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”

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

This should re-enable Aero:

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:

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:


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

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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