How-To Geek

Aero Isn’t Gone in Windows 8: 6 Aero Features You Can Still Use


Many people think Aero is completely gone in Windows 8, but this isn’t true. Microsoft hasn’t helped matters by saying they’ve “moved beyond Aero” in several blog posts. However, hardware acceleration and most Aero features are still present.

Aero is more than Glass. What’s actually gone is the Aero branding and the Aero Glass theme with transparent, blurred window borders. The Flip 3D feature, which wasn’t used by many Windows users, has also been removed.

Hardware Acceleration

Windows 8’s desktop is still hardware-accelerated. Your computer’s graphics hardware (known as the GPU) is used to accelerate the rendering of windows and other interface elements. This speeds up window rendering, taking some of the load off your CPU, and allows for shinier graphical effects.

Microsoft has removed the Aero Glass transparent window borders and replaced them with solid-color window borders, but this isn’t a return to Windows XP’s non-composited desktop. In fact, the desktop taskbar is still transparent.


Window Animations

Aero’s window animations are also still present. The animations that appear when you open, close, minimize, or restore a window function just as they did on Windows 7.


Aero Peek

The Aero Peek feature, which hides windows from view, is also still present. To use Aero Peek, hover your mouse cursor over a taskbar thumbnail or press Alt-Tab and tab to a window. The window you’re hovering over will be displayed and all other windows will be made transparent. The borders around the windows look a bit less glass-like, but this feature functions the same.


You can also hover your cursor over the Show Desktop button on the bottom right corner of your taskbar to preview the desktop itself. If this doesn’t work, right-click your taskbar and select Properties. Check the Use Peek to preview the desktop checkbox. (Note that it’s now referred to as Peek – not Aero Peek, as it’s called on Windows 7.)


Aero Snap

Aero Snap works just as it did on Windows 7. Drag and drop a window’s border to the left or right side of your screen and release it to quickly resize the window and have it take up half of your screen. You can also use the Windows Key+Left Arrow or Windows Key+Right Arrow keyboard shortcut to quickly make a window take up the left or right halves of your screen.


Live Taskbar Thumbnails

Aero’s live taskbar previews are also still present. When you hover over a taskbar icon, you’ll see thumbnails of all its open windows. These aren’t just static previews – they’re updated along with the window itself. If you’re playing a video, you’ll see the video playing in the preview thumbnail. if you’re playing a game, you can watch the game continue to run in the preview.


Aero Shake

The less-commonly-used Aero Shake feature is also still present. To use Aero Shake, grab a window’s title bar with your mouse and shake the window around on-screen. All other windows will automatically minimize themselves. If you grab the window’s boarder and shake it again, the minimized windows will automatically return to their initial positions.


Gone: Flip 3D

The Flip 3D feature introduced in Windows Vista has now been removed. Flip 3D activated an Alt-Tab-like window switcher when you pressed the Windows key and Tab at the same time. With Flip 3D, you “flip” through larger window thumbnails to select an open window.


In Windows 8, Microsoft now uses the Windows Key+Tab hotkey combination for the new switcher, which switches between Modern Windows 8 apps. (The traditional Alt+Tab switcher is still available. it works with both desktop and Modern-style apps.)


Gone: Aero Glass

The Aero Glass feature that offered transparent, glass-like window borders has been removed. It’s not simply off-by-default – Microsoft has removed the code for the blur effect that allowed Aero Glass to work properly.


Instead of the glass-like transparent window borders, the Windows desktop now has solid-color window borders. This is what Microsoft means when they say that Aero has been removed. (The taskbar is still partially transparent, however.)


There’s a way to re-enable transparent window borders and get an Aero Glass-like effect, but it doesn’t work as well as we would hope. The removal of the blur feature means that the window borders will be completely transparent, which can be distracting. There’s also graphical corruption in some situations – Microsoft clearly doesn’t want anyone using Aero Glass anymore.


The good news is that Aero isn’t completely gone in Windows 8 – Microsoft isn’t dragging us back to the Windows XP era by removing all the hardware acceleration and 3D effects. However, Aero Glass – perhaps Aero’s most prominent user-facing feature — is gone.

If you like Aero Glass, this is unfortunate – but if you were worried about Microsoft removing hardware acceleration and Aero’s other features, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 11/15/12

Comments (25)

  1. Paul

    All these changes are ruining Windows, and it’s why I’ve quit coding and just started drinking beer on the couch. I just don’t give a damn anymore. The constant catch-up and changes just aren’t worth it. Computers be damned.

  2. William Knight

    I don’t worry about it, I am staying with windows7, tried 8 and wasn’t impressed

  3. Gr8geek

    At flip 3d category there is a type error at windows

  4. tayyab

    Features are nice but some times makes me irritated

  5. clamo

    MS STATED that in order to RUN windows aero you NEED a powerful computer.
    just because 8 may use less resources don’t change this fact.
    windows 8 defaults to turn aero off just in case you don’t have a power full enough computer.
    win 7 was automatic, if you computer was good enough it turned aero on but if it wasn’t it turned it off.

    just so every one understands……AERO REQUIRES a GOOD MID to HI END Graphics card to run and a specific amount or system RAM.

  6. Bob

    I want to know how to turn the transparency of the task bar off. Anyone?

  7. Nick

    As long as Aero Snap is still there I’m okay. It’s a feature I never thought I’d need but would hate to lose ever again! Even my girlfriend who’s grown up on Macs has mentioned at least once a week that she wishes she could do that on her computer

  8. Bob

    I asked the question above about turning off taskbar transparency. I now know and here is how.

    Right click the desktop and click Personalize
    If you haven’t already, save your theme.
    Find your theme at C:\Users\YourUserName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes
    Start Notepad.exe and open your theme file.
    In there you will find the text


    change Aero.msstyles to AeroLite.msstyles and save the file under a new name but still as a .theme file.
    Exit, reboot, select Personalize, select your new theme file and customize it if you wish and save it.

    This works on Win 8 and probably on Win 7 also.

  9. Bob

    I forgot to mention that my change above also changes other aspects of the Win 8 GUI icluding sounds if you had previously customized them. That is the penalty for progress. If you don’t like it then change back to your original theme. You did save the new one as a different name, didn’t you?

  10. TsarNikky

    Why was one of the most intensely ballyhooed features of Windows-7 (really usable by all) not featured in Windows-8, but has been replaced by Metro UI (really usable by a few)? This is an excellent example of Microsoft losing focus and becoming conflicted in its goals.

    I’m sure it is one of many reasons people with work to do on their PCs will be sticking with Windows-7.

  11. DaFoo

    Right, because aero glass is TOTALLY needed for people with “work to do”.

  12. Steven

    wow microsoft could have at least gave us an option to not use metro or maybe revert back to aero from win7 I can safely say this update isn’t worth it

  13. Riddle

    Microsoft moved beyond Aero .Yeah ,and I moved beyond windows 8 to windows 95 … DUH!
    well since I use linux I just don’t really care ..

  14. Ramon

    Aero glass is nice, and aesthetic, but how does it help me be productive? Those that r always looking for little things to gripe & complain about so they can tout and hoot and holler about their “Linux experience” like to find anything to criticize.
    I could care less if its there or not. I like windows 8 & dont mind it not being there.

  15. Jon

    Actually TsarNikky, there is nothing (much) to dislike in Win8. A week after upgrading, I actually prefer it to 7, and have got it just as functional as 7 for serious work – booting to the desktop, with programs and exit/restart buttons on the taskbar and an excellent link to the desktop on the taskbar for other programs. I still use Metro for search and some other functions that are not on the desktop. I am expecting Metro to be more relevant when/if I get a touchscreen machine.

  16. your humble narrator

    Pity. The glass effect is nice to look at. Windows 8 is a step backwards in my personal opinion.

  17. Armani S. Valtier

    I hate that Flip 3D and Aero Glass are gone. Those were my favourite two!

  18. URKO

    you are all stupid fu…ers and because of mens like you the design are gone aero thing more ram end video its your antivirus software that thinking is yours software icons in right menu of the taskbar that is thinking not the aero not the flip 3d maybe you are not understand windows 8 is not faster than windows 7 or vista more power consuming because of metro widget that is changing every minutes end so what menu laptops are now nvidia 600 series video card 2 gb and more with usb memory video meny laptops have scsi hard drives faster for copy informations many laptops now have 8 and 16 gb ram and processors like intel core 2 quad core i7 and now xeon and what you dont have 256 mb video and the 384 mb of ram for aero design ? laptops like toshiba sony acer …. i want to make all windows glass without the theme maket of some and what i have still ram for all of my programs i can run 4 programs with one Hd video mkv with corel windvd end what .. u thing for all of you that you are only fu..ers not anymore

  19. Scophi

    I do two things that make Win8 desktop more usable.

    One, I purchased Start8 from Stardock for $4.99. It allows you to put the Win7 start menu back…and it allows you to disable the taskbar transparency. I highly recommend this. It’s cheap and gives you access to both the start menu and the start screen. You can even pin Win8 apps to the start menu. Very handy.

    Two, I enabled Quick Launch (yes, it’s still there) using this method:
    This method works in Win7 and Win8.

  20. haynz

    ClassicShell is freeware for nice Start and boot to Desktop !
    … i’m using all Previews now the whole year and NEVER needed damn Metro… u even can live without Start Button but in some cases it’s handy and MORE handy than damn Metro!
    I too think, that theres NO WAY for touchscreen at large Screens ! Its something for small Displays- even at 7″ it becomes UNHANDY! So why do they change a desktop-system to touch-needs????
    For gymnastics like Wii-Games??
    AND i really liked Win8! .. so i bought it… and seeking 10 hours for glass hack now … :(((
    I use my PC in my freetime only and i ever want to have a nice UI – i ever hated this at XP since i learned to patch it and never understood, why u can’t officially change it :(
    But now i loved Win8 sharpGLASSframes ….and they cut me … hope it’s hacked soon … but this is same shit as XP in the end …

  21. haynz

    ….sometimes i think bill gates doesn’t see a difference if glass or not or blue or black cause of his thick glasses … and many ppls really don’t care about glass or not … my gf too … but she needs glasses too … maybe it’s really only important for ppls with sharp eyes? … just a sentiment …

  22. Genious

    @ Haynz…

    No one has any idea what you’re trying to say. Perhaps English isn’t your first language so it’s difficult for you to relay your thoughts. In any case, Bill Gates has nothing to do with Microsoft anymore.

  23. paul

    i have just bought a windows 8 toshiba laptop . can i downgrade to windows 7 and not affect my warranty.
    because i hate windows 8 and them start menu apps still dont make me comfortable windows 8 .

  24. Oliver Plow

    When you install Classic Shell on Win8 in order to restore the earlier Start button, the restored Start button (some look-alike window from Classic Shell) is transparent as earlier with Vista and 7. So the old code must be still there somehow. So far I was not successful searching the Internet for how to enable it again …

  25. me


    What the hell are you on about?

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