Get the Windows Vista Aero theme in a Guest OS using Virtual PC 2007

Here's a tidbit I've been meaning to blog about for months...

If you install Windows Vista as our guest OS using Virtual PC 2007 (or Virtual Server for that matter), you may initially be disappointed by the fact that you only get the Windows Vista Basic theme:

Have no fear, there IS a way to get the Windows Vista Aero theme for your guest OS.  The trick is to connect to your guest OS from your host OS using Remote Desktop Connection.  Make sure you set the "Experience" to the max when you connect (Desktop Composition & Themes at a minimum):

You also need to make sure you select 32 bit color:

Once connected, you get the full Windows Vista Aero experience:

That’s right! Flip 3D baby! Yes, that’s a WPF application running as well.  You will notice a negligible performance difference. 

What's going on here?  Instead of remoting bitmaps across the wire, data is being passed and hardware rendering is being performed on the client (host os).

To get it, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Guest & host OS must be running Vista Enterprise or Ultimate
  • Guest & host OS must have the Desktop Window Manager (DWM) Session Manager service running


Comments (17)

  1. Thanks to Marc and the Public Sector Developer Team for this piece of information. The team offers their

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  3. George says:

    Hello! Very good site. Thanks.

  4. Matt says:

    I’m struggling with this. I am running Vista Ultimate x64 and my VPC is x86 but i am not getting any of the nice vista effects when using the remote desktop connection. Any ideas?

  5. JeremyLeroy96 says:

    Where can you get this for xp can you?

  6. He creado una máquina virtual para Windows Vista, en casa. Pero el problema es que no está disponible

  7. arco says:

    This does not really work for me, im now posting from a VPC with Ultimate

  8. Ice Cream! says:

    You said that it only works in Business and Ultimate versions of Windows Vista (in real). Will it work in Windows Vista Home Basic (in real)?

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  12. Shawn B. says:

    Since Windows 7 supports Aero, is there a way to make this work when the host PC is running Windows 7?

  13. Joe says:

    But can you run games in the guest OS using the host video card?

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