Aero Glass Remoting in Windows Server 2008 R2

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Aero Glass remoting provides a user experience in a remote session that is comparable to a local session. This feature is now available for Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) as well as Windows 7 as a virtual machine (VM) hosted on a Hyper-V machine, in addition to the Windows 7 client.

Below are some screenshots of a remote session from Server 2008 R2 RC build:

Flip-3D animation:




Taskbar live preview:


Requirements and Benefits

The following are required to enable Aero Glass in a Remote Desktop session:

On the Remote Desktop client:

Windows Aero-capable hardware and driver is required, and the following settings should be selected in the Remote Desktop client:

1) The color depth of the remote session must be set to 32-bit

2) “Desktop composition” must be enabled on the Experience tab

Please note that if Windows Server 2008 R2 is your Remote Desktop client, the default graphics driver installed is not Aero-capable. You will need to update your driver software to enable Aero Glass remoting.

On the remote computer:

If the remote computer is a Windows 7 client machine, the ability to support Aero Glass remoting is enabled by default.

If the remote computer is a Windows Server 2008 R2 machine, the Desktop Session Host (RDSH) role is required. In addition, the Desktop Experience feature, Themes service, 32 bits per pixel (32bpp), and Group Policy are required. The steps to enable Aero Glass remoting on a Windows Server 2008 R2 computer are provided later in this blog.

The operating system on the remote computer and the remote desktop client are required to be Windows 7 client or Windows Server 2008 R2. A support matrix is provided in the “Troubleshooting” section.

Aero Glass remoting support includes the following:

1) Full Aero theme, 3D animation and desktop composition support in remote sessions. This provides a “like-local” user experience.

2) The remote computer is not required to have Aero-capable hardware, so connecting to a virtual machine or “headless” server machine still provides Aero support, assuming the client machine has an Aero Glass-capable graphics card installed.

3) Aero Glass remoting is bandwidth-efficient and works across WAN.

Transitions between Aero Glass on and off, local and remote sessions are transparent to applications.

Server Manager UI to enable Aero Glass remoting on server

The easiest way to enable Aero Glass remoting on Windows 2008 R2 server is to use the “desktop composition” checkbox on the Server Manager UI when installing the Remote Desktop role. Now your server is ready to remote Aero Glass. You may still need to configure the client properly.


Manual steps to enable Aero Glass remoting on Windows Server 2008 R2

Enabling Aero in the remote session on Windows Server 2008 R2 requires the “Remote Desktop Session Host” role. The feature is not available on servers without the RDSH role installed and with /admin sessions even when the RDSH role is installed.

The following steps set up the server to support Aero Glass remoting:

1) Add the Desktop Experience feature from the Server Manager.

2) Set the Themes service to autostart, and start the Themes service.

3) Enable the “Allow desktop composition for remote desktop sessions” policy from gpedit.

The policy path is “ComputerConfiguration\AdministrativeTemplates\WindowsComponents\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Session Host\Remote Session Environment”

4) Enable 32bpp:

In Server Manager, go to “RD Session Host Configuration” under “Remote Desktop Services” role, right-click on the connection to bring up “RDP-Tcp Properties”:

Uncheck “Limit Maximum Color Depth” from “Remote Desktop Session Host Configuration.”



Below are some of the most common scenarios when troubleshooting why Aero Glass is not turned on in a remote session.

1) Windows 7 Aero theme not enabled

On Windows 2008 R2 server, after Aero Glass remoting is enabled, any new user connecting remotely with the proper client settings will automatically get Aero Glass in the remote session.

Existing users on the server will need to manually change the theme in the remote session once by selecting the Windows 7 Aero theme in desktop personalization. Subsequent connections will automatically get the Aero theme in the remote session.

Additional themes can be installed at


2) Aero Glass remoting is not supported between Vista and Window 7/WS 2008 R2. The table below shows the server/client combinations where Aero remoting can be enabled:

Windows Vista(remote server)

Windows Server 2008 (remote server)

Windows 7 /

Windows Server 2008 R2

(remote server)

Windows Vista / Windows Server 2008

(remote client)




Windows Vista


RDP7 client

(remote client)




Windows 7 /

Windows Server 2008 R2

(remote client)




3) Aero Glass remoting is currently not supported with the new multimon feature in RDP 7.

4) RemoteApp sessions do not have desktop composition and therefore cannot get the Aero Glass theme.

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  • Please add 4 and 6 and type the answer here:
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  • Good job guys! Thanks for detailed explanation.

  • I've tried to follow the wizard, but it seems that some other policy in the domain is preventing the desktop composition box from being checked.

    I used RSoP for the target server to verify the settings and according to the Default Domain Policy, Limit Max Color Depth is set to Disabled and Allow Desktop Composition is set to enabled.

    Despite rebooting several times, and while the Aero theme works on the desktop, the wizard is still not letting me check the box.

    What other setting is there?

  • Hello,

    The Desktop Composition box is grayed out because you have set the Limit Max Color Depth group policy. If you don't set the Color depth policy (leave it as not configured) you would be able to enable desktop composition from this configuration page.


  • That would only be true if it was set to enabled and to a depth of less than 32bpp.  In any case, I reset it back to not configured and rebooted.  Still no dice.

    Some other GP setting must be getting in the way.

  • Strange update -- after some trial and error with the group policies, it seems that if the "Allow desktop composition for remote desktop sessions" is enabled, then the box is grey.  If I set that policy to Not Configured, then it all works -- glass works.  This seems to be a bug then as by default it should not work.  Is this correct?

  • Regarding this limitation:

    3) Aero Glass remoting is currently not supported with the new multimon feature in RDP 7.

    Will this be supported when RTM comes out. Or just later, W7 SP1, Win8 wave?

  • " 3) Aero Glass remoting is currently not supported with the new multimon feature in RDP 7."

    This is a big limitation.

    When will you add this feature?

  • what do see is the use case for requiring aero remoting on RDS in any scenario?  If there is a negative impact on server scaling and performance, do you envision that it would still be used?  I've typically disabled any non-essential visual effects and virtual channels as they increase bandwidth, cpu and memory requirements.  Don't get me wrong, aero is aesthetically pleasing, but i'm not sure what business function it has in most use cases, so i'm looking for feedback on what the use cases are for aero remoting. Thoughts?

  • I know the TS users I manage would expect Areo back to their desktops from their new win 7 laptops.

  • The best use case for aero remoting on RDS is accessibility.  The zoom feature doesn't work without aero.  And to say you can't have multimonitor just because you have a visual impairment is wrong.  Plus if you can't do it, then it proves you have an architectural deficiency.

  • When making a RDP connection from Win 7 client to Win 7 client, during the beta of Ultimate -- the feature worked.  After RTM, we have discovered that a Win 7 Ultimate to Win 7 Professional client does not enable Aero Glass.  It wasn't until we did an Anytime upgrade from Professional to Ultimate that Aero Glass became enabled on RDP connections.  Is this expected behavior?

  • In reply to question from Rick Felter:

    Yes this is expected behaviour.

    Aero glass remoting is supported on the remote desktop host if it is Windows 7 Client Ultimate or Enterprise edition, or Windows 2008 Server R2 Standard, Enterprise or DataCenter edition.

  • Why can't Vista and Windows 7 intermix? You would think they would be able to since they both support Aero.

    Is Aero that tightly coupled with the OS?

  • Could you please tell me why this feature is limited only to the Ultimate and Enterprise SKUs of Windows 7?  I have not seen this documented in any of the comparison guides between versions.

  • Why the hell does Vista+RDP 7.0 client to Windows 7 RDP host not enable Aero glass? And Windows 7 RDP 7 client to Vista host too? Since Aero Glass already worked in Vista Ultimate to Vista Ultimate?

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Aero Glass Remoting in Windows Server 2008 R2