standard of Desktop GUIs in the 1990s was Windows 95/98. It wasn't the
only one, but the vaporwave motif comes from this GUI. With not too
much difference between 95 and 98 aside from a few icons, we will
refer to them both here as the same. Here's a video of what Windows 95
actually looks like so we can make it look just like the real thing.
I'll go through the instructions on how to in both Windows and Linux.
If you are still running Windows 7, you're in luck. Windows 7 has Classic theme baked right in, and you can activate it by simply right-clicking and going to Personalize. Scroll down to Windows Classic theme, select, and voila you've got the Classic Style Windows Theme. But things get a bit more difficult if you're running later versions of Windows.
You will also want to check out the OpenShell program. This allows you theme your Start Menu to look just like Windows 95/98. A user named R.O.B. has also created skins for OpenShell that allow you to theme it to precisely whichever version of Windows you want it to look like. The Winaero Tweaker allows you to reinstate in Windows things like the original Startup DLL, the original Volume adjuster, and a few other tweaks.
If you're on Windows 10, and you've updated anytime recently, unfortunately Classic Theme is more or less not available for you, as the explorer no longer works in versions newer than Windows 10 Build 1803. If you want classic theme and insist on using Windows, considering downgrading to Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, or using Windows 10 LTSC/LTSB. If you want to try to activate Classic Theme in Windows 10, then check out the Winclassic Boards. There are a few scripts that can be run to activate Classic theme, but be warned, things will break. Icons are very difficult to change, but can be done so using a program called CustomizerGod. The Taskbar can additionally be manipulated through a couple of different older programs. For what Classic Theme can look like on Windows 10, take a look at this thread from user Clasurol.
After the constant fighting with Windows to change icons, and activate classic theme, I headed for greener pastures with Linux. If you're strong enough to get off of Windows, your best option to get a working classic theme is ironically, to use a Linux desktop. I use Debian Testing, but if you are a beginner I would recommend Xubuntu. Then, go and check out these two great Desktop Environments:
great Chicago95 Theme developed
by Grassmunk and EMH-Mark-I developed here on Github.
Here is the way my current desktop looks in Debian for reference.
Pretty convincing, isn't it? With the new GUI installer for Chicago95 released, you can simply run the "install.py" script found in the theme folder and for the most part be on your merry way. However, there are a few things you may need to do.
To play the system sound at startup. Choose "On Login" in the dropdown menu for activation.
But what about the old Plus themes for Windows? Well, thanks to the hard work of these developers, you can use those as well. Chicago95 also has a GUI Installer, and instructions on how to use Chicago95 Plus! can be found here. I will note however that Chicago 95 Plus's Python script isn't as straightforward, but it is almost there with regards to setting up a theme, so I will show you how to set it up here.
First, we will start by finding a suitable Plus! theme to use, a lot of which are hosted on the Web Archive. I find a lot of the ones archived on Archive.org a bit ugly and not well-designed personally, but the best place to find one suitable for testing is generally there. Here are what I think a few good plus themes.
This fork of KDE 3.5 has maintained its similarity to Windows, and with a few tweaks it too can look just like Windows, though it is extremely similar looking to Windows in its own right. Despite being open-source, not many distros hold the Trinity Desktop Environment in their repository. It comes with a rather large number of programs in the desktop environment, including a full-fledged Konquerer Browser and File Manager, as well as calendar, address book, RSS feed, ebook reader, FTP download software, and a variety of games and other random programs. Some work better than others, and sometimes the programs feel a little too tighly woven together if you're not used to using an entire suite of apps for one purpose. But overall the Konquerer file manager is miles better in functionality and speed than XFCE's Thunar, so this is going to become my Desktop Environment of choice.
The Trinity Desktop Environment website has a list of distros that by
default come with the Trinity Desktop Environment if you wish to choose
one of them, such as Q4OS or Exe GNU/Linux. Or you can simply opt to
install it via their own maintained repository that you can add to your
source.list file in Linux. Currently there are packages available for Ubuntu,
Debian, Devuan Red Hat, and Fedora. You can get it from
Combined with the Start Button and fonts from Chicago95, Here are some tweaks you can use to make Trinity Desktop Environment look just like Windows. Here are a few other tweaks to make it look very similar to Windows:
Change Taskbar Colors:
There will be more to come on how to better tweak Trinity Desktop Environment. But there are two great options now in Linux for you to make your desktop look just like Windows. All of the pleasantries of the GUI that revolutionized computers, without any of the spyware.