Enabling Aero glass in a Windows 7 Virtual Machine

The notebook PC that I use most days runs Windows 7 Enterprise Edition (x64) and I have a virtual machine running the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate Edition for things that I don’t want on my work PC (installing personal software, etc. that would otherwise break organisational security policies).  Incidentally, the reasons this virtual machine runs a 32-bit version of Windows are that Virtual PC does not support 64-bit guests, Microsoft does not have a client-side hypervisor and Citrix XenClient will not install on my machine (I have VT-x enabled but I can’t enable VT-d in the BIOS).  Of course, I could use VirtualBox or VMware Workstation to run 64-bit guests but I already have Virtual PC installed for Windows 7 “XP Mode” and there’s no reason to run yet another virtual machine manager.

The host system has Windows 3D graphics effects (Aero) enabled, but the guest did not seem to be recognising them, even after I installed the Virtual PC Integration Components and restarted.  This gave me some decent choices for display settings, and my mouse could move freely between the guest and host operating systems, but there the graphics were plain and dull, even after selecting an Aero-enabled theme.

The trick (as highlighted by Redmond Pie) is to select the option to Enable Integration Features from Windows Virtual PC’s Tools menu.  In order to do this, I needed to supply some credentials and, because I was not running as Administrator (nor should anyone be on Windows 7), I needed to add the relevant user to the guest’s Remote Desktop Users group first (don’t be confused by the message suggesting that Remote Desktop requires a firewall exception – it does, but Virtual PC’s integration features do not).

Once my account had been given the necessary permissions and integration features enabled, my virtual machine was able to make full use of the graphics capabilities provided by the host PC – including “Aero glass”.

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