Windows Vista Home Basic Edition – Enabling Aero September 19th, 2009
I’ve been asked by a few people who have gone out and bought a cheap laptop from the likes of Curry’s or Comet why they cannot get the ‘fancy look’ on their Vista installations. On probing deeper into the meaning of ‘fancy look’ I worked out that they were referring to the Aero theme. Obviously there was no point trying to explain to them that the machine simply did not have the specification that was required to run Aero on Vista, after all, if they had the capacity to understand this, they’d have brought a machine with a much better all round specification in the first place.
The Aero theme is not available in all editions of Windows Vista. The point I am trying to make here is that it is specifically not available in Vista Home Edition Basic. If you want the Aero theme, you have to buy a machine with a higher edition installed, a machine with a better spec and of course, a machine with a higher price tag!
However, read on.
It turns out that there is actually a way to activate the Aero theme to run on Vista Home Basic Edition, even though it is officially not included. A word of caution though, in most cases (although not all) Vista Home Basic Edition is the standard OS for low-end machines, enabling the Aero theme could be devastating to the systems overall performance. You can always reverse these steps if this is the case.
Caveat: Please make sure you fully understand the EULA before reading any further and using this method, making any functional change to the operating system *could* be considered illegal by Microsoft. I am not responsible for any legal issues that might arise by using this information.
So to enable Aero, you’ll need to do the following:
- From the Start button, type REGEDIT into the Search box, then press Enter to launch the Registry Editor (regedit.exe). Note here that if you have not previously disabled UAC you will be nagged to consent to the action you’re about to perform.
- Locate the following key in the registry – HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsDWM
- Modify the following value (REG_DWORD): Composition, Change the existing value to 1
- Modify the following value (REG_DWORD): CompositionPolicy, Change the existing value to 2
- Close the Registry Editor
- Open an elevated Command Prompt window. To open an elevated Command Prompt, click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as administrator. You can also type CMD in the search box of the Start menu, and when you see the Command Prompt icon click it to select it, hold CTRL+SHIFT and press ENTER
- In the Command Prompt window type: net stop uxsms and press Enter. Wait for the Desktop manager Session Manager service to stop, then type: net start uxsms and press ENTER. Again, wait for the Desktop Windows manager Session manager service to start.
- Restart your computer.
After restarting, login as normal and you should find that the Aero theme can now be activated.
Notes – I have tested this method using a clean install of Vista to ensure it works, I have not however tested it on an exisiting installation with existing data and software. Microsoft *may* have delivered a hotfix via Windows Updates to prevent this method from working.
Windows 7 Tweaks September 7th, 2009
So Windows 7 has been around in various beta and RC candidates for a while now and Microsoft have finally announced the official public launch date will be October 22nd so it won’t be too long before it’s available to the masses (yeap, that’s you lot).
So is it worth it?
Microsoft were given a lot of criticism after the launch of Vista and rightly so. Vista ran far slower than Windows XP on comparable hardware, not exactly the massive step forward that it was intended to be. In fact, it was a bit of an embarrassment. As such, one of the main goals of the development team for Windows 7 was to ensure that it ran significantly better than Vista overall, they simply could not be faced with the same situation again. Well, I have been running Windows 7 on my main development laptop now for some time and I am pleased to report that I am thus far, impressed with the work that they have done. Would I recommend it? You know for consumers, I think I would. Of course the same question is not so easily answered in the corporate sector owing to various other factors, but I’m sure that over time, IT managers will be less apprehensive with a migration to Windows 7 than they were with Vista. There will always be the argument for other vendors such as Apple or the various Linux distros but that’s not what I am discussing here.
There are however as with any OS, some tweaks which you can apply to Windows 7 to improve speed and general responsiveness, here are some which I recommend you do to squeeze even more performance out of an already, pretty robust platform.
MSConfig has been around in one form or another for some time now, since the days of Windows 3.1 in fact (ah, those were the days!), it’s still alive and well and working behind the scenes in Windows 7. MSConfig was initially envisaged as a tool for system administrators to help diagnose problems with the boot process, however, it can also be used as a tool for optimising the systems performance. To launch MSConfig, open the run prompt (either through the start menu itself or Ctrl+R) and type msconfig followed by enter. When the System Configuration dialog box opens go straight to the Startup tab, the tab which shows you which programs are set to run when the system boots, it also allows you to disable any unwanted startup items. Obviously each installation will be different based on hardware and what software has been installed so use caution when deselecting items! Unfortunately there is no ‘right for all’ answer, get in touch if you’d like some advice.
- THE AERO INTERFACE
The performance impact of the Aero interface has been debated since the time that Windows Vista was first released. I have seen some benchmark tests that indicate that there is no noticeable performance impact associated with enabling the Aero interface. At the same time though, there are people who swear that their PCs run more efficiently without it. In either case, there is no denying that Aero does consume a significant amount of system resources and we can probably do without it.
In the current beta of Windows 7, Setup is designed to compute the system index, unlike in Vista where this was done at a later stage by the user. Assuming that the machine has a sufficient system index score and compatible graphics hardware, Aero is automatically enabled. On the other hand, Aero is not automatically enabled (although the Aero Shake and Aero Peek features are enabled) if you are running Windows 7 within a virtual machine.
Windows 7 is designed so that it will not compute the system index if it is running within a virtual machine, and unless a system index is calculated, the aero glass is not enabled.
- Internet Explorer Add-Ons
By itself, Internet Explorer is a fairly efficient application. However, add-ons can really decrease the browser’s performance. Windows 7 actually allows you to see which add-ons are taking the longest to load. From there, you can make a decision as to whether or not you want to disable the add-on in the name of faster load times.
You can check the performance of each add-on by opening Internet Explorer, and selecting the Manage Add-Ons command from the Tools menu. When the list of add-ons appears, scroll all the way to the right, and you will see a column that tells you how long each add-on takes to load.