Windows Aero

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Windows Aero
Component of Microsoft Windows
Windows7-RTM-DesktopAero.png
Typevisual style
Introduced inWindows Longhorn build 4039
Last included in
Replaces
Replaced by

Aero is a transparent Windows visual style used from Longhorn M6 to Windows 7 (window transparency was removed in 8). The first build to have working Aero is Windows Longhorn build 4039, and the last build to use Aero (with window transparency) is Windows 8 build 8423. In Windows Longhorn, Aero effects relied on the Desktop Composition Engine (or Desktop Window Manager in newer builds), which only worked in a few builds such as 4039, 4066, and 4074. In Windows Vista and 7, it relies on a WDDM driver due to the use of hardware acceleration, otherwise the Windows Basic theme would be used. This requirement was dropped since at least Windows 8 build 7927 with the introduction of a software rendering fallback to the Desktop Window Manager.

Enabling Aero[edit]

Windows Longhorn build 4074[edit]

This is a guide on how to enable Aero in Longhorn build 4074, adapted from the tutorial at the Experience Longhorn Project. The patched ISO known as 'Longhorn The Way It Was Meant To Be' (Longhorn TWIWMTB) has all these features in place. But if you have a standard ISO of this build, here's how to get Aero working:

Note: This guide only works on the x86 version.

Video Drivers and Theme Files[edit]

You should use the SVGA driver pack if you have VMware 7.1. Installing this driver is fairly simple: go to the Device Manager, and under 'Graphics' click 'Update Driver' with the mounted or burned driver pack ISO.
Now we need to reconstruct the Aero theme files. This is done by using the Jade theme files and copying these to the desktop. The 'Jade' folder and the files 'Jade.theme' and 'Jade.msstyles' should be renamed, respectively, to 'Aero' (folder), 'Aero.theme' and 'Aero.msstyles'. Now, open 'Aero.theme' as a text file and change: [email protected],-203 to DisplayName=Aero. Replace all instances of 'Jade' with 'Aero' then in the text file. Save the theme and put the theme files back into the directory.

The Transparency and Desktop Composition[edit]

Now we need to go to the registry. Navigate in the registry to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Explorer and create 2 DWORDs. Call the first DWORD MILExplorer and set the value to 1. The second is optional (setting it enables Aero stars on the Desktop): call it MILDesktop and set the value to 1. Save the registry. Go to Control Panel -> Display -> Themes and choose the Aero theme. After some seconds, you will see a lovely transparent taskbar and sidebar. If you added the MILDesktop key and if you have the drivers, you will also see the Aero Stars (animating stars on the desktop).
At this moment we run into a problem. Trying to open a window will do nothing. That's because the window is completely transparent. Even though we enabled Aero transparency, we haven't yet enabled the Desktop Composition Engine.

To start the DCE, create a Notepad text file and paste in the following code. Save it as a '.bat' (batch file). Then run it, and the DCE should be on.

@echo off
%systemdrive%\windows\i386\sbctl.exe start
rundll32 %systemdrive%\windows\system32\uxdesk.dll,DwmStartComposition
%systemdrive%\windows\i386\sbctl.exe stop
tskill explorer.exe
%systemdrive%\windows\i386\sbctl.exe start

Please note that if you don't install the drivers, DCE will likely not load. Also, if you restart, the transparency will disappear by default. This can be avoided by adding a shortcut to your DCE-starting batch file to the Startup folder.

Windows Vista pre-Beta 2 builds[edit]

This is a guide to enable Windows Aero (i.e. Desktop Window Manager) in Windows Vista build 5212-5284 in VMware Workstation and Player.

Video Drivers[edit]

First, the SVGA driver pack must be used and installed via Device Manager. Any SVGA driver from VMware version 6.0-7.1 will work, however VMware 6.0 compatibility must be used on build 5231 due to the BSOD bug.

Enabling Aero[edit]

  1. After you installed the drivers, open regedit.exe. If you're running build 5048 to 5231.2, browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\DWM (if the DWM key does not exist, create it). If you're running build 5259 to 5284, then browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\DWM instead (create the DWM key if it's not there).
  2. Create a DWORD key named EnableMachineCheck (UseMachineCheck for 5259-5284) and set its value to 0. Log off and back on and Aero should automatically be enabled.

Optional Keys[edit]

You can also use these DWORDs in the DWM key you created to get various effects.

  • Blur - set it to 0 to disable blur, else set it to 1.
  • BlurSigma (build 5212-5270 only) - set it to a decimal value between 1 and 30, depending on the value it will control the blur intensity. If set to a value out of the 1-30 range, it will disable transparency and make borders black.
  • Animations- if set at 1, the Aero animation effects will be enabled. It can be disabled by setting the key to 0.
  • AnimationsShiftKey - set it to 1 to be able to press Shift key during animations to slow them down.
  • RenderClientAreaOnly - setting it to 1 will cause the window borders and title bars to disappear, use with caution!

Bugs and quirks[edit]

  • Since these builds uses LDDM instead of the WDDM used in newer builds, Vista drivers will not work. Windows XP drivers are required to enable Aero in these builds.
  • Aero is not known to work on 5112 outside of real hardware.
  • When Aero is enabled on build 5212, the borders becomes transparent, but the taskbar doesn't.
  • Before build 5259, there is a bug that causes Aero animations to lag. It is possible to workaround this by ending and restarting the uxss.exe process.
  • Flip3D is activated via the Windows Key + Spacebar in build 5212 and build 5219, rather than Windows Key + Tab in later builds.

Gallery[edit]