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Use Windows Vista Aero through Remote Desktop Connection

Everybody knows by now about the Windows Vista Aero Glass user interface, but what everybody does not know is that you can use this over a Remote Desktop connection if you’ve got the right settings enabled on the client and the server.

To make this work, you’ll have to make sure that you meet the prerequisite conditions.

  • Both systems have to be running Windows Vista
  • The system you are running Remote Desktop client on must already have Aero enabled.
  • The remote system must have at least 512mb of RAM, and be an Enterprise or Ultimate version of Vista.

If you meet these conditions, you should be able to use the Aero interface through the remote desktop connection. I don’t have a screenshot right at this moment, but I’ll try and get one soon.

The one question I can’t answer quite yet is if you can use Aero on a client machine to a machine that can’t run Aero because of video card requirements. If you know if this is possible, let me know in the comments.

This will theoretically work when connecting to a Windows Longhorn server as well, although I have not tested it out.

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 01/21/07

Comments (12)

  1. Daniel Spiewak

    Terminal Services is an entirely remote process. It does authentication and OS checking to make sure you don’t do anything untoward (according to MS), but it’s pretty much a high-performance VNC. If the server can’t run Aero, there’s no way the client’s higher specs will make Aero work through Terminal Services (unless you’re just using it as an application server, in which case I’m not sure. Might work that way).

  2. Rob Eichenlaub

    I’m using Remote Desktop now on a server with Aero, and a client without. You cannot run Aero through a client without Aero capabilities. Trust me, I wish we could.

  3. Jug

    “The remote system must have at least 512mb of RAM, and be an Enterprise or Ultimate version of Vista.”

    The remote system must have at least 512 MB of RAM to at all boot Vista.

    How strange it has to be Enterprise or Ultimate though. Are you sure Business isn’t included here? It also supports receiving RDP calls, as the only other edition, but should be far more common than Enterprise at least.

  4. The Geek

    Jug,

    I’m not sure why Business was not included in the information that I found, which was some documentation from MS. I haven’t had a chance to try it out on a Business sku yet, but I imagine it could work.

  5. Gentle Giant

    Tried it on Business . . . no joy. :(
    MS apparently is only allowing Aero through Enterprise (only available to customers with SAs) and Ultimate.

    Early in the beta process, it did work, then they turned it off in Business . . . nice, huh?

  6. Brent Rockwood

    Even if your remote desktop server cannot run Aero locally because of video card issues, you can still run Aero on it remotely if your remote desktop client machine supports Aero. I do this at work all the time. The dev machines provided by my employer don’t have powerful enough video cards but my laptop does so I use it as a front end. The key is that the “desktop composition” happens on the client.

  7. Joe

    Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any definitive documentation as to when or why the RDP switches over to Aero Glass when you connect.

    For instance, connecting to my work PC from home, both Ultimate, will always enable Glass after about 30 or 60 seconds from when I connect. The other way, however, never enables. Both have fairly new video cards and run Aero Glass locally just fine.

    There must be something else that happens that triggers the switch to Glass.

  8. ISmael

    I reinstall windows vista ultimate.. and now i dont cant see the Aero show.. ??? why ?? Before i had it !!
    I have 256 MB graphic memory and 700 MB RAm on my descop.. ( 200GB),,,
    Can someone help me out ?

  9. Bob

    I am building my Dad a new PC and want to confirm the vista requirements to do remote desktop connection. I am intending to do remote support over the internet when he needs help.

    I have Vista Home Premium installed running Aero.

    Do I need Vista Enterprise or Ultimate installed on his machine to take control of his desktop? I’ve read this on the MS website, but it isn’t very clear:

    “You cannot use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to computers running Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Basic N, or Windows Vista Home Premium. You can, however, connect from those editions of Windows Vista to computers running other versions of Windows.”

    I do not need him to take control of my computer.

    I’ve read up on the series of steps I must take to make the connection, I just would like to confirm the version before I pay extra for it.

  10. The Geek

    I believe you need either Business, Ultimate or Enterprise to host the remote desktop connection.

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/choose.mspx

  11. Kenny

    First of all I want to say that I love your site and am a subscriber of your RSS feed. :-)

    To answer your Question: “The one question I can’t answer quite yet is if you can use Aero on a client machine to a machine that can’t run Aero because of video card requirements. If you know if this is possible, let me know in the comments.”

    No, the client card must be aero capable.. but the HOST doesnt have to have an aero capable card:
    Let me explain:

    AERO glass on RDP is dependant on the CLIENT CARD not the RDP server card.
    As long as you have vista that SUPPORTS aero as the RDP server and the CLIENT has an aero capable card then you CAN see Aero effects.

    What is actually happening is that the SERVER is giving the instructions via RDP to the CLIENT to actually draw the glass effects. So you could theoretically have a very simple card on the RDP server and get aero glass from it via RDP.

    This is confirmed by the fact that people are using a “trick” to get Aero glass from a virtual machine.
    Normally on a virtual machine you cannot have aero glass because the software virtual graphics card does not have 3d acceleration. However if you connect to the virtual machine using REMOTE DESKTOP (from the host that is running Vista of course with a good card) then you will be able to see aero glass from the virtual machine.

    Read here about this http://blandname.com/2006/11/11/aero-glass-on-a-windows-vista-virtual-machine/

    I hope this clarifies some things and gives some ideas to experiment.

    MY question is this: IF you use VISTA as RDP host and client, along with the Glass aero, do you get better performance on video, for example youtube videos? Because with XP pro the video via RDP is slow and not very good….

    I am thinking that perhaps this acceleration that the RDP of vista has, does something good for video as well….

    THANKS :-)

  12. Dr Robert R Brown

    I have a windows 7 ultimate laptop and want a remote desktop connection to my kids windows vista home premium desktop computer i can view there files but no remote desktop

    can this be done

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