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Adding Gradient Title Bars to Windows 95

Created on May 6, 2023

Seeing that some people are now crediting the wrong user for the procedure I came up with to add gradient title bars to Windows 95 based on a discovery Blue Horizon made, I found it necessary to create this page so as to make it clear that I am the originator of this procedure. It did turn out that someone came up with a similar method all the way back in 1997, but that was forgotten, and I ended up accomplishing everything without any guidance from it.

Implanting gradient title bars into Windows 95B is pretty easy to do. All you need is the CD for Memphis build 1387, which is readily available on the internet. You don't have to install Memphis, you just need to extract some files from the cabinets.

If you wish to extract the files using a newer version of Windows, get the 32-bit version of the extraction tool. This version is required if you're going to run the extractions on a 64-bit version of Windows.

If you prefer to extract the files from within Windows 95 itself, you should rely on the extraction utility bundled on the Memphis 1387 CD-ROM instead. Open an MS-DOS prompt and change to the directory WIN9X in the drive where the Memphis CD-ROM is inserted into.

Whichever way you decide to go, create a new directory such as C:\MEMPHIS; this is the directory where we'll be extracting the necessary files to. In the directory containing the Memphis cabinets, you'll need to run a command that'll extract all the files we need.


If you get an error saying the extraction program can't run on your version of Windows, call the absolute path to the 32-bit version of the program where you copied it to. Also, if you're running this using WINE, you may need to type double backslashes where applicable to have them properly interpreted in your shell.

You'll very likely encounter an error message reading "Wrong continuation cabinet file Win9x43.CAB". You can ignore this; press <CTRL> + <C> to terminate the program.

Optionally, open up a hex editor like HxD or XVI32 and find the string "Microsoft Memphis", then overwrite that string and the version number with zeroes - right before the last zero byte before the text "Monitor". This will get rid of the prelease text at the bottom right of the screen that would otherwise show up.

Now, go into the directory where you extracted the files to, and rename SHELL.NEW to SHELL.DLL. Afterwards, you should go into your SYSTEM directory (usually C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM) and create backups of these files. One way to go about it is to copy them in the same directory, replacing the file extensions with OLD. Here's a quick script you can run to take care of all of this:


Once you've created the backups, you can run this command to install the extracted files. This needs to be done in MS-DOS mode.


Once that's done, boot into Windows again. You may notice right off the bat that menu animations are now present, but gradient title bars are not immediately available. These need to be activated in the display control panel. You can access this by right clicking on the desktop and clicking Properties.

Display Properties gradient option

Go to the Appearance tab, and select the item Active Title Bar. You'll see a gradient button appear next to the color menu. Click that to activate gradients. Then, you can select the items Gradient Active Title Bar and Gradient Inactive Title Bar to modify the secondary title bar colors. The neat thing here is that unlike in Windows 98, gradient title bars will work in 256 colors!

If you want the default gradient colors from Windows 98, Gradient Active Title Bar should be set to 16 for the red channel, 132 for green, and 208 for blue, and on Gradient Inactive Title Bar, all channels should be set to 181.

You'll also probably want to nullify the text highlighting when you hover your cursor over any buttons, as it's pretty annoying. Doing this is simply a matter of changing the color for Mouse Highlight to match your current text color, which is usually black.

Welcome to Windows 95 with a gradient title bar

And just like that, Windows 95 now has gradient title bars! Who would've guessed it would be possible? Be wary that you may run into specific bugs resulting from this modification, though, including not being able to select more resolutions in GLQuake. Gradient title bars in Windows 95 really serve as more of a novelty than anything else, just to prove that you don't need Windows 98 for the job. I make no guarantees that all your software will run properly with this modification.

A premade solution, Windows 95D, has been built around this procedure, loading in the necessary system files for you. However, this project is now considered historic and has not been maintained ever since its only release at the end of 2019. It's been replaced by Windows 95D Lite, and I can confirm gradient title bars can be implemented there as well. I recall managing to get this to work in the gold release of Windows 95, but haven't been able to accomplish this when I tried it again just now. I forget how I did it; it's possible you may need Service Pack 1 installed beforehand.

It's also possible to install the Internet Explorer 4.0 shell on top of this modification, but it could get even more shaky from there, and if you're going to be doing that, you're really better off installing Windows 98 or ME instead.

Windows 95D Lite with gradient title bars implemented


Blue Horizon - July 16, 2023 at 05:40 AM

Nguyen Hoang: We tried backporting files from build 1515 of NT 5.0 over to NT 4.0, but that ended up crashing hard being how tethered the shell was to the Active Desktop shell. It's a pretty trivial detail to miss out on anyway.

Nguyen Hoang - June 25, 2023 at 09:50 PM

Does work with Windows NT 4.0 to add gradient bar to look like Windows 98 ?

ricky - June 16, 2023 at 09:23 AM

When Windows had tons of customization and now it's just black or white while avoiding a ton of stupid popups.

pcguy5491 - May 08, 2023 at 09:58 PM

Also Adding Gradient Title Bars to Windows 95 Gets nVidia Driver Versions 56.64-81.98 working on there too but who cares nvidia's latest win9x drivers didn't work as good anyway.

Xnmcv - May 08, 2023 at 12:56 AM

1st paragraph of this post is hilarious: "accomplishing everything without any guidance from it." lol.

Joshua Schaferhund - May 07, 2023 at 07:51 PM

Interesting. I actually made a modification of COOL.DLL that replaces the weird psuedo 3D 8-bit color icons that came with the Microsoft Plus! pack for Windows 95 with the high color reshading of the default icons that were included in the Active Desktop update for Windows 95 and were subsequently included in 98, 2000 and ME.

cybertruk - May 07, 2023 at 05:44 PM


Blue Horizon - May 07, 2023 at 05:41 AM

Zdrmonster: If you've been paying attention to Kugee's recent articles on the Hardcore Windows Extras page, you'll find his reasoning on Windows ME and the hate that it gets mainly originates from stubborn journalists that blindly favor certain versions over another. Plus, he doesn't actually recommend Internet Explorer other than the scenario he described. We've actually been discussing about doing Redtoast using ME as a base, all while preloading in additional patches and reviving the 95 shell, of course.

Doomer Cool - May 06, 2023 at 06:47 PM

If windows 95 had USB mouse support, without having to uninstall the USB storage drivers, I would switch to it.

Zdrmonster - May 06, 2023 at 05:26 PM

Kugee recommends Windows ME with Internet Explorer :space_broom:

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