Released in the fall of 2012, Windows 8 is the latest Operating System from Microsoft and the first one to break away from the standard desktop/start menu interface that became synonymous with the PC over the last two decades.
As expected, the design shift also brought with it several other changes like the ones to the desktop theme pack files that are responsible for interface settings like the colors, mouse pointers, sounds or the desktop background of the operating system.
The .deskthemepack file
The ".deskthemepack" files are used to store information for the new themes used by Windows 8. These theme files are actually very similar to the previous theme format used by Windows 7 (which had the ".themepack" extension) since both formats are simple ".cab" archives.
Even though the two formats are so similar, .deskthemepack files are not compatible with older versions of Windows (such as Windows 7). However, it is possible to extract the data from a .deskthemepack file to be used in Windows 7 (see below).
Within a .deskthemepack archive is a folder named "DesktopBackground" which contains images in ".jpg" format and a ".theme" file responsible for other appearance settings. Usually, the images used for desktop backgrounds have a 3840 x 1200 or higher resolution.
Additionally theme files may contain other customization elements such as icons, screen-savers, mouse pointers, sounds etc. To enhance the user's Windows 8 multiple-monitor experience the "DesktopBackground" folder may also contain several other pictures, also in ".jpg" format. These backgrounds can be used for each monitor and users can even create a slideshow to cycle through images across all monitors.
How to use .deskthemepack files in Win 8 and Win 7
Since .deskthemepack files were specifically created for Win 8, installing a theme is a very simply process. To install the theme, double-click the theme file and Windows 8 will begin the process. Users also have the possibility of creating new theme files themselves by choosing their preferred settings and saving the customized theme. A new .deskthemepack file will be created and placed in the default Windows 8 Theme Folder which will store all the information.
As mentioned previously, these deskthemepack files are incompatible with earlier versions of Windows such as Win 7. The main reason for this incompatibility is that the new format now supports a single wallpaper image across multiple monitors. Windows 8 also includes an "automatic color change" feature (available only in Aero mode) which is supported only by the new theme format.
Even though Win 8 themes cannot be installed in Win 7, the images can be easily extracted from these archives and set as backgrounds on any prior version of the operating system.
The first step in this process is changing the file extension from ".deskthemepack " to ".cab". Once changed, the contents can be easily extracted using an application such as 7-Zip or WinRAR (or any archiving tool that supports the .cab format).