Why not perform the utheme.dll hack in Windows XP?
Normally, you wouldn't be able to install and use unsigned Windows XP visual styles in Windows XP, which means that you're stuck with the classic or Windows XP 'Luna' Style (and of course signed styles released by Microsoft, such as the Zune Style with the orange and black colours).
However, you can change that. In XP, a file called uxtheme.dll
exists in the directory c:\windows\system32\ which controls whether unsiged visual styles can be installed and used in XP. You can replace it manually, and there are many instructions available on the web to help you do this. But the easiest way is to use an automated program such as the uxtheme multipatcher:
After applying the patch, you'll be able to download and use many of the user created visual styles from places such as http://www.deviantart.com
in the category Customization
> Skins & Themes
> Windows Utilities
> Visual Styles
Instructions on how to add more themes / visual styles can be found here:
The benefits? You can change the visual style in XP without having to use a 3rd party application which would use increased resources. The styles applied will around the same resources as allocated to the Windows XP Luna visual style. It's the leanest way to change your visual style.
The drawbacks? Installing new visual styles can be a bit fiddly, and sometimes some style creators don't structure the necessary style folders and files properly. And of course, only the GUI is changed, and not the entire environment as you are looking for.