You can dress Windows 10 like Windows 11 using a few free apps and settings.
Many PCs do not meet the demanding hardware requirements of Windows 11. While you could try installing Windows 10 on unsupported hardware, you could also make Windows 10 look more like Windows 11. It only takes a few free apps, a custom desktop theme, and the activation of a few enhanced security options to get the job done.
Naturally, it won’t be an exact replica of Windows 11. Your PC will still run Windows 10, and while many of Windows 11’s new features and settings are impossible to duplicate, you can get pretty close—especially when it comes to the look.
Related: How to Install Windows 11 Right Now
Step 1: Create a restore point
Make a new system restore point before you begin. This is an important step that you should not skip!
We’ll be changing a few key settings, so having a recent restore point ensures that you can safely revert to your current configuration while keeping all of your files intact if something goes wrong. It’ll also make it easier to undo your changes if you decide you don’t like the custom desktop look after all.
- Search for “Restore” using the Windows task bar.
- Select “Create a Restore Point” from the search results to open the System Properties menu.
- In the System Protection tab, select your hard drive and make sure Protection is set to “On.” If it’s off, click “Configure” then toggle “Turn on system protection.”
- With system protection turned on, highlight the drive from the list, then select “Create.”
- Add a description for the new restore point, then click “Create.”
- Wait for the backup process to finish.
If you need to use the restore, use the steps above to return to the System Properties menu, then click “System Restore” and follow the on-screen instructions.
Step 2: Make Windows 10 look like Windows 11
Then we’ll make Windows 10 look more like Windows 11—complete with the contentious new taskbar and start menu, rounded folder and taskbar corners, new icons and backgrounds, and more.
To do so, you’ll need to install a custom, third-party desktop theme and icon set based on Windows 11, which requires a lot more effort than simply downloading a theme from the Microsoft Store. There’s a way to see Windows 11’s new interface without installing anything if you just want to give it a quick, temporary test drive. A custom theme is your best option if you want a more complete experience (and can’t install the beta).
However, before we can apply the custom theme, you must first install the third-party apps that the theme requires to function.
There’s a lot to install, but don’t be intimidated; complete installation instructions for each app or file can be found on the download pages listed below, and all of these apps are open-source and/or certified safe to use.
What you’ll need is the following:
- SecureUXTheme: This app allows you to install third-party Windows 10 themes without affecting your system files.
- OldNewExplorer: Changes the look and feel of the Windows explorer menus.
- StartisBack ($4; free trial available): Adds a better start menu based on Windows 7’s. The full version is a $4 on-time fee, but the trial version can be used indefinitely (albeit with limited features). You only need the free trial to use the custom Windows 11 theme.
- Stardock Curtain mod: Rounds out folder windows on Windows 10, like they are on Windows 11.
- RoundedTB mod on the Windows Store: Adds rounded edges to your taskbar.
Once the prerequisite apps are installed on your PC, it’s time to make it look like it’s running Windows 11. For this, we’ll be using niivu’s Windows 11 for Windows 10 theme (it just requires a free DeviantArt account). Niivu’s installation instructions are available here, as well as tips on using custom desktops, but here’s the simplified version:
- First, we need to figure out which version of Windows you’re on. Press Windows key + R.
- Type “winver” then press enter.
- Make note of the version number (it should be between 1903 or 21H1), then close the window.
- Download niivu’s theme from the link above.
- Unzip the download file.
- In the unzipped folder, open the folder that matches your Windows version.
- Open another Windows Explorer window and go to This PC > [drive] > Windows > Resources > Themes and copy over the downloaded files.
- Once the files are in the correct folders, right-click on your desktop.
- Select “Personalize.”
- Under the “Themes” section, select the Windows 11 theme from the list. It should immediately apply to your desktop.
Your Windows 10 desktop should now resemble the default Windows 11 theme, but there are a few minor adjustments you can make to make it look even better:
- Install niivu’s Windows 11 custom icons for Windows 10 (requires the 7TSP app).
- Use OpenStartMenu to create a Start Menu shortcut similar to Windows 11’s (links and instructions are at the top of niivu’s Windows 11 for Windows 10 theme page).
- niivu also recommends installing xoblite for enhanced right-click menu functionality, but this isn’t required.
Again, these are optional mods, but they’ll make Windows 10 look and act even more like Windows 11.
Step 3: Upgrade your Windows 10 security option to match Windows 11’s (sort of)
The strict hardware requirements in Windows 11 result in a much more secure operating system—at least on paper. TPM (Trusted Platform Module) and SecureBoot requirements combined should help protect Windows 11 devices from malware, ransomware, and remote takeovers.
Some Windows 10 PCs now include a TPM and can use SecureBoot. Of course, this means it can most likely run Windows 11, but it’s still worth checking to see if your PC can take advantage of these features.
Enabling your TPM or SecureBoot will add additional hardware security to your PC, but Windows 10 often disables them by default. We’ve already talked about how to check for and enable your PC’s TPM (if it has one), so let’s talk about SecureBoot—after all, it’s more likely that your PC will support it.
Related: Update Google Chrome Immediately
How to enable SecureBoot
SecureBoot prevents apps from installing if the code isn’t properly verified, and it also prevents processes from taking control of your device during startup, so it’s definitely a useful feature if you have it.
Here’s how to find out:
- Search for “System information” in the Task Bar, then select it from the search results.
- In the System Information window, scroll through and check that BIOS Mode is set to “UEFI” and Secure Boot is set to “On.”
- If Secure Boot is set to “Off,” then it’s disabled. If it says “Unsupported,” well, it’s not available for your PC, or your BIOS Mode is set to “BIOS.”
In either case, you can enable UEFI and SecureBoot from the BIOS startup menu. Depending on your motherboard and firmware, you’ll need to do this differently, but a quick Google search should point you in the right direction.
A word of caution, though: Only change your PC’s BIOS settings if you’re certain you understand what you’re doing. Even if you do, there’s always the risk that switching to UEFI or enabling SecureBoot will cause major problems. Of course, if it works, there will be no problems. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to take drastic measures to reset your motherboard and reclaim access to your computer. This includes opening your PC and removing the motherboard’s battery for the time being. And if you make a mistake, you’ll be left with an unusable computer. Have faith in me. During my research for this guide, I discovered it the hard way.
Other security features you should turn on
You can get close to Windows 11’s baseline security features by enabling SecureBoot and your PC’s TPM (if it has one), but there’s a lot more you can do to protect your Windows 10 PC and all the apps and files on it. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Enable passwordless sign-ins and two-factor authentication for your Microsoft account.
- Enroll in OneDrive ransomware prevention.
- Use an encrypted password manager to safeguard your login information.
- There are also several security enhancements enterprise users and IT professionals implement if they use Windows 10 on their networks.
You can’t get Windows 10 to behave exactly like Windows 11 in every way, as I’ve already stated. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking it’s the real thing if you enable these extra security layers and take the time to apply the custom themes and UI mods.
For those of us who can’t upgrade right now but don’t want to feel left out, faking Windows 11 is a good option. In the months and even years after its October 5 release date, Windows 11 is bound to experience a lot of growing pains. By the time users are able to upgrade, it should be a much more appealing option. Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to support Windows 10 until October 2025, ensuring that it remains a viable option for several years.