Activate Vista Aero Interface on Windows Vista Basic Edition

Microsoft has made some awesome graphical additions to Windows Vista, namely, the Aero theme (read more about it on my “Enable Windows Vista Aero Graphics” and “Aero Theme is Bad, Disable It” articles).

The Aero theme is not available in all the Vista editions. You can read “Windows Vista Editions” for more info, but the main point is that the Vista Home Basic Edition does not have Aero theme, and if you wanted it (I’m not sure why someone would really HAVE to have it…) you had to buy one of the more advanced editions.
Not anymore. It turns out that some forums have published a workaround to active the Vista Aero theme on Windows Vista Basic Edition. It is apparently not a big problem to enable the Vista Aero interface in Windows Vista Home Basic even though it is officially not included in that version.
Note: Please make sure you understand the EULA before you perform this trick. Making any functional change in the operating system *might* be considered illegal by Microsoft. I am not responsible in any way for any legal issues that might arise because of this. The reason I chose to upload the information is mostly because it is already freely available on the Internet (so I’m not the first one talking about it), and because I think it is important to show how changes to the Registry can easily add or remove blocked features from the OS.
Note: Please take note that in most cases, people who have bought Vista Basic Edition have also probably bought the cheapest computer they could afford. Enabling Aero on such a low-end machine would be devastating to their performance, as Aero itself is intensive on the system’s resources.
Please follow these steps:
Note: Editing the registry has the potential to cause serious (and unrecoverable) damage to your PC. If you are at all uncomfortable editing the registry, please do not attempt the following.

  1. From the Start button, type REGEDIT into the Search box, then press Enter to launch the Registry Editor (regedit.exe). Note: If you did not disable UAC (read my “Disable User Account Control in Windows Vista ” article) then you will be prompted to consent to the action you’re about to perform. Click Continue.
  2. Locate the following key in the registry:
  3. Modify the following value (REG_DWORD): Composition Change the existing value to 1.
  4. Modify the following value (REG_DWORD): CompositionPolicy Change the existing value to 2.
  5. Close Registry Editor.
  6. 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 on it to select it, hold CTRL+SHIFT and press ENTER.
  7. In the Command Prompt window, type
    net stop uxsms

    press Enter. Wait for the Desktop Window Manager Session Manager service to stop, then type in

    net start uxsms

    press Enter. Wait for the Desktop Window Manager Session Manager service to start.

  8. You *might* need to restart your computer.

Note: I do not have a copy of Vista Basic Edition installed anywhere right now, so I have Not tested this trick myself. Please feel free to send me a Feedback note if it worked for you or not.

Note: This tip does NOT work on Virtual PCs, so don’t bother trying…
Now, after rebooting your computer, log-on and note that the Aero theme can be activated. See my “Enable Windows Vista Aero Graphics” article for instructions on how to that.
Note: While this trick was tested and has worked for many users, some users report that it did not work for them. Your results may vary. If you have trouble, try posting your question in the Petri Forums.


Windows Vista: Choose an Edition
Windows Vista: Compare Editions