How to change a Windows theme from the command prompt

Many people, including my friends, often ask me how to change a Windows theme from the command prompt without opening the Explorer window. They want to apply the custom theme they have installed from the command line. Unfortunately, Windows does not provide any native or user-friendly way to change the current theme and apply *.theme file silently. Today, I would like to provide you with an easy-to-use solution - our brand new release: Winaero Theme Switcher. Winaero Theme Switcher

Winaero Theme Switcher is a lightweight portable tool available for Windows 7 and Windows 8. It has a GUI, but it is primarily intended to be used with the command prompt or in a batch file where you want to automate the applying of a custom theme.

Winaero Theme Switcher operates with the built-in Theme Manager of Windows 7/Windows 8 and uses it to apply themes.

How to use

The syntax is as follows:

ThemeSwitcher.exe path_to_file.theme

For example, in Windows 8 it can be:

themeswitcher.exe c:\Windows\Resources\Themes\theme1.theme

To make the Winaero Theme Switcher app more friendly, I have implemented a "theme lookup" feature: If theme is located in one of the following folders:
C:\Windows\Resources\Themes
C:\Windows\Resources\Easy of Access Themes
C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes

then you need not specify the full path to the theme file or even its extension, just specify the file name.

Examples:

themeswitcher.exe aero - this will apply c:\Windows\Resources\Themes\aero.theme
themeswitcher.exe "Rainbow Colors" - this will apply c:\Users\Sergey\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes\Rainbow Colors\Rainbow Colors.theme which I have installed manually from here.

In action:

Note that for themes you share with your friends or downloaded from elsewhere, they are in .themepack format. Themepacks need to be installed first by double clicking them. Thereafter, you can apply the theme.

Download Winaero Theme Switcher

 Let us know in the comments if you found Winaero's Theme Switcher useful.

27 thoughts on “How to change a Windows theme from the command prompt

  1. Joco1114

    Cпасибо! Thank you!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  2. Bobolonius

    This theme switcher tool is very handy. I use it in my unattended scripts so I can pre-apply theme.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  3. Ondra

    Hi, the tool itself is really handy, but it seems, that I have problem with icons. In theme I need to deploy, there is custom dll file with custom icons. Everything is Ok when I change the theme by clicking on it in Personalize panel or launching .theme file. However, when I use your tool, the icons are not changed :/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  4. Joe Bloggs

    Thanks, this helped me overcome group policy restrictions as I accidentally set the high contrast theme and could not get back the basic theme!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  5. Jason Woodard

    Great app, it will do exactly what I need, if I can get by this one problem… It gives me an error when I try and use it from the cmd line, unless I open the app from the gui first. I can’t find any reason for this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      Can you tell me which error you got?
      I will try to fix it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Reply
  6. Gypsy

    Thank you folks.

    Love It.

    I ran it once under a live Windows 7 and it worked surprisingly well. (both quick and silent)

    It’s perfect for the system I’m running.

    All the very best to you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  7. Juanito

    Great stuff! I have a set of themes with progressively darker colors and darker background images. By using this program I have created tasks for automatically changing the themes at different times during the day (07.00 “day theme”, 17.00 “evening theme, 21.00 “night theme”).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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  8. Facundo

    Is I use %systemroot% or %windir% instead of “c:/”
    the program does not work.
    Could you check it?
    Thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    1. Facundo

      Sorry, my bad. This tool works great.
      Thanks.

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      Reply
  9. frank

    Hi,
    its a nice tool and works with windows 7, but not, if I connect via remote connection (rdp) to client. is there a way to use it in rdp session?
    thanks a lot

    greetings
    frank

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      Hi frank
      I am not able to check it with RDP.
      How does it look in RDP?
      Does it show you some error?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Reply
  10. Karan

    thanks ! it’s what i was looking for. ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      You are welcome

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      1. Hopachi

        So far so good, I’ve made a couple of themes that will be running in a loop.

        I read:
        “You are not allowed to redistribute our software without our permission.”

        In case I’d like to share my themes and loop executable: may I pack the Theme Switcher exe along with my bat file, zip or sfx, credits included?
        Thanks again!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        Reply
        1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

          YOU can. You have my personal permissions for this app :)

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          Reply
          1. Hopachi

            Thanks a lot!
            I really appreciate this :)

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          2. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

            Don’t mention it.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Aiko Vandeputte

    Nice tool! But my command promt says ThemeSwitcher.exe is not recognized as an internal or external command.
    How can i fix this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  12. Jos Lemmerling

    Tested and implemented on Server2012R2 RDS-farm, works fine!

    Thanks!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
  13. Hopachi

    Very nice tool Sergey!
    I’m building a bat file that can change the themes automatically using your tool.
    Cheers!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      Thanks!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Reply
  14. Haldi

    Thank you very much for that awesome tool!
    I use it to change my Wallpapers when i switch from Extended Mode to Eyefinity Mode with my Triplemonitor setup :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      you are welcome

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      Reply
  15. RamPc

    Hello,

    Im using it as a logon script in windows 2012r2 and users are getting below error:
    Theme Switcher has stop working.

    Problem signature:
    Problem Event Name: CLR20r3
    Problem Signature 01: ThemeSwitcher.exe
    Problem Signature 02: 1.0.0.1
    Problem Signature 03: 518a8c9f
    Problem Signature 04: mscorlib
    Problem Signature 05: 4.6.1085.0
    Problem Signature 06: 57a4fc2f
    Problem Signature 07: 157f
    Problem Signature 08: fd
    Problem Signature 09: System.IO.DirectoryNotFound
    OS Version: 6.3.9600.2.0.0.144.8
    Locale ID: 1033
    Additional Information 1: f64b
    Additional Information 2: f64b6b59ab6b882af0b9b9fa1b31e1e2
    Additional Information 3: 7863
    Additional Information 4: 7863d0ce5c4d1337e6e7b82cd97e3e70

    Read our privacy statement online:
    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=280262

    If the online privacy statement is not available, please read our privacy statement offline:
    C:\windows\system32\en-US\erofflps.txt

    Any advise ?

    Thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Reply
    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      I should update the app to avoid these errors. I will do asap.
      It is not your problem but mine.
      I will release a new version, I will try to do it right now.

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      Reply
      1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

        aaand fixed!
        Try with version 1.1, I just released it.

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