How to change the colours in Windows XP

This page explains step-by-step how to change the colours of window borders, text and other graphical elements in Windows XP.

Change your colours

Step 1: Open the 'Display Properties' window

Open the 'Start' menu by clicking on the 'Start' button, or by pressing the Windows key or Ctrl + Esc.

Click on 'Control Panel', or press C until it is highlighted and then press Enter if necessary. (Note: in earlier versions of XP, you will need to click on 'Settings' or press S first.)

You need to be in Classic view. If you see the text 'Pick a category', as shown in Fig 1, click on 'Switch to Classic View' or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter.

Fig 1Detail from 'Control Panel' window

Double-click on 'Display', or press D until it is highlighted and then press Enter, to open the 'Display Properties' window shown in Fig 2.

If it is not already selected, click on the 'Appearance' tab, or press Ctrl + Tab to cycle through the tabs until it is selected.

Fig 2'Display Properties' window showing the 'Appearance' tab

Step 2: Change your colour scheme

In the 'Display Properties' window shown in Fig 2, click on one of the options in the drop-down list under the 'Color scheme' header. Alternatively, press Alt + C to highlight the list, then use the up and down arrow keys to scroll to the option you want.

You can customise your chosen colour scheme by changing individual colours for windows, text and other graphical elements. To do this, continue to Step 3.

Otherwise, to accept the changes and finish, click on the 'OK' button, or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter.

Step 3: Customise your colour scheme

Note: In some setups, in order to fully use the 'Advanced' options you might need to first choose 'Windows Classic style' from the 'Windows and buttons' drop-down list (as shown in Fig 2), by clicking on it or by pressing Alt + W and using the up and down arrow keys.

In the 'Display Properties' window, click on the 'Advanced' button, or press Alt + D, to open the 'Advanced Appearance' window shown in Fig 3.

Fig 3'Advanced Appearance' window

Click on the drop-down list under the 'Item' header or press Alt + I, then use the mouse or arrow keys to scroll through the list of items.

For example, if you select 'Window' from the list, you can change its colour by clicking on the drop-down button under 'Color 1', or by pressing Alt + L and then the Spacebar. This opens the basic drop-down colour palette, shown in Fig 4.

Fig 4colour palette

For more colours, click on the 'Other' button or press Alt + O to bring up the 'Color' window shown in Fig 5.

Fig 5'Color' window

Click on the colour you want. Or press Alt + B to select 'Basic colors', then use the arrow keys to move to the colour you want and then press the Spacebar to select it.

Click the 'OK' button or press Enter to return to the 'Advanced Appearance' window (Fig 3) and repeat the procedure for any other 'Items' you want to customise.

You can also change the colour of the text that appears on some 'Items', for example the text colour for 'Menu'. If it is possible to do this for a particular 'Item', the second row of buttons (below the 'Font' header) will become active. Click on the drop-down button under 'Color' or press Alt + R. Then, follow the same steps as outlined above for changing 'Item' colours. For a more detailed guide, see Changing fonts in Windows XP.

When you've made all your changes, click the 'OK' button or press Enter to return to the 'Display Properties' window (Fig 3). Click the 'Apply' button or press Alt + A to see how the changes look. If you are satisfied, click the 'OK' button or press Enter to finish.

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help.

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