How to Personalize Vista’s Windows AERO Graphics

How to Personalize Vista’s Windows AERO Graphics

I will show you how to Personalize the color scheme for your Vista Aero graphics.  This advice also helps with the disappearing Aero problem.  There are four options: Vista Aero (Best), Windows Vista Basic, Windows Standard and Windows Classic.  For the Aero effect, I will explain your choices to fine-tune the graphics settings.

Unfortunately, in certain situations the Vista Windows Aero graphics reverts to Windows Vista Basic, consequently, you lose the translucent ‘Aero Glass’ effect and also Flip 3D does not work.  Of course it’s Mr Nobody’s fault, but rather than pointing blame, this page shows you how to configure the Aero Graphics to your liking.

Windows Vista Aero Topics


How to Control Vista’s Appearance Settings

  • Right-click a blank area on the Vista Desktop
  • Click on Personalize.
  • Click on the link: Windows Color and Appearance
  • The crucial link that you need to click is down at the bottom:
    Open classic appearance properties for more color options.

Open classic appearance properties for more color options - Vista Aero

  • Examine the Color Scheme
  • ‘Windows Aero’ is the best choice.
  • Note 1:  If there is no ‘Windows Aero’ option, then it means that you system cannot run that Color scheme. (Could be Home Basic Edition?)
  • Note 2: Do make sure that there is a tick next to the ‘Enable transparency’.  A tick mean use the Aero Glass effect.

 Windows Aero - Appearance Settings

Windows Aero (Best)


Windows Aero Graphics Color scheme

Observe the Aero Glass effect on the ‘Control Panel’ menu item.  If necessary, compare with the screenshot below, which shows Windows Vista Basic.  As usual Microsoft’s terminology has specific meaning.
Aero Graphics – The definitive Vista look, which replaces XP’s Lunar scheme.
Aero Glass – The best of the Aero effects.  Gives the translucent look to the icons.
Vista Basic – Aero, but no Glass effect!

Windows Vista Basic

Aero – yes.  Aero Glass – no.  Flip 3D – no.

Windows Aero Basic Color scheme

I will let you into a secret, when I first applied the Windows Vista Basic color scheme, I thought that nothing had happened.  There did not seem to be any differences from the Windows Aero color scheme.  Foolishly, I even rebooted the machine, it still seemed the same to me.  Next I applied the Windows Classic, immediately I saw the change back to the old Windows NT style. Finally, I paid close attention to the highlighted item (Control Panel), in the Windows Aero option I could see the famous ‘Glass’ see-through effect; whereas in Windows Vista Basic the Control Panel had a blue/grey background, and not that Glass effect.

Windows Vista Classic (More old-fashioned than ‘Classic’)

Windows Vista Classic Color scheme

Guy Recommends : SolarWinds’ Free VM MonitorSolarwinds VM Console Free Download

The best feature of this new this new version of SolarWinds VM Monitor is that it checks Windows Hyper-V.  Naturally, it still works with virtual machines on VMware ESX Servers.  VM Monitor is a clever desktop tool that not only tests that your server is online, but also displays the CPU and memory utilization for each node.

It’s easy to install and to configure this virtual machine monitor, all you need the host server’s IP address or hostname and the logon info. Give this virtual machine monitor a try – it’s free.

Download your free copy of SolarWinds VM Monitor.

Plan B – Try Themes

Instead of configuring the Color Scheme, you could try adjusting the Themes, in particular selecting the Windows Vista theme.  If you have not done this before, once again begin by right-clicking the desktop and select Personalize.  This time select ‘Themes’ and Windows Vista.

Also, instead of right-clicking the desktop you could start from
Start Button, select Control Panel –> Appearance and Personalization –> Change the Color Scheme

Fine Tuning Your Aero Graphics

Open classic appearance properties for more color options - Vista Aero

Before you decide how to tune the Aero Graphics, think about your objectives, clarity, speed, battery life, and your individual color preferences.  Here are your three main options:

  1. Change the color from the default, to say, ‘Teal’ or ‘Graphite’
  2. Adjust the color intensity using the slider control
  3. Turn off the ‘Enable transparency’ (I would only turn off to save battery power)

ClearType Font

Disappearing Aero Graphics problem

  • From the Appearance Settings Screen (scroll up to see screenshot)
  • Opposite the Color Scheme is an ‘Effects’ Button
  • ‘Effects’ opens the door to the ClearType or Standard screen font


ClearType settings in Vista

My preference is for ClearType on laptops and modern flat-panel monitors, but standard on the old chunky screens.  However, as with all these settings – suck it and see, indeed my greatest joy is if you would experiment with Vista’s vast array of choices.

Color Scheme – Advanced (button)

On the Color Scheme menu, under the ‘Effects’ button, is the ‘Advanced’ button.  This opens an Aladdin’s cave of settings.  In addition to changing the fonts, you can also adjust the Icon spacing.  Have fun tweaking your Vista appearance. If you are having trouble finding this screen, see here to get started.

Guy Recommends: SolarWinds Free Network Bandwidth MonitorFree Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor

This freeware monitor is great for checking whether your network’s load-balancing is performing as expected, for example, are two interfaces are getting about equal traffic?

It’s easy to install and straightforward to configure. You will soon be running tests to see how much network bandwidth your applications consume.

The GUI has a lovely balance between immediate network traffic data in the middle, combined with buttons to seek related data and configuration settings. Give this monitor a try, it’s free! 

Download your free network bandwidth monitor

If you need more comprehensive network analysis software:
Download a free trial of NPM (Network Performance Monitor)

Vista Aero Requirements

  • Windows Aero Capable
  • DirectX 9-class GPU that supports:
  • A WDDM Driver
  • Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
  • 32 bits per pixel
  • Adequate graphics memory 256 Mb (Minimum 128 mb)

If your machine meets the first 5 criteria above, you can get away with less graphics memory provided you accept lower monitor resolution:

  • Adequate graphics memory for a single monitor means:
  • 64 MB of graphics memory supports a resolution of 1,310,720 pixels (still allows a 1280 – 1024 monitor)
  • 128 MB of graphics memory allows resolutions of up to 2,304,000 pixels
  • 256 MB of graphics memory to support resolutions of greater than 2,304,000 pixels

Graphics memory bandwidth, as assessed by Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, of at least 1,600 MB per second

Troubleshooting Windows Aero Graphics

Here are ten strategies to help get your Vista Aero graphics displaying properly and showing the ‘Aero Glass’ translucent effect.

  1. right-click the desktop, select Personalize, Window color and appearance: Now check the box that says ‘Enable transparency’.

  2. Check Personalize, Window color and appearance; now examine the Color Scheme, make sure that
    ‘Windows Aero’ is selected.  See here for more instructions.

  3. a) Check that your Graphics performance score is greater than 3.0.  Follow this path:
    Start button, Control Panel, click System and Maintenance, and then select, Performance Information and Tools.
    b) It could be a problem peculiar to your type of Graphics Card, check the manufacturer’s site for a driver update. (Symptoms screen flickers, colors don’t display properly, fonts blocky’)

  4. Check that ClearType Font is selected for Flat-Panel TFT LCD Monitors.  See here for ClearType configuration. (Symptoms TFT monitor seems out of focus)

  5. Check MSCONFIG, try disabling programs from underneath Startup tab.  Slightly crazy idea, but a 3rd party utility maybe interfering with your Aero Graphics.  Start Orb, type MSCONFIG in Start Search.

  6. Two readers Jim P and Colin K, wrote in saying that sfc /scannow restored their Aero Graphics.  If you try this, remember to launch the Command Prompt as an Administrator before you run sfc /scannow.

  7. The problem of Aero degradation could be caused by a particular program, for example, I have seen the finger of suspicion pointed at QuickTime and DreamScene.  Good news, the problem program may have an upgrade, a patch or a driver update.  If movies don’t play properly try this: Start Search: DXDiag

  8. With intermittent problems concerning ‘Aero Glass’ on a laptop; either charge the battery!  Or else choose a different Power Option, for example: Balanced.
    Start button, Control Panel, click System and Maintenance, and then select, Power Options.

  9. Check the edition of Vista: If it’s Vista Basic or Vista Home Basic, then it does not support Aero Graphics.  If it’s Ultimate, Vista Home Premium, Business or Enterprise it will support Aero Glass. Check:
    Start button, Control Panel, click System and Maintenance, and then select, Welcome Center.  ‘Find which version of Windows you are using’. Check the details near the top of the screen.

  10. Aero Glass will not work with Remote Desktop unless both machines support Aero Graphics.

  11. Make sure the following service is running:
    Desktop Window Manager Session Manager.

    I forgot that I had disabled this a long time ago in an effort to get rid of Aero. Now, when trying to re-enable Aero, I forgot about it!   (Dan Miller)

Clutching at straws, you could try opening a CMD prompt and restarting the Desktop Windows Session Manager by typing:
net stop uxsms
net start uxsms.  However, a logoff / logon or a restart would achieve the same result.

Still Stuck?

Post a request in the Microsoft.Public.Windows.Vista.General forum.  For the best response, include precise details of your problem.

Summary of Windows AERO Graphics

The idea behind this page is to show you how to Personalize Vista’s Windows Aero graphics.  In particular how to recover from the disappearing Aero graphics problem.  Even if your Aero graphics are working fine it is worth Fine Tuning for your Aero themes.  I am a great believe in investing time in getting the settings to my liking, at the beginning of my career with Vista.


If you like this page then please share it with your friends


Configuring Windows Vista Topics:


     Vista Tools and Extras


   Tweak the Registry ebook

Download Your Tweak the Registry Ebook for only $6.45

This ebook will explain the workings of the registry.  I thoroughly enjoy tweaking the registry, and I want to distill the best of my experiences and pass them on to you.

Each registry tweak has two aims; to solve a specific problem, and to provide general learning points, which help you to master regedit. 

Over 60 pages ebook and PDF format