Does disabling Aero really improve performance in Windows?

Windows Aero, acronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, Open, is the graphical user interface, the module of Windows that processes the GUI and the default theme in most editions of Windows 10/8/7/Vista operating systems released by Microsoft.

On many blogs and forums you may get to read a tip on how to improve performance!  If you disable Aero interface, it will improve the performance of your Windows operating system! Does it really improve performance or is it a myth?

Now it is very important to understand one thing! The Aero interface is rendered by the graphics card in your computer. The UI is offloaded on to the graphics card.

But if you switch to the non-Aero viz Classic theme, then the UI is offloaded to and handled by your computer’s main processor! This may in fact put more load your main processor and have the opposite effect; although on today’s modern computer’s, the difference will be imperceptible, really.

Even if you have an integrated graphics, you may not see any real difference in performance.

In study commissioned by Microsoft during Vista days, it was found that:

Windows Vista Aero had little effect on the responsiveness of Windows Vista. Over 95% of the response-time differences between tests ran with or without Aero were under a 10th of a second and that all of the difference was under 1 second.

You should therefore not disable Aero, expecting a boost in Windows performance. Sure, if you wish to prolong battery, go ahead and disable Aero. But if you indeed wish to boost performance, you may want to  consider disabling transparency and special effects instead!

Says Lee Whittington:

If you are looking to prolong battery life, then you may want to disable Aero.

I did the test with:

  • Aero and Transparency On
  • Aero and Transparency Off
  • Aero Off

There was only maybe at the most a 10 minute difference in between each Theme I chose.

I had IE running the same thing during each test along with a couple of other programs in the background. I really didn’t see any change in how it drained the battery for each test.

The only major change I saw was if I switched my Power Scheme to High Performance with a few tweaked settings. I lost 2 and a half hours of battery life!

However Shyam Sasindran has a slightly different view point:

Disabling Aero could improve the performance because the dwm.exe (Desktop Windows Manager) takes up 28-58000k memory usage. When we disable Aero i.e go back to classic mode, you will find a performance difference. Not huge though! Because it releases 58K of your Memory space. And the animation that gets disabled when we disable Aero will impact in loading Menus faster.

Again Aero is a feature for powerful machine and not for a  Computer that just touches minimum requirements. Not all GPU card supports Aero. The software that I support at my Office i.e. Sage ACT!, when Aero is enabled on a slow machine, it take 15 to 20 seconds to open. But when we disable Aero and other animations (i.e. the one that we can find under “System Properties | Advance settings | Advance Tab | Visual effects | Adjust for best performance) it take 5 to 10 seconds to load the program. This is on a slow PC i.e. 1 GB RAM etc.

This is my view about this topic. This is purely based on my experience on PC not theoretically written anywhere.

What do you think!? Your comments? Observations? Experience?

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.

24 Comments

  1. Phong

    lol @ 58k resulting in a noticeable performance improvement…

  2. ^The typo has been corrected.

  3. Christian K

    Disabling Aero (Desktop Window Manager Session Manager Service) eliminated an audio dropout I was having when running the DJ program Traktor (from native instruments). The audio would drop out when I minimized the program.

    Disabled Aero, & problem gone.

  4. Andy, Can you enable Facebook Recommend plugin to allow one click sharing with FB friends? I prefer that to this sharing of entire post with info etc.

  5. Hi Yash, Isn’t the ‘Sharing is Caring’ plugin good enough? Or do you prefer the basic Facebook Like and Twitter Tweet buttons?

  6. Apolyonn

    On the AMD C-50 processor/RadeonHD 6300 series (popular in nettops/newer netbooks) turning off Aero results in slightly slower response time when closing/minimizing/dragging windows. I’m a fan of the windows classic themes, but they actually put more strain on the computer, resulting in more heat – I’m guessing this is due to the dual-core 1ghz (a whopping max of 2ghz) processor. I’m currently running Aero with bare-minimum performance settings: thumbnails, shadows, smooth screen fonts. It’s relented on the heat output significantly and the battery life doesn’t seem to suffer much more than with my classic theme.

    In short, if you manage Aero correctly, it can work to your advantage in terms of power-saving and battery life.

  7. Apolyonn

    On the AMD C-50 processor/RadeonHD 6300 series (popular in nettops/newer netbooks) turning off Aero results in slightly slower response time when closing/minimizing/dragging windows. I’m a fan of the windows classic themes, but they actually put more strain on the computer, resulting in more heat – I’m guessing this is due to the dual-core 1ghz (a whopping max of 2ghz) processor. I’m currently running Aero with bare-minimum performance settings: thumbnails, shadows, smooth screen fonts. It’s relented on the heat output significantly and the battery life doesn’t seem to suffer much more than with my classic theme.

    In short, if you manage Aero correctly, it can work to your advantage in terms of power-saving and battery life.

  8. On a normal modern PC – NO, Aero has no impact yet it has feature to auto disable itself. Typical M$ bull… I want to decide for myself if i want it on or OFF not some stupid pop-up!

  9. RigTester

    Disabling transparency may improve your graphics card efficiency, seeing as it won’t have to do as much to display the taskbar, windows etc. But not sure if overall performance would get a noticeable boost. same goes for stuff like disabling show window while dragging.

    What matters is productivity, it doesn’t matter how the taskbar or windows look. so if u are really concerned about performance just switch to a basic theme, although your comp should be able to handle aero or its screwed anyway.

    Want to improve your Desktop Aeros Performance Rating? downgrade your monitor to a 15in 🙂

    Lots of people buy huge monitors for their pc but don’t realise that the larger the screen is the slower it will run. If you get a big screen you have to upgrade your hardware to handle the extra.

  10. Blah

    That’s 28mb so really its nothing when considering how fast computers are today, still the fact that a theme uses up that much ram says allot. If your one of those performance is everything die hard fans, then yes Aero is a bottleneck not to mention Aero crashes more times then its Basic theme under heavy loads. Its even possible for dwm to crash altogether when something goes awry. Also note if your dwm crashes more often than not you might have a virus.

  11. Win Gamer

    “Over 95% of the response-time differences between tests ran with or without Aero were under a 10th of a second”

    Those who care talk about nanno seconds.
    For example the difference of 500 vs 1000 Hz polling rate.
    The difference between 120 and 144 Hz monitor refresh rate.
    It’s about ultra non latency responsiveness in gaming.

  12. Pedro Lucas

    People tend to answer these simple things by assuming your PC will be in idle mode all the time. BAH ! I will tell you where discarding Aero does improve performance: screen/desktop capture for streaming or recording purposes. Aero forces additional layers that for most cases, like this one particular, (using VLC + a screen capture driver to encode a video stream for transcoding and stream via DLNA to a SmartTV) burdens the computer by decreasing the frames-per-second of your stream or video, because of the amount of time/power needed for each frame to be captured. The difference is flabbergasting. About 152 times slower with Aero at the lower capturing level. This is the difference that allows you to stream your games or presentations to a streaming host like Twitch.tv without affecting your productivity.

  13. Akemi Akamatsu

    I found that enabling the aero makes the system more flood and smooth ,which means.
    imagine we opened a dozen of programs ,including google chrome and then we check each tab ,watch a couple of videos, read a couple of articles like that open 20+ tabs then we go through each tab and minimize the chrome and minimize each program and close each app,in that case I found enabling the aero keeps the windows more smooth but if the aero is disabled (such as classical) then windows feels like a bit sluggish and hanging. so if you have a good graphic card, keep the aero enable, it actually improves the response time of the windows and increase the smoothness when minimizing and maximizing apps and going through tabs in google chrome. it might consume a bit ram and vram but ,it is not important when doing normal tasks and when playing a game disable aero so you can get the resources back to game.

  14. Bill Alexander

    I have found that disabling both Aero AND themes in Win7 Pro services does indeed stop “out of memory” (OOM) errors. I can consistently vouch for this, at least when flying Microsoft’s FSX with “memory intensive” aircraft or scenery. It works so well for me that I now always disable both Aero and Themes, as well as turn off my anti-virus software; Kaspersky Internet Security 2015 has its own performance tweak where you can select any one or several program(s) so that when it starts it causes Kaspersky to pause. But, I get an even higher available physical memory if I simply turn it off. Using the performance monitor, it is easy to see how much memory gets eaten up by processes and services. Themes alone is quite hungry! I now have the Services pinned to my start menu and always turn off Themes just before starting FSX. My Aero is disabled anyway – unless I need it when not flying. Of course, by using a smaller monitor, you can expect better performance as well. I went from 24″ Samsung with a 16:9 aspect ratio to another Samsung 22″ with an aspect ratio of 16:10 to find an immediate performance boost. The response time of both was 5 and 2 milliseconds respectively. Try a bit of experimenting and find the balance that works best for you. No 2 computers are exactly the same.

  15. Bill Alexander

    Spot on!

  16. Bill Alexander

    Do you mean more “fluid” and smooth? In many cases, yes. Depending upon what you’re doing. If you’re running an older program (for me it’s Microsoft FSX) that doesn’t use aero or depend upon themes, it makes sense to disable those features; as I said earlier, by doing both (and turning off/pausing my Kaspersky Internet Security – never got a virus BTW), my OOM’s (Out Of Memory) have ceased completely. There are many other tweaks one can make, but all that is beyond the scope of this thread.

  17. Sergey Rozhenko

    Windows Aero has a catastrophic impact on performance as seen in Knytt Stories. My guess why: maybe it enforces V-Sync. KS runs 50fps, so V-Sync would totally cripple it.

  18. Dan Henderson

    “This is on a slow PC i.e. 1 GB RAM etc.” – The amount of RAM has no bearing on a system’s speed. Just sayin’.

  19. windows 2000

    Disable Themes service, use Classic theme, disable visual effects
    %8000 performance improvement

  20. Thanks for the information. This is far off-topic, but I was a little bit annoyed when I see ! at the end of normal, not-so-exciting paragraph so consecutively. I understand that this is a very old article though…

  21. You are right. Wonder how that had happened. 😛

  22. LAMBDA471

    sometime ago i had this laptop and i was playing World of Warcraft on it and i was having performance issues and i disabled Aero and switched to Classic – the performance got boosted

    then i even disabled the whole shell altogether and switched to bbLean – the Windows alternative for blackbox and i got even bigger performance boost

    meaning that the Windows UI is a performance hog to begin with

  23. Leon Czolgosz

    Oh my god this article is so wrong, windows Aero (esp. AeroPeek is such a memory pig, it will cripple the hell out of your system if you open a lot of windows). Switch to Windows Basic under Themes and make absolutely sure aeropeek is disabled by right clicking your “Computer” icon on the desktop, clicking the “Advanced” tab, then Clicking “Settings” button under Visual effects…. make sure “Custom” radio button is selected and turn off every check box except “Use visual styles on windows” and “Show thumbnails instead of icons”.

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