What does it take to run Aero

I receive a lot of questions internally and from partners about what it takes for a system to run the desktop composition Aero them.  The answer isn't straight forward - desktop composition is much more demanding than XP's GDI based window management.   Composition requires more system memory, good video memory bandwidth, decent shader performance and an amount of graphics memory that matches the users monitor configuration.   I thought I'd use a series of posts to review what 's required to run desktop composition and how to trouble shoot "not getting glass".

Vista's desktop window manger (the DWM) can even enable composition, the system must meet the following set of requiremtns:

  1. The system’s primary graphics adapter supports DirectX 9
  2. The system’s primary graphics adapter supports pixel shader 2.0 in hardware
  3. The system is running with a Windows Vista Display Driver Model  (WDDM) graphics driver
  4. The system is configured for a color depth of 32 bits per pixel
  5. The primary monitor refresh rate is greater than 10hz
  6. Composition is enabled by group policies (this is the default configuration)

Systems with modern graphics cards will generally meet these requirements.   The Graphics vendors are (or will soon) have WDDM drivers for pretty much every graphics card that supports DirectX 9 and pixel shader 2.0 in hardware.  Vista has in-box drivers for most popular graphics sub-systems today and there are more on Windows Update.  ATI and NVIDIA also have some newer drivers on their web sites.  

So, if you are are not getting Aero automatically on your system and cannot enable it using the control panel, check your system to see if it meets the requirements listed above.   This is especially true if you have upgrade a system from Xp to VISTA - in this case, Vista will retain the XP style driver.  To get Aero in this scenario you will need to use Windows Update to get the best driver for your system; or load the in-box driver.