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Create a Shortcut to Enable/Disable Aero Transparency in 7 / Vista

In the interests of exposing all of the secrets in Windows Vista, I’ve decided to explain how to create a shortcut that turns on or off the transparency in Windows Vista. I don’t find this especially useful, but I’m sure it will be relevant to at least one of the readers.

Update: This same tip works identically in Windows 7.

This tip is nothing new, and seems to have been featured on dozens of sites recently, but there seems to be a misunderstanding… this mechanism will not turn off Aero or the compositing engine, it simply disables the transparency.

Manually Enable/Disable Aero Transparency

You can achieve the same result by right-clicking on the Desktop and choosing Personalize and then “Window Color and Appearance”

image

You should see the “Enable transparency” checkbox in this screen, which works immediately.

Create Aero Transparency Shortcut

Right-click anywhere and choose New \ Shortcut, and then enter in one of the following into the Location box to create the new shortcut.

image

Turn Aero Transparency Off

rundll32.exe dwmApi #104

Turn Aero Transparency On

rundll32.exe dwmApi #102

For purposes of illustration, I’ve got the same screenshot with Aero transparency turned on and off… but I really am just trying to show off the fun Mario wallpaper.

With Aero Transparency On:

image

And with Aero Transparency Off:

image

Enjoy!

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/13/08

Comments (21)

  1. rothgar

    Great tip for those of us who like to make our games run as smooth as possible. I am only assuming that having aero off would help. Keep em coming.

  2. rothgar

    nevermind about that^^. I didn’t realize it was only for transparency :(

  3. The Geek

    @rothgar

    Yeah… that’s why I said it’s not actually that useful =)

    If you want to turn Aero off for a game, what you can do is edit the shortcut properties and on the Compatibility tab check the option for “Disable desktop compositing”

    I’m going to put that into an article for tomorrow, actually.

  4. Ju1c3

    on a interesting side note, when you do this it reclaims like 30mb of ram from the dwm.exe in my task manager. turn it off and then back on and the memory stays gone from the dwm.exe. definitely a useful trick IMO. ill be using it when my computer starts to go nuts.

    might be nice enough to even run the thing every 30 minutes on my computer to get the memory back. well, maybe not as i have 2 gig of ram so it really wont matter getting 30mb ram. maybe more useful for others.

  5. snugglez64

    this is really cool, now if only there was a shortcut 2 switch between Classic and Aero.. hmmmm

  6. Planet Lowyat

    Too fancy for me :(

  7. yay,now i can run wamp without any problems

  8. eishcaOmajanO

    darn my laptop doesn’t have that aero transparency thingy! hey… is there something i could do to activate or download any thing to have that aero transparency thing?! i’d be expecting your reply dude.

  9. Ju1c3

    to eishca:

    if you dont have areo, your computer doesnt have the graphics card to be capable of it. it wont let you turn it on if vista judges your laptop cant turn it on.

  10. Zawert

    TO : Ju1c3

    Im sorry but that is -WRONG-
    Every vista and XP can run a program with transperancy
    Download the program named Glass 2K

  11. Ju1c3

    TO: Zawert

    not wrong. vista judges your computer with built in tools and if it thinks your computer cant run areo, then it wont. plain and simple. no one ever said anything about 3rd party apps.

    and why would you want to turn it on anyways if you have a slower computer? to make your computer slower?

  12. Michael

    You can easily turn off Windows Aero or turn on Windows Aero by having two options on the right-click of Desktop. Copy and paste the text above: -

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero Off]
    @=”Turn Aero Off”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero Off\command]
    @=”Rundll32.exe dwmApi #104″

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero On]
    @=”Turn Aero On”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero On\command]
    @=”Rundll32.exe dwmApi #102″

    Save the file as Aero.reg, merge it and you will have two options to turn off or on Aero. Make sure you’re running Windows Aero.

  13. Robbie

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero Off]
    @=”Turn Aero Off”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero Off\command]
    @=”Rundll32.exe dwmApi #104″

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero On]
    @=”Turn Aero On”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Turn Aero On\command]
    @=”Rundll32.exe dwmApi #102″

    When merging the above the menu items appear but I get the following error message.

    This file does not have a program associated with it for performing the action. Create an association in the Set Association control panel.

  14. Robbie

    Reference the above issue, I used the following shortcuts to toggle DWM on / off

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Start DWM]
    @=”Start DWM”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Start DWM\command]
    @=”net start uxsms”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Stop DWM]
    @=”Stop DWM”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Stop DWM\command]
    @=”net stop uxsms”

  15. Robbie

    Note: DWM must be running, added the following menu item to above:

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Flip3D]
    @=”Flip3d”

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shell\Flip3d\command]
    @=”Rundll32.exe dwmApi #105″

  16. someone else

    FWIW, this trick does not seem to be work on Win7 Home Premium x64. The call to dwmapi for #102 and #104 simply fails silently (which means that the context menu command also fails to work). Other calls to the DWM (such as #105 for the Window Switcher) work just fine but the calls for transparency simply fail. I’m not sure if this is a Win7 issue or a 64-bit issue.

    On the plus side, you can use simple batch files to kill or start the DWM process, which effectively disables/enables the Aero interface (putting you in Windows 7 Basic theme until it is re-enabled). The batch files have to be run as administrator or they too will fail silently, but this can be easily dealt with by creating shortcuts to the batch files (which can then be placed in the start menu or desktop) and setting them to always run as administrator.

  17. Roi

    This trick does not seem to be working in Windows 7.

    PS: I found out that if you choose the Power Saver mode in Windows 7, it turns off the transparency only. I don’t want to use Power Saver mode 24/7 though or have to remember to switch to it every time I am on battery. How do you automatically do that on a created Power Plan?

  18. Qais

    this helps if u need aero and dont need the transparency.
    e.g. in other custom themes to get the custom window style u have to choose basic , but then u cant use other aero supporting programs!

    this fixes it!!

  19. Ben

    Doesn’t Work In Windows 7 :(

  20. John

    I find the transluscent feature makes things harder to see and therefore distinctly uncool. Therfore I found this article useful in highlighting how the feature could be turned off.

  21. Jeff

    For best performance, you can stop the Desktop Window Manager Session Manager service. If you don’t care for it to come back on a reboot, just set the Startup type to Disabled.

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