Windows Aero Themes and SolidWorks Performance

Article by Andrew Lidstone, CSWE updated April 27, 2012

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Starting with the release of Windows Vista and continuing with Windows 7, Microsoft has included Aero themes with the several editions of the operating system, from Home Premium up to Ultimate.  The Aero themes are intended to provide a more aesthetically pleasing interface (apparently Aero stands for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open … I thought they chose the name because it was a cool word …).  The themes give a “glass” like translucency to the Windows interface, as well as using live icons and new animations to enhance the user experience (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/What-is-the-Aero-desktop-experience).  This however requires a significant amount of resources when compared to the old Windows Basic themes.  As a result many tech bloggers have recommended shutting off these themes to improve system performance.

If you are using SolidWorks however, DO NOT TURN OFF AERO THEMES!

Firstly there really is no need, from a performance standpoint, to turn off Aero themes on a SolidWorks workstation.  If you are using a video card that is certified to run SolidWorks, it will have more than enough power to run Aero themes with the slightest hiccups.  Basic, or Non-Aero themes are intended for systems that don’t have dedicated graphics cards.

But there is another, more important reason to keep the Aero themes active on your SolidWorks workstation, even if you prefer the Windows Basic themes.  Because the Non-Aero themes are intended for systems lacking dedicated GPUs, those themes disable certain 3D acceleration settings within Windows.  Those setting being disabled will have a anywhere from a negative to disastrous effect on SolidWorks performance.

So even if you were a really big fan of Windows 2000, don’t switch to that Windows Basic theme!

To check whether or not you are currently using an Aero theme, go to Control Panel  > Personalization  and and that you are using either a theme in the Aero list, or if you are using a customized theme, that it was based on an Aero theme, if the “glass” icon is shown in the corner, it’s an Aero theme.

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Andrew Lidstone, CSWE

Andrew is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and is based in our Dartmouth, Nova Scotia office.