Being a linux user, I know how tough it is to customize Windows when compared to Ubuntu. There are many people who dont care about it and by "customization" they mean changing the wallpaper and screensaver. But certainly there are a lots of people who want to go further and make their desktop unique. But windows doesn't like tweaking. Windows7 doesn't even supports third party themes by default. We have to patch it to make it usable. I know there are lots of application, which offers windows customization (for example windows blinds); but I don't prefer them, they are too resource hungry.
So here is a brief guide on customizing Windows, specifically Windows7. Not a step by step guide though, just an overview, to make it easy for you. And of course, the applications I will recommend here, doesn't take much memory. So you don't have to worry about RAM.
UXStyle: As I have mentioned, we have to patch a third party theme to use it in Windows7. And it is a real pain. But thanks to UXstyle, which has made it easy for us. Actually nothing is mentionable about this tool. Just grab it from http://uxstyle.com, install it and then forget it. It will do its work behind the scene. You dont have to worry about patching the theme from now on. Great, isn't it?
Themes: Now download a theme. http://deviantart.com has a great collection of components that can be used for customizing Windows. Just search for Windows7 themes there, and you will find many. For example let us consider the Soft7 theme which you can download from here. Now extract the archive, you will notice a folder Soft7 containing the theme elements and a theme file Soft7.theme. Copy both of them to C://Windows/Resources/Themes/ Now you may have to restart your PC to apply the theme. Go to the personilze option and apply the theme. Remember, you must have UXStyle installed to apply the theme properly, as you didnt patch it.
Start Orb: The default start orb may not go well with your theme and you want to change it, right? Download Windows 7 Start Orb Changer and a suitable start orb (you can find plenty of them in deviantart, for example SteelOrb). Those start orbs are nothing but bitmap images. Just open the start orb changer as Administrator and select the .bmp image, your start orb is changed.
Taskbar Icons: You can also manually customize the icons of the applications that are pinned to the taskbar to match it with the theme. Search Google for detail tutorial on this. But I am here talking about another easy way to do it for some well known application. Download 7Confier, run it as Administrator, and select from the available icon themes.
Here is a screenshot of my taskbar with changed start orb and icons:
Cursors: Just consider this cursor theme for example. right click the proper .inf file and install it.
Gadgets: Microsoft provides a lots of gadgets in their official website. And if you are not happy with it, then again deviantart. Thousands of gadgets, choose one, for example Chameleon Glass. Now run the installers, they are easy to install. If you are not happy with this kind of gadgets, you may want to give Google Desktop a try.
These are some basic steps to customize your desktop. You may also try various launchers or docks to increase the usabilty. Or you may want to go one step forward and use tools like Rainmeter or Emerge Desktop to give it a unique look. The choice is yours...
You have your own customized desktop? Why don't you share it with us?