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.

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 2 and 5 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • Hi,

    I'm using Windows 7 Professional on both the host and the client computers. They both run Aero normally but I can't get Aero over Remote Desktop, even though I have desktop composition turned on.

  • I managed to remote Aero after I installed nVidia graphics drivers. The default non-plug-and-play VGA adapter wouldn't let me even use a Windows 7 Basic Theme locally! It seems to work fine both locally and remotely now, though the personalization windows still claims some themes are blocked by remote session settings.

    However, I'm not sure how safe it is to use Windows 7 drivers on Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V(My virtual Server 2003 has just suffered a IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL BSOD).

  • You guys Rock Thanks, no more grey or solid colour windows :)

  • Windows Server 2003 RDP 7.0 Client

    Here you could find how to get it running on Windows Server 2003:


  • does aero over rdp work with windows server 2008(R1) as the host? why not? can't even get the vista style start menu working over remote in r1 :(

  • Hello there,

    I did everything described to enable Aero on a Windows Server 2008 R2 running as a virtual machine on Hyper-V. Any ideas why it’s not working?!

    Here is my environment:

    Remote Desktop Host: Windows Server 2008 R2 running as a virtual machine on Hyper-V; RDH role and Desktop experience feature installed; Themes service running; Desktop composition for RDH enabled through Group policy;

    Client: Windows 7

    Remote desktop connection: 32-bit color depth set; Desktop composition checked.



  • I'm having problems getting it to work from Win 7 Pro to Win 7 Pro. Note, I'm a different Jon than the one that posted above. However, I can get it to work if I go from Win 7 Pro to Win 7 Enterprise. Does anyone know if this is by design? If so, this is STUPID!!!! I wouldn't put it past Microsoft to bake in some moronic limitation like this to force you to upgrade further.

  • Is there a list of programs that have problems as the Remote Desktop Service Host role mentions might happen when installing on a running server with apps installed? I dont want to hork up my dev box running Windows Server 2008 R2

  • I have a Windows Server 2008 R2 and run hyper-v. In there I have a virtual windows7 client. Does the Vista + RDP7.0 client still not support AERO Glass? Or did you make changes?



  • I'm sorry, but this is just unbelievable.

    We're a small business. We bought Windows 7 Pro. We bought eight copies. We bought a Small Business server, 10 licenses. We bought Office 2010, six of those and Office 2007, two of those. We paid a lot of money to Microsoft.

    Now when my boss remotes into his desktop, he wants to know why it doesn't look the same. He thinks I screwed up. I have to tell him we need to buy Windows 7 Ultimate to make it look the same, at $129 a pop. But why should we? Didn't we pay enough? Why is Microsoft treating its best customers like ****?

  • if you're connecting wirelessly you might have to change the connection speed under Experience on Remote Desktop Connection.  I tried to connect wirelessly within my local network and the LAN(10MB or Higher) option wouldn't work.  Lowered it to the WAN(10mb or higher with high latency) and it worked fine.  Beat my head against the wall til I discovered this.

  • On your client Remote Desktop Connection you might have to adjust the connection speed under Experience.  LAN(10mb) wouldn't work on my wireless connection.  Had to adjust to WAN(10mb with latency)  I beat my head on the wall trying to figure this out.  It's always something simple...isn't it?

  • Hi,

    I just set up remote aero glass on my windows 2008r2 std (server) with win7 pro (client).

    What is nice:

    - it works! I've got aero glass theme

    What is not nice:

    - my windows tells me it doesn't work for me :) When I want to change a theme using Personalisation frame, all the Aero themes are greyed, and in the bottom of the window I've got a note like that "At least one of your themes is disabled by remote desktop connection settings".

    I can't get which settings may disable it. I need. It looks funny when I read some things like above in a beatiful glassy style window... It's also annoying when I want to set brand new bings best theme and it tells me it's impossible.

  • Very useful information, Thank you very much.

  • After enabling the RDHS role, it is asking me for to specify licensing type as well as a licensing server? What do I select here?

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Aero Glass Remoting in Windows Server 2008 R2