Troubleshoot problems with Windows Aero

Windows Aero‌ is the premium visual experience of Windows Vista. It features a transparent glass design with subtle window animations and new window colors.

Picture of a transparent window
Transparent window

You can try running a troubleshooter that automatically diagnoses and repairs problems with Aero effects in Windows Vista. To do so, go to Windows Aero Glass visual effects are not working or displayed Picture of a Fix it button on the Microsoft website, and then click Run now.

Here are some other solutions to common problem with running Windows Aero.

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Which editions of Windows Vista include Aero?

The following editions include Aero:

Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, Windows Vista Home Premium, and Windows Vista Ultimate. Aero is not included in Windows XP or earlier versions of Windows.

To find out which edition of Windows Vista you have on your computer, do the following:

Open Welcome Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Welcome Center.

The edition of Windows Vista you're running is displayed with your computer details near the top of the window.

I have the right edition of Windows Vista, but I'm still not able to run Aero. What should I do?

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)

My computer meets the minimum recommendations, but I'm still not getting Windows Aero‌. Is there anything else I can do?

Yes. Make sure that the color is set to 32 bit, the monitor refresh rate is higher than 10 hertz (Hz), the theme is set to Windows Vista, the color scheme is set to Windows Aero‌, and window frame transparency is on.

To set the color to 32 bit

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

  2. Under Colors, click‍ Highest (32 bit), and then click OK. (If you can't select 32 bit, check that your resolution is as high as possible, and then try again.)

To set the monitor refresh rate

Many monitors already have a minimum refresh rate (such as 60 Hz) that is adequate for running Aero. If your monitor can be set lower, be sure to use a rate higher than 10 Hz.

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

  2. Click Advanced Settings.

  3. Click the Monitor tab, and then click a refresh rate that's higher than 10 Hz.

  4. Click Apply. The monitor might take a moment to adjust. If you get a message asking if you want to keep the changes, click Yes. If you get this message and don't apply the changes within fifteen seconds, the refresh rate will revert back to your original setting.

  5. Click OK.

Note

  • Changes to the refresh rate affect all users who log on to the computer.

To change the desktop theme to Windows Vista

  1. 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.

  2. In the Theme list, click Windows Vista, and then click OK.

To change the color scheme to Windows Aero‌

  1. Open Appearance Settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, clicking Personalization, and then clicking Window Color and Appearance. If the Appearance Settings dialog box is not displayed, at the bottom of the page, click Open classic appearance properties.

  2. In the Color scheme list, click Windows Aero‌, and then click OK.

To turn on window frame transparency

To turn on window frame transparency, the color scheme must first be set to Windows Aero‌.

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

  2. Click Window Color and Appearance.

  3. Select the Enable transparency check box.

Note

  • If you see the Appearance Settings dialog box instead of the Window Color and Appearance window, the theme might not be set to Windows Vista, the color scheme might not be set to Windows Aero‌, or the computer might not meet the minimum hardware requirements for running Windows Aero‌.

I installed a new video card that meets the requirements for running Aero, but I'm still not getting Aero. Is there anything I can do?

Yes. If the graphics card and driver were installed after Windows Vista was first set up, depending on the manufacturer, you might need to update the computer's performance score, which will automatically enable Aero.

To update your computer's performance score

  1. Open Performance Information and Tools by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Performance Information and Tools.

  2. Click Update my score. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Do I need to update my video card driver to run Aero?

Maybe. Video card manufacturers often release updates to their drivers to enhance performance or fix compatibility issues. To get the latest driver, visit the support section of your video card manufacturer's website. For more information, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

I'm running Aero on a laptop and can't consistently get Aero glass. Is there anything I can do?

Yes. If you are running the Power saver plan, Windows sometimes turns off transparency automatically. If you don't want this to happen, you can switch to the Balanced power plan.

To change an existing power plan

  1. Open Power Options by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Power Options.

  2. On the Select a power plan page, click Balanced.

Why does Aero occasionally stop working?

Some older programs might be incompatible with Aero. When you run the program, Aero might stop working for as long as the program is running. Closing the program should restore Aero. To avoid this problem, check with the manufacturer of the program to see if there is a version available that is compatible with Windows Vista.

Can I turn Aero off?

Yes. If you see poor display quality using the Aero color scheme, try changing to another color scheme, such as Windows Vista Basic, to see if performance improves.

  1. Open Appearance Settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, clicking Personalization, and then clicking Window Color and Appearance. If the Appearance Settings dialog box is not displayed, at the bottom of the page, click Open classic appearance properties.

  2. In the Color scheme list, select another color scheme, and then click OK.

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

To enable the Aero color scheme in Windows Server 2008, install the Desktop Experience feature, enable the Themes service, select the Windows Vista theme, and then select the Windows Aero‌ color scheme.

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 Vista Basic color scheme, which does not include transparency or other Aero effects.

To install Desktop Experience in Windows Server 2008

  1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then double-click Programs and Features.

  2. Click Turn Windows Features on or off. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

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

  4. Select the Desktop Experience check box, and then click Next.

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

To enable the Themes service in Windows Server 2008

  1. Click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Services. Administrator permission required If you are 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 the Windows Vista theme

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

  2. Click Themes.

  3. In the Theme list, click Windows Vista, and then click OK.

To select the Aero color scheme

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

  2. Click Window Color and Appearance.

  3. In the Color scheme list, click Windows Aero‌, and then click OK. If Windows Aero‌ is not listed as an option, be sure that your hardware is capable of supporting Aero and that you have installed the latest video card drivers.