows 7 UI: new taskbar will be mandatory
How to Enable or Disable Quick Launch in Windows 7

Disclaimer Pre-release Software

The information on this webpage applies to software from Microsoft that was in testing phase but utilizable by experienced users by the time the webpage was written. This software has not been released for sale, distribution or usage for the general public. The information on this webpage and the software are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

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