Got an old PC still running Windows XP, but not sure what to do with it? Consider getting rid of it, as Microsoft is no longer updating the operating system, and it’s very insecure at this point. Instead, install Linux. If you’re nostalgic for the Windows XP look and feel, you can make Linux look like Windows XP to ease the transition.

By switching that old Windows XP PC to Linux, you’ll get driver updates for old hardware, increased speed, a more secure desktop, and new features!

Choosing A Desktop Environment

The first step to make Linux look like Windows XP is to choose the desktop environment. There are many different choices on the Linux platform, and each desktop has its own individual features. That said, Windows XP is/was a very lightweight operating system, and that’s why in this instance, it’s probably best to ignore the modern, high-end desktop environments. Instead, focus on ones like Mate, XFCE4 and LXDE.

Any of these three desktop environments can easily be replicate the look of Windows XP with a little work, so each one is a great starting point. Those looking for the closest comparison to XP possible should use XFCE4. For starters, Windows XP has the ability to hide icons on the task bar into a tray. Out of all the light desktop environments on Linux, XFCE4 remains the only one to support this feature.

Those looking to replicate the exact memory footprint of XP should choose LXDE as a starting point. This desktop environment can run on as little as 128MB of RAM (much like XP does).

Installing XP GTK Themes

The cornerstone of any Linux distribution is the theme. To install these themes, you have to first install the git tool on your Linux PC. This tool is useful as it makes downloading code directly from Github much faster. The git package is found on pretty much any Linux distribution. Open up the package manager, search for “git”, and install it.

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Ubuntu (and derivatives)

sudo apt install git

Debian

sudo apt-get install git

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S git

Fedora

sudo dnf install git

OpenSUSE

sudo zypper install git

With the git tool on the system, we can use it to grab the code.

git clone https://github.com/Elbullazul/Longhorn-Collaboration.git

There are three different XP themes to choose from in this pack: Longhorn Plex, Longhorn Slate and Longhorn Jade.

Install Longhorn Plex

To get the Longhorn Plex theme working, you’ll need to move it to the theme folder. To install the theme at the system level (so every user can access it), do:

sudo mv ~/Longhorn-Collaboration/Windows Longhorn Plex /usr/share/themes/

To make the theme available for one user, do:

mkdir ~/.themes

mv ~/Longhorn-Collaboration/Windows Longhorn Plex ~/.themes

Install Longhorn Slate

sudo mv ~/Longhorn-Collaboration/Windows Longhorn Slate /usr/share/themes/

or

mkdir ~/.themes

mv ~/Longhorn-Collaboration/Windows Longhorn Plex  ~/.themes

Install Longhorn Jade

sudo mv ~/Longhorn-Collaboration/Windows Longhorn Jade /usr/share/themes/

or

mkdir ~/.themes

mv ~/Longhorn-Collaboration/Windows Longhorn Jade ~/.themes

Installing Icon Themes

The next step in transforming Linux into Windows XP is to change the way the icons look. To do this, we’ll be using the B00merang XP icon theme. It comes as a part of the XP conversion pack that we’ve taken the XP GTK themes from, and it’ll fit in nicely. To get it, first make sure that you’ve got both the wget package and the unzip package on your PC. These tools are critical in quickly downloading and extracting the icon theme.

Wget and Unzip may already be installed on your Linux PC. If not, look through the operating system package manager, and do a search for “wget” and “unzip”.

Ubuntu

sudo apt install wget unzip

Debian

sudo apt-get install wget unzip

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S wget unzip

Fedora

sudo dnf install wget unzip

OpenSUSE

sudo zypper install wget unzip

Using the wget tool, download the latest version of the B00merang XP icon theme to your PC:

wget https://github.com/Elbullazul/WinXP-Icons/archive/master.zip

The icon theme will not download with an XP label. Instead, it will be called “master.zip”. To extract the contents of master.zip, use the unzip command.

unzip master.zip

Keep in mind that even though the zip file is labeled “master.zip”, the extracted contents will not be. Instead, the extracted folder will be labeled “WinXP-Icons-master”. Install the icons into the system icon directory by using either CP or MV. Use the copy command if you wish to keep a copy of the icon theme in your home folder (for modification purposes). Otherwise, use MV.

Install to the system with:

sudo cp WinXP-Icons-master /usr/share/icons/

or

sudo mv WinXP-Icons-master /usr/share/icons/

Install for one user with:

cp WinXP-Icons-master ~/.icons
or 
mv WinXP-Icons-master ~/.icons

Additional Modifications

Themes and icons for this guide were taken from the total XP conversion pack that B00merang makes. If you’re looking to further convert Linux over to Windows XP, do check out their website. They’ve got guides, artwork and information on how to make Linux look like Windows XP, and lots more extensive Linux desktop environment themes.