If you’re interested in customizing your Windows Desktop, you’ve likely heard of Rainmeter. For the uninitiated, Rainmeter is an application for Windows that allows you to customize your desktop with a variety of mini-applications and widgets called “skins,” greatly expanding the capabilities of your Windows desktop.
Hold up just a second there – you’re going to need some things before proceeding with the installation and setup of Rainmeter.
- Windows XP or higher. Some features require Vista or higher.
- Visual C++ redistributable packages
In addition, you should be aware that some “skins” require you to set them up on your own and may have special hardware requirements. Be sure to read documentation before installing any skin. We walk you through how to install and configure skins later in this article.
You can download Rainmeter from its site. Be sure to select the latest “Final Release” to ensure stability.
Open up the Rainmeter installer. You’ll be given two install options. For this guide, we do “Standard,” not “Portable.” In the final step of the installer you’re given the choice to enable launching Rainmeter at startup. I keep this enabled, but if you use an older computer with a longer startup time, you may not want Rainmeter to launch automatically.
The first time you launch Rainmeter, your desktop will be changed to look something like this.
This displays Rainmeter’s default package, “illustro,” and the skin combination that loads by default. You’ll see a welcome splash in the center of your screen with counters for time, system usage and disk usage in the top-right corner of your screen. You can remove these by right-clicking them, clicking “Variants,” then deselecting its “ini” file.
There’s also a distinct settings menu (used to control preferences such as transparency), but first let’s right-click the Rainmeter icon in the taskbar and click “Manage.”
The Manage window is where you get to really start to get into the functionalities of the program. Let’s go ahead and walk through each one.
Skins shows off a list of skins Rainmeter has in its directory, whether you’ve installed them through an rmkskin file (like most skins) or you’ve manually placed them in Rainmeter’s skins directory.
The default set of skins that comes with Rainmeter are “illustro,” which offer various counters, monitors and even a nifty little Google search function to give a slight idea of what Rainmeter is capable of. Recall that Rainmeter skins range in functionality from basic widgets to what could be considered full applications in themselves. In this tab, you can easily manage your active skins as well as refresh them to account for edits or changes made.
Layouts saves and manages certain layouts for your skins. The default layout is the one you see whenever you open the program. Using Layouts, you can save your personal favorite Rainmeter setup for the next time you reset your computer or relaunch Rainmeter. This setup is important if you want Rainmeter to become a big part of your daily desktop usage.
Finally, Settings gives you basic settings to manage, like your update options, language settings and the application launched whenever you’re editing certain skins. There’s no reason to change any of this for most people, but if you’d like all of your skins to stay in one place, you could always check “Disable dragging” in case someone else uses your computer or you worry about accidentally changing things.
Let’s move into installing and using skins!
Find and Install Skins
To me, this is the best part about using Rainmeter. Rainmeter has a bustling community of developers, making various skins focused on high levels of aesthetic appeal, added functionality or both. The possibilities are essentially a whole blue ocean, but for the sake of this article, I won’t cover all of that. Instead, I’ll be telling you “how” to find skins and install them, and I’ll give you some of my own recommendations at the end of the article.
Rainmeter’s own website recommends deviantArt, Customize.org, Reddit and its own forums as places to find quality Rainmeter skins. Being a Redditor, I choose to visit r/Rainmeter to find what I’m looking for.
Here you’ll find complete and elaborate skins with multiple elements, which the redditor who submitted it usually links to where you can download it (which is usually DeviantArt).
I found this very nice Rainmeter skin posted on the Rainmeter subreddit but only want the clock/date element from it.
I scrolled down the Reddit thread to where the poster handily linked to all the elements, including “Time and Date.”
I then downloaded it from its page. (The Download button on DeviantArt is quite well-hidden.)
Once you’ve downloaded your skin, open the file, which should be a “.rmskin” file (it may be in an archived folder, which you need to extract), then click “Install” in the Rainmeter Skin Installer.
After you’ve done this, it’s time to start using your skins.
Using Your Skins
Once you’ve installed your skins, you may be confused initially as to how to actually add them to your desktop. To add skins to your desktop, right-click the Rainmeter icon in your system tray, select “Skins,” then pick the skin you downloaded (in my case, “Color Flow”).
Once you have a skin on your desktop, you can hold a left-click to drag it around your screen and put it where you want, or you can right-click it for a set of additional options.
- Variants allow you to use different versions of the same skin. Usually, these are different sizes or styles.
- Settings lets you handle the options listed, transparency being among the most prominent, while other options bring you back into the Rainmeter menu we covered before. All of your primary functionality is covered here, however, and generally, you shouldn’t need to do anything aside from the options listed.
To remove a skin from your desktop, right-click it and click “Unload.”
To reload it to reflect the changes you’ve made, select “Refresh skin.” For the most part, you shouldn’t need to tweak these other options, but if you ever want to tweak their behavior or appearance slightly, now you know how.
Show System Stats on Rainmeter
Many of the most useful Rainmeter skins are the ones that show things like your CPU usage, GPU usage, temperatures, RAM usage and so on, letting you glimpse this usually elusive data just by looking at your desktop.
For many of these, however, you’ll need to link Rainmeter to third-party apps like HWiNFO to get that more deep-down data (like GPU and CPU temperature).
This can be a pretty elaborate process, so if you want to go down this particular rabbit-hole, then we recommend heading over to the official Rainmeter site for a guide on integrating it with HWiNFO.