What is the Aero desktop experience?

The Aero desktop experience features a translucent glass design with subtle window animations and new window colors.

Picture of the desktop
The Aero desktop experience features glass-like windows for an open look

It includes distinctive visual styles that combine the appearance of lightweight, translucent windows with powerful graphic advances. You can enjoy visually appealing effects and appearance and also benefit from better access to your programs.

Glass effects

Picture of a translucent window
Translucent glass windows create depth on the desktop

One of the more visually obvious features is glass window borders, which let you focus on the contents of your open windows. Window behavior has also been redesigned, with subtle animations accompanying the minimizing, maximizing, and repositioning of windows to appear more smooth and effortless.

Picture of window frame colors
Tint your windows using the provided colors, or mix your own custom color

You can even fine-tune the color and appearance of windows, the Start menu, and the taskbar by tinting your translucent windows. Select one of the provided colors, or create your own custom color using the color mixer.

Switching between programs

Picture of a thumbnail preview on the taskbar
Pointing to a window's taskbar button displays a preview of the window

The Aero desktop experience also includes taskbar previews for your open windows. When you point to a taskbar button, you'll see a thumbnail-sized preview of the window, whether the content of the window is a document, a photo, or even a running video.

Picture of the Alt+Tab program switcher
Switching windows with Alt+Tab

When you press Alt+Tab to switch between windows, you can see live previews of the windows for each open program.

How do I get the Aero desktop experience?

The following editions of Windows 7 include Aero:

  • Windows 7 Enterprise

  • Windows 7 Home Premium

  • Windows 7 Professional

  • Windows 7 Ultimate

Aero is not included in Windows 7 Home Basic or Windows 7 Starter. You can find out which edition of Windows 7 you have on your computer by opening System in Control Panel.

Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.

The edition of Windows 7 you're running is displayed under Windows edition near the top of the window.

You also need to use a Windows theme to display Aero graphics. If you are using an Ease of Access theme, some elements such as transparency and thumbnail previews will not appear. To view which theme you are using, open Personalization in Control Panel.

Open Theme Settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, clicking Personalization, and then clicking Theme.

The theme currently in use is highlighted.

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Aero hardware requirements

Your computer's hardware and video card must meet hardware requirements to able to display Aero graphics. Check that your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements for running Aero:

  • 1-gigahertz (GHz) 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) of random access memory (RAM)

  • 128-megabyte (MB) graphics card

Aero also requires a DirectX 9 class graphics processor that supports a Windows Display Driver Model Driver, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware, and 32 bits per pixel.

For best results, you might also want to follow these graphics processor recommendations:

  • 64 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor with a resolution that is less than 1,310,720 pixels (for example, a 17–inch flat panel LCD monitor that has a 1280 × 1024 resolution)

  • 128 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor with a resolution from 1,310,720 to 2,304,000 pixels (for example, a 21.1–inch flat panel LCD monitor that has up to a 1600 × 1200 resolution)

  • 256 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor with a resolution greater than 2,304,000 pixels (for example, a 30–inch wide-screen flat panel LCD monitor that has up to a 2560 × 1600 resolution)

How do I get Aero if I am running Windows Server 2008 R2?

To enable the Aero desktop experience in Windows Server 2008 R2, you'll need to install the Desktop Experience feature, enable the Themes service, and then select an Aero theme.

Note

  • You might need to update your video card driver to run Aero. If your hardware does not support Aero, you can select the Windows 7 Basic color scheme, which does not include transparency or other Aero effects. For more information, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

To install Desktop Experience in Windows Server 2008 R2

  1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then, under Programs, click Turn Windows Features on or off.‌ Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. In the Features Summary section, click Add Features.

  3. Select the Desktop Experience check box. If you are prompted to install additional features, click Add Required Features, and then click Next.

  4. Click Install. You might be prompted to restart your computer.

To enable the Themes service in Windows Server 2008 R2

  1. Click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Services. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Double-click Themes.

  3. In the Startup type list, select Automatic, and then click Apply.

  4. Under Service status, click Start, and then click OK.

To select an Aero theme

  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop, and then click Personalize.

  2. Click Themes.

  3. Under Aero Themes, click an Aero theme.