A theme is a combination of desktop background pictures, window colors, and sounds. Windows themes are distributed in the form of theme packs.
Theme packs are basically CAB files that enclose resources such as wallpapers, sounds etc. along with the .theme file which contains the instructions to apply the theme. Theme packs come in two types: one with a .themepack file extension and the other with a .deskthemepack extension.
The .themepack file format was first introduced in Windows 7 to help users share themes. Later, Microsoft brought in another format (*.deskthemepack) for Windows 8 and higher. The Panoramic theme packs for dual-monitor systems come in .deskthemepack format.
If you need to extract wallpaper images from a themepack or deskthemepack file, one of the following methods in this post should help.
- Method 1: Apply the theme pack and copy files from Themes folder
- Method 2: Change theme pack file extension to .CAB and extract it
- Method 3: Using a 3rd party archiver like 7-Zip, WinZip or WinRAR
- Method 4: Using the built-in Expand.exe command-line tool
The easiest way to extract resources from a theme pack is to apply it. First, you may want to save the current theme so that you can revert to it later.
When you double-click a .themepack or .deskthemepack file, Windows extracts the contents of the theme pack to the following folder, and applies that theme.
The contents were unpacked to the themes folder from where I could copy the required wallpapers. Once done, I switched back to the original theme I was using.
If you want to extract wallpapers and other resources in a theme pack file without applying it, you can do one of the following things.
Change the theme pack’s file extension to .CAB from .themepack or .deskthemepack. Double-click to open the file.
Select all files and right-click of the selection. You’ll get the following warning.
Click OK, and then click Extract in the context menu. Select the destination folder.
If you’re using a 3rd party decompression tool such as 7-Zip, WinZip, or WinRAR, you can open the .themepack or .deskthemepack file in it, and copy the contents to a folder.
As theme packs are essentially CAB files, you can extract the contents using the expand.exe console tool. Here is the command-line you use to extract the complete contents of a theme pack file.
Open a Command Prompt window and type:
expand -F:* [themepackfile] [destination folder]
Note: The destination folder must be created manually before you use the expand command to extract the theme pack file contents.
expand -F:* "D:\ThemePacks\PanoramasEurope.themepack" "D:\Resources\Europe"
That would extract all the contents of the theme pack file to the destination folder “D:\Resources\Europe”, preserving the directory structure as in the CAB file. The Expand command works for both .themepack and .deskthemepack files.
Tip: To extract all files without maintaining the directory structure, use the “-i” parameter with the Expand command.
Preserving the directory structure when extracting a theme pack
Of the above methods discussed, methods 1, 3 or 4 allow you to maintain the directory structure of the theme resources, exactly as in the CAB file. For example, the directory structure looks like this:
Folder : D:\Community Files : D:\Community\Community.theme D:\Community\s_asterisk-error_seagull4.wav D:\Community\s_balloon_waterdrop2.wav D:\Community\s_batterycritical_seagull11.wav Subfolder : D:\Community\DesktopBackground Files : D:\Community\DesktopBackground\1_janapanfilova.jpg D:\Community\DesktopBackground\2_ivanbertusi-raindropletscountryside.jpg D:\Community\DesktopBackground\3_brianlaiphotography-waterfall4.jpg D:\Community\DesktopBackground\4_scottgward-poolsunset.jpg D:\Community\DesktopBackground\5_arnabchandra-pambanbridgerameswaramtamilnaduindia.jpg
Windows 8 and Windows 10 support both themepack and deskthemepack formats, and these Operating Systems support specifying if the window color would be automatically selected based on the accent color of the current desktop wallpaper. That’s done using the “AutoColorization” directive in the .theme file, which the *.deskthemepack files usually make use of.
Featured image: Rain droplets and countryside – by Ivan Bertusi
About the author
Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.