How To Enable Windows 7 Aero Effects Inside VirtualBox

Erez Zukerman 27-04-2012

enable windows 7 aeroVirtualBox is an amazing application. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is one of the most important applications you could install on your computer, if you care about your privacy, security, and the general repair of your system.With VirtualBox, you can browse the Web, test applications, and perform potentially risky operations – all in a completely protected environment, separate from your “real” operation system.


But up until recently, VirtualBox had a pretty major limitation: There was no way to use Windows Aero effects when running Windows Vista or Windows 7 inside VirtualBox. If you are testing software, this makes a big difference: You are not getting the Aero experience most Windows users would get, and your screenshots look wrong. Fortunately, with the advent of VirtualBox 4.1, this can be fixed.

What You Need To Get Started

enable windows 7 aero

The first thing you need is VirtualBox 4.1 and up. You can get it here.

Next, you need an instance of Windows 7 running in VirtualBox. Back in 2009, we’ve shown you How To Install Windows 7 on a Virtual Machine with VirtualBox How to Install Windows 7 on a VirtualBox Virtual Machine Microsoft will soon stop support for Windows 7. One way of keeping it running is through a virtual machine with VirtualBox. Read More , and the process hasn’t really changed since. Make sure you load that instance of Windows 7 before the next step.

Installing The New Guest Additions

Even with VirtualBox 4.1, you will see something like this when you fire up Explorer:


enable windows 7 aero theme

Meaning, no Aero. That’s because you need to install the latest version of VirtualBox Guest Additions. This is a software package you install within the guest OS (the “virtualized” one), and allow it to integrate better with its host (both guest and host are Windows 7 in my case).

To install the Guest Additions, select Devices > Install Guest Additions:

enable windows 7 aero theme


VirtualBox will then insert a virtual CD into your VM, and run it:

enable windows 7 aero theme

Mind your step now: Aero support is still experimental, and is switched off by default. So we can’t just Next-Next-Next our way through this installer:

aero effects virtualbox


Above you see the crucial step. Note that Direct3D Support is switched off by default. You must check this box on for this tutorial to work. As soon as you do, VirtualBox Guest Additions tells you you’re on the right track for Aero:

aero effects virtualbox

This is a trick question: Click No. You don’t want the basic Direct3D support: You want the new, experimental stuff. Living on the edge! Once you click No, VirtualBox will explain the memory requirements:



No problem; we’ll get to that part in a moment. Now click Install and let the setup utility do its thing. Windows will ask if you want to install a driver; obviously, you do:

aero effects virtualbox

Again, the wrong default is selected for you. Make sure you click Install. This popup will appear more than once, so keep an eye on the VM during this process. Once it’s done, you will be asked to reboot the VM:


Yup: Reboot now.

Confirm Machine Settings

While the VM is rebooting, let’s make sure we have enough display memory for Aero to work. Click Machine > Settings, and then Display:


You can’t change this when the VM is running, so if you see a setting lower than 128MB on the Video Memory slider or “Enable 3D Acceleration” unchecked, shut down the VM and fix that, then load it again.

Enabling Aero

Now that we’re all set, the moment of truth has arrived. Right-click the desktop in the guest system and select Personalize. The Personalization window will open:


Under Aero Themes, just click any theme you like. I went with the default Windows 7 one, and a brief moment later, lo and behold:

enable windows 7 aero
Victory! Aero is now switched on within the VM, and any application you install there will work just like it does on a native instance of Windows 7! You can now take screenshots to your heart’s content, and enjoy a better virtualized Windows 7 experience.

Related topics: VirtualBox, Virtualization, Windows 7.

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  1. NMGamerZ
    March 22, 2018 at 9:25 am

    thank you website i love your instructions 100% love it ty for tips its very difficult to do it but you save my graphics

  2. Scott M
    December 13, 2017 at 5:48 am

    Perfect! Thank you! I use Kubuntu Linux but need Windows 7 for work so I run it in VirtualBox. I tried this years ago but couldn't get it to work. Thank you for this most helpful write-up as it now looks like it should.

  3. Sergio
    June 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I have another error
    when I install win 7 x64 when installing the guest additions it is normal but when I open customization I get the bottom troubleshoot problems with transparency and other Aero effects in the latest version virtualbox in recent

  4. Anonymous
    July 19, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    As the warning said, this feacture is experimental, at the final step when I enable the aero them the video image of my machine beaks showing just rectagules of blue and green color. By the way, I have a good nvidea video card and i7, so is not about performance

    • Marisano
      May 4, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      This has been out since at least 2012, so it's probably a lot less experimental now than it was when the article was released. Perhaps your video card / driver is too new? Try unplugging your card and booting up Windows with Aero under VirtualBox that way.

  5. Randy Barker
    January 10, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I got stumped on the "Trick Question" Part too. I initially thought it was telling me I already had wddm and that this would install D3D, rather than WDDM. It appears now that it misleads you. Thanks for pointing this out

  6. Billy Moon
    July 27, 2012 at 9:16 am

    That trick question has had me stumped for a day and a half. Thanks for highlighting it so clearly. Definitely a design flaw in the installer.

    • Erez Zukerman
      July 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      So glad it helped! :)

  7. Hasitha Chaturanga
    July 21, 2012 at 1:36 am

    This would slow you virtual machine down a lot

    • Anonymous
      July 14, 2015 at 1:23 am

      unless you just so happened to have a lot of ram on your virtual machine.

  8. Sampoerna
    July 14, 2012 at 10:50 am

    (do you speak english? the question. yes, but mostly i speak indonesian(yeah i'm indonesian).)
    It does not work. will I need to have 2 or more processors to the vm and increase the RAM to 1GB or what?

    • Erez Zukerman
      July 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      You do need to increase the RAM, yes, but I don't think you need two or more processors.

  9. Kelvin Zhang
    June 1, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Wouldn't Aero slow down the VM?

    • Erez Zukerman
      June 2, 2012 at 6:54 am

      It really doesn't, for me. I don't run any heavy 3D games or anything in the VM, but regular apps seem to be working just fine.

  10. Jack
    April 28, 2012 at 8:50 am

    So that's why I never got Aero working, I always clicked Yes, instead of know.

    By any chance, do you know how to enlarge the disk of a Virtual Box VM? The drive is a dynamic drive, but running the command line tool, it still doesn't increase the size of the disk.


    • Erez Zukerman
      April 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Well, this is a feature introduced fairly recently -- on 4.1. So if you've used older versions in the past, the feature just wasn't there.

      As for increasing the disk size -- I'm afraid I don't know. You should try MakeUseOf Answers: (no longer available) -- It's free, and when I asked something about VirtualBox I got a ton of helpful replies.