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My Vista Aero Glass Turned Itself Off, How Do I Enable it Again?

A reader wrote in yesterday asking why she no longer had the “pretty” glass windows, and how to get them back. It occurred to me that there might be other people with the same issue, so I’m writing up the (fairly simple) instructions for others that might have the same question.

Why Does Aero Turn Off?

If your desktop has suddenly flashed and then reverted to Vista Basic, it’s probably because of one of these reasons:

  • You are running an application that isn’t compatible with Aero, or the compatibility options are set to disable Aero for an application.
  • You’ve opened too many programs and run your computer out of memory.
  • You’ve changed the “Performance Options” to “Adjust for best performance” under the Advanced system properties, which disabled desktop composition.
  • You’ve disabled the Desktop Window Manager service.
  • Your video card can’t handle the resolution.

When Windows Vista detects that your computer is running too slowly for Aero, it will automatically disable it. Normally once you close out of some applications everything goes back to normal, but sometimes you get “stuck” with the Vista Basic theme, and have to go in and enable it again.

Re-Enable Aero Theme

Right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize, then click on the link for “Window Color and Appearance”

image

Make sure that Windows Aero is selected in the list, and then hit the Apply button.

image

This should re-enable Aero:

image

If that doesn’t enable Aero, type sysdm.cpl into the start menu search/run box, choose the Advanced tab and then the Settings button under Performance:

image

Make sure that at least “Enable desktop composition” and “Enable transparent glass” are selected (Or just choose Best Appearance), and then go back into the desktop properties and choose the Windows Aero theme again (although you really shouldn’t have to do this step)

If that still doesn’t work, close out of all your open applications, and verify that the Desktop Window Manager service is running in Services under Control Panel:

image 

At this point, you should hopefully be able to re-enable Aero. If not, drop a post on our forum =)

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 04/22/08

Comments (83)

  1. jon

    Nice article, I’ve had some friends ask me the same question.I’ve never had to use any of those other methods, just choose the theme again and it all works

  2. Eddy

    Nice Article.
    Btw, I see you have a nice mario wallpaper there.. mind if you share it to me? :)

  3. ph15h

    Nice article. I found this out through minutes of research from your rather than the hour of Using Windows Help.

    Like Eddy said, Can I have your wallaper?

  4. The Geek

    That wallpaper is really popular!

    http://www.desktopgaming.com

  5. mrstaggs

    @the geek
    every time i restart my computer, i have to go into the services to restart the Desktop Window Manager service… could you tell me why or how to fix it?

  6. Russell

    I have tried all of this, still cant get it working again. What happens to occur this. Plus i can’t find services in my control panel. This is becoming a horrible nuisance. I appreciate any help.

  7. brad

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU this was a very very big help i was frustrated when i couldn’t get the areo theme back so now im gonna use ur site if i ever have a problem and recommend you to all my friends THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

  8. jackbergin

    I don’t know what’s going on. I know exactly what I need to do, but Windows Aero isn’t under the list of themes. It’s like it has been deleted from my computer. Is it possible that I have done that?

  9. Marcos

    i still cant get aero on my computer is there a way to download it
    my computer came with vista so I don’t know why it didnt come with it

  10. jackbergin

    I’d advise restoring your computer, that’s the only way it seemed possible to me after trying everything recommended. You’d have to back up all of your files, naturally.

  11. Yoko

    I’d advise to follow the first tip here. Then, I’d suggest restarting the computer. After that, go to the start menu, and click Control Panel. Click on Appearance and Personalization (not any of the underlined links below it). Then, select customize colors, hit Enable Transparency, then choose the color of the browser padding. That should do it, worked for me!

  12. mrstaggs

    An update to my last comment, if you are having trouble and none of the solutions above fix it, reinstall your video drivers. I fixed my problem by updating my Nvidia drivers… w00t

  13. Quan Nguyen

    Ok… i ran into this problem because i ran two programs at once, they are both games and are called rohan and cabal. I ran both and my comp crashed and when i turned it back on it looks exactly like the basic coloring that usually occurs when i play a game. I have tried alot of things and everything you have listed but nothing seems to work. everything is very brightned and especialy for aim the boarder is all white when usually its supposed to be a greyish color. can you please list me more soulitions to fix this problem? The really funny thing is, everytime i restart my comp, it turns back to normal for a few seconds and then reverts to basic even though it claims to be in aero. Can you please help me out in any way?

  14. Nitin Sawant

    there is no option of “Windows aero” in appearence settings what to do??

  15. Mike

    Hi, just Googled this page after several months of having no Aero at all, and previous to that Aero was intermittent, which has been frustrating seeing as my laptop is only a year old and pretty expensive. I’ve now tried the “adjust for best appearance” option you suggest above and it works perfectly! I’m very pleased as I’ve been getting quite annoyed with my laptop recently after trying lots of things! Cheers :)

  16. Paul

    If none of the above work for you, or you get to the last option and find that the DWM service is running, try clicking “Restart the Service.” This will reset DWM and should re-enable Aero.

  17. The Geek

    You know what’s interesting… this just happened to me today, because a driver update happened and Windows detected new hardware.

    I re-ran the performance score test in Vista, then rebooted and was able to re-enable Aero again.

  18. Cassie

    just a note, on Windows Help & Support it says that your colours should be in 32-bit, not 16-bit, like mine were. just so you all know…

  19. Ulwen

    Agrre withc Cassie. Had the same problem and all that was neede was to change back to 32-bit colors on Display Settings in the Personalize box.

    The color was changed to 16-bit after running a Terminal Server App mode session on a Server 2008. (remote desktop)

  20. David

    this usually works, but for some reason the aero option in the themes isn’t even there anymore!

  21. Ross

    i have a laptop and it had windows aero but then all of a sudden one day it went to vista basic and i went to change it back but aero was not in the list and i did what was suggetsed but still i couldnt get it workin can anyone help me

  22. Soham

    I was running 3ds Max, and the program crashed. As users may know, the theme while running is changed to basic. Now I can’t even get it back, the whole theme is somehow deleted. How do I download it or get it back? Thanks.

  23. David

    Try right clicking on the desktop, click personalize, click display settings, and make sure your color is at 32 bit, not 16. Then go to themes and check again. Aero should be there. I had the same problem as you did and finally fixed it this way.

  24. Soham

    Hey thanks, it worked!

  25. Rubens

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!! I was frustrated when I couldn’t get the Aero Theme back after some Registry changes and reboot. Now is everything alright again, because of your tips. The trick for me was re-enable the Desktop Window Manager service. TANX!!!!

  26. ian powell

    THANK YOU!!!

  27. Jon

    Thanks a bunch! really appreciate it. Restarting the Desktop Window Manager fixed it for me.

    The culrpit was after trying to run Tribes 2 in compatibility mode it changed to Vista basic. Thus I couldn’t switch it back to Aero Glass that I like so much :p

  28. nat

    thankyou so much!!

  29. Rei

    My fix came by changing the video setting from 16 bit to 32 bit. Seems like the game I was playing changed and and didn’t change it back afterwards.

  30. Mel

    My comp is set to 32 bit, i have reset desktop window manager and gone through the steps at the top of the page. I had trouble going through the steps because aero isn’t in themes or appearance (nor is windows vista standard?) and ‘enable transparency’ isn’t an option in performance options. I have windows vista home premium and it just switched off aero randomly i can’t think of any changes i have made that may have triggered it. Does anyone have any idea how i can get it to work???

  31. 1After909

    even after adjusting performance options to best appearnace enable desktop composition and transparent are not an option to check off.

  32. THANKYOU

    i love you so much, the last one worked. i’ve had such a horrible week and that was the last straw, i was ready to die. thank you sooo much

  33. Kathleen McGiveron

    I ran an optimization scan and then it switched it to windows classic and i go to select aero again and it says theme could not be loaded because theme service is not running.

    And i don’t know where the DWM is, can’t find it in my control panel!!

  34. Skye

    Thanks soooooo much! This was so helpful! Yay! I have my aero back! yay yay yay!
    yeah, just wanted to say thanks!

  35. LtRavenw00d

    Here is a link to Microsoft for
    “Windows Vista Rules for Enabling Windows Aero / With Guidelines for Troubleshooting”

    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/display/aero_rules.mspx

  36. mayur

    Thank you very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  37. petersmw

    I did all of the above and it still didn’t help, the Aero theme was still missing. Well, it turned out that somehow the “Themes” service was disabled. And without that service running you can’t have Aero.

    To check this run msconfig and check that a service named “Themes” is enabled. If it’s not, then enable it and then you probably have to reboot. After that check if the Aero theme is available in the Control Panel: Window Color and Appearance as mentioned above.

  38. LostAndConfused

    I did everything that you said and I still have windows basic. Not only that but I no longer have windows aero as a choice when I go to color and appearance. Can you help me?

  39. LostAndComfused(2)

    Same as LostAndConfused… Please Help!!

  40. LostAndContuse(3)

    lol, Same problem as the other losts. I restarted manager, went to hi performance in which I didn’t even find the opacity settings in the toolbar, I found aero vista on the properties, clicked on it and it didn’t change a thing, I went back to properties and it had basic highlighted, as if it never changed, I’m on 32 bit…. aghh what’s going on?

  41. LostAndContuse(3)

    Haha, nevermind, I restarted the manager, and forgot to check lol. Thanks a million.

  42. Timothy

    i cant run directx9 but is there any other way to get aero to work?

  43. tsun-dre

    don’t know if anyone will read down this far but… in my quest to totaly optimize my computer i dove into the window services to see what i could turn off evidently i turned off the themes service in vista and this was the reason why my aero theme wasnt showing up after i enabled it again vista started working phew most of you might not have this problem :)

  44. Nick

    when i go to system properties the “enable transparent glass” selection isn’t even there. can you tell me what happened please?

  45. Bas

    Thanks man, I forgot I disabled the some services to speed up Vista. Couldn’t find why Aero couldn’t be enabled anymore.

  46. Sam

    Thank you @Cassie
    “just a note, on Windows Help & Support it says that your colours should be in 32-bit, not 16-bit, like mine were. just so you all know…”

    I realized that one of my monitors was set to 16-bit which is why i wasn’t getting my Aero working again.

  47. vin

    i have windows vista ultimate but wen i installed it i didnt get windows aero can u plz help me and people some of u hve system theme off to tun it back on go go to services and go to theme service and go automatic and start it

  48. Cecilia

    Thank you :]

  49. vin

    np

  50. Josh

    I got mine to work by re-enabling Themes.
    To start themes open control panel(classic view for me).
    open administrative tools.
    Then in the right bar open “services”.
    Scroll through the list and find “Themes”.
    Right click and select start or restart.
    Also make sure the service “Desktop Window Manager Session Manager” is started.
    Once these services are started or restarted open up your personalization and check Themes for the Vista Aero theme. It should be there now.
    Hope this helps. It worked for me.
    And thanks to all above me for the guidance.

  51. gem

    I can’t find services on control panel T-T

  52. matty

    I read through all these instructions but that didn’t help me. I found that when I changed my display settings back to 32 bit Aero came back on again automatically

  53. Katie

    THANK YOU!

  54. Kristin

    I went through the steps and restarted the Desktop Window Manager and my aero theme started working again but when I restart my computer it goes back to the windows classic theme. How do I get the aero theme to stay in place? Thank you!

  55. janet

    thank you. I had to go into services and start Desktop Window Manager service and change the property from manual to auto.

  56. Russell

    YES! Thank you SOOO much! I was beginning to give up hope, because the first 2 hadn’t worked. Then I went into services and it said the desktop thingy majiger was running and i was really disappointed. Then i restarted it and it WORKED! Thank you, thank you, thank you! When this happened it also reset my google chrome theme too for some reason lol, but i fixed that without a problem.

  57. khaled

    please chris can you tell me what to do my windows vista keeps on changing to windows classic instead of being windows aero the it always was until i installed a vista skin pack (cant remember the exact name)now i have to change it to aero every single time i boot it note that i uninstalled the vista skin pack,please reply fast.

  58. Arnold

    I had this problem after I had to restart following a Vista update today. I could only select the basic theme.
    I ran the Windows Experience Index tool and managed to get Vista them available from the drop down menu in Personalization.
    I then decided on a whim to look in the Window Colour and Appearance folder and hit Appearance Options. On that drop-down list I was able to select Aero!

    Hope this in some way helps!

  59. geekygeek

    thanks! fixed it. :)

  60. Ross Presser

    Months and months have passed, and I still don’t have a solution. After sharing my Windows 7 screen using certain programs — gotomeeting, Skype, Microsoft’s own sharedView — Aero Glass goes away. After finishing up use and completely terminating the program, Aero Glass will not come back. I have tried everything on this page, including things mentioned by commenters. Only a reboot brings it back for me. I’ve given up hope.

  61. BOB

    I tried everything on this page including all the stuff from people who comment.when i go to services it won’t let me click on a command for any of the services so i cant restart DWM or themes can someone help cos the classic theme is well on annoying and gettin’ on my nerves

  62. TwinkieSmack

    i followed all your steps and everything.. it didnt work unfortunately.. then i got it.. all i had to do was restart the desktop window seesion manager thing.. right click it in the system thing.. and click restart..

  63. Steven

    I did what Josh said up there and it fixed the problem for me. My Themes service was “Disabled” so I went to properties on it, set it to Automatic and hit Apply which made the “Start” button available. After hitting Start, I saw the Aero theme again in Window Color/Appearance.

    My problem started after Windows Update did it’s thing. Now if only I could get Service Pack 2 to install!

  64. Andrew

    I’ve done all that’s been recommended, as well as the suggestions by comments. None of it still works. I open up my personalization screen and go into window colour and appearance, i can see windows aero and windows vista basic as options, but when i click on them instead of the example picture i get a black screen and when i click apply or okay on either, it says “please wait” and afterwards, nothing has happened. Please help?!

  65. nabil77

    yaaaay it worked tysm!!! :D

  66. ptjm

    Hi
    i had an awesome win 7 theme in my vista. today i did an update and it went. now i just have a classic theme and when i follow your steps i click on Windows Aero and in the preview it is just a black screen and if i click apply it just changes the desktop colour pls help :(

  67. Horace

    re ptjm:
    I have the exactly same condition, did the update and same thing happened, and I couldn’t restore the update!

  68. Erik

    I have the exactly same condition, did the update and same thing happened, and I couldn’t restore the update!

    I I have tried all your fix’s no joy. Can you please help to restore my aero desktop.

  69. Chris

    Well within seconds of me leaving this I answered my own inquiry.. theres this ‘Universal Theme Patcher’ that popped up in the back of my mind.. it had been a long time since I ran the patches, but it’s a prerequisite for use of the 107 Dark Themes that I have.. and low and behold the 3 patches went off by themselves.. hmm.. go figure.. so running the Universal Theme Patcher fixed everything.. but hell, since I’m here and you’re reading this, have you any idea what Windows 7 Themes are.. like how many there are available, the black glass of the start menu.. and changing the windows start menu icon into an alien head or a bio hazard or a playboy symbol.. the list goes on.. and I got it all from VirtualCustoms.com.. gotta create an account to view any of it.. or you can just cheat and take all of my collecting/work for granted and just download my torrent.. I didn’t come here to advratise this.. why would I waste my time..??!!! But I am here and the information is right there, so hope this finds some worthy souls.. my PC has taken on a whole new demeanor since I stumbled upon this pot of golden geeks that made all of these.. cheers – Chris in Hawaii

  70. Jo

    I have the same issue on both my laptop and desktop (Vista 32-bit). I’ve tried everything. I even tried a system restore and it didn’t restore successfully. I’ll try restoring to an earlier date and hope that works. I’m not sure what else to do. My husband thinks I should just wait for the next Win update and assume that will solve it. I’m not so sure. And it’s just plain annoying.

    As a side note, the funny thing is when I used XP, I use to purposely change it to classic because I hated the cartoony look. I finally gave in so my PC would look like the rest of the world and I’ve gotten used to it. I hate the classic now!

  71. Jo

    I tried restoring to an earlier date and that was also unsuccessful. My next thing is to try this:
    http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/66978-system-files-sfc-command.html

    But I don’t have time now!

  72. fire

    I have the same problem as PTJM please please please HELP HELP =(

  73. MARK DAVIES

    Thanks Josh – your solution finally worked for me!!!

  74. Lil

    hi i tried all this even changing from 16 bit to 32 but it still doesnt work. under my themes options it has “Windows Vista”, “Windows Classic”, and “Windows Vista” again.
    when i click on the last “Windows Vista” a message comes up saying:
    Error loading theme.
    The theme could not be loaded because the theme service is not running.
    File C:/windows/resources/themes/aero.theme

    I am very confused so please help i’ve been trying to fix it for ages!

  75. Dreazy

    THANKS SO MUCH MAN! nothing was working until I tried your final step and restarted the Desktop Window Manager service.

    Just a note services is located in Programs not under the control panel.

  76. Constantine

    For a long time I didn’t have the unique vista Aero style window for an unknown reason, but today I fixed it by going to Personalization> Window Color and Appearance> and I found the Windows Aero option, selected it and, finally had the Windows Vista look I paid for.

  77. Eike

    Hey guys, i really need help!!! I have Windows Vista Home Premium, and when i went on my pc today, it wasn’t working properly. The windows weren’t shiny and clear (see through), but they were solid, and the sound was not working at all. There is a little red x next to the sound at the bottom right corner and if you put your mouse over it, it says “The Audio Service is not running”. I went to try to change the colour scheme, but theres not even an option for Aero, and when I got to System Properties, there is no option to check or uncheck “Transparent Glass” or “Desktop Composition”…. When I go to services, Desktop Windows Manager Service is not even there!!!!!! Please help me!!! This si the first time this has happend to me and its so annoying!! Please help, thank you.

  78. AS

    completely useless. Still have the issue after reading this and wasting 2 hours of my time searching the netz for a fix.
    you bring shame to the name geek.

  79. djiboss

    NOT WORKING for me !!!!!!!!help please (since 2 months)

  80. Jordan

    Thanks man a virus got onto my pc and deleted the theme completely but when i dug deep enough i managed to find it in registry somewhere, then changed it back in system settings etc so many thanks =D x

  81. Josh B

    I’m having the same problem as Andrew. I have Vista 32 bit and when I select the Aero/windows vista basic theme, it just shows a black preview screen and when I apply it anyway it just stays at classic. I had it working yesterday but I think after windows updates it stopped. I’ve tried looking up problems with the updates and uninstalling some of the “problem files” but no luck yet. I’ve looked online for hours. Graphics properties are at 32 bit and 60 hertz refresh rate. I’ve also done the service restarts on both Themes and Desktop windows manager with no change. Played around with perfomance options and still nothing. System restore is not an option (the farthest date isn’t far enough) and I reset my performance rating. I’m thinking that I’ve tried about everthing here and I’m at a stand still. If anyone could give me some decent feedback that would be great. Thanks!

  82. Josh B

    I should also note that I didn’t update windows (until yesterday) since may 2009 so if it is a windows update issue it could be from then til now.. and it doesn’t make searching for a fix much easier… :(

  83. Risa

    @ The Geek
    Mr.Geek, I have tried all of these things and none seem to work. I just want my Windows Aero back ! It is not appearing in the options like they all seem to be. It was working yesterday, now I have the old version of the Windows Classic. It’s really ugly. And it won’t come back to Windows Aero. Please reply back A.S.A.P ! THANK YOU SO MUCH !

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