As many of you know Aero Glass is the name given to the beautiful high-end interface of Windows Vista. As we’ve released Beta 2 (build 5384.4) to MSDN (and very soon to TechNet – this delta will dissapear very soon) then many of you will be able to install it for yourself. Browse here to find out how / where to get Windows Vista Beta 2 for yourself.
There are a couple of “gochas” regarding moving up. Primarily you can’t actually upgrade from a build earlier than 5382 (which wasn’t released to the community) – you have to perform a clean install. Sadly the installation program doesn’t inform you of this initially – it first checks to make sure you have in excess of 6.6Gb free disk space. I made the space, restarted the installation (involving a reboot and re-entering my license key) only to find that I had to start from scratch.
Once you get Windows Vista installed (it’s straight forward from a clean install) then the system will by default automatically search for software drivers as required by your system’s hardware devices. To run Aero Glass your system must include sufficiently powerful graphics hardware that’s capable of Direct X and has support for WDDM (Windows Display Device – formely known as Longhorn Display Device). If you’re system isn’t capable of Aero Glass then you can still use Windows Vista perfectly well – you just loose the lovely 3D effects and live thumbnails – I’ve found that these have actually improved my productivity.
NOTE: It’s a misnomer to think that an expensive graphics card is required for Aero Glass! I’ve spent £40 on a suitable graphics card which I’ve successfully added to a desktop machine and am running Aero Glass just fine. Of course it’s a different story with laptops unless you add an external graphics card.
There’s a trick you may need to take advantage of if your machine doesn’t come up in Aero Glass. Click on the “Start Menu” (I’m not sure what it’s called now that it’s just a Windows Logo!), type “Performance Rating” in the search box and run the “Performance Rating and Tools” applet. Hit “Refresh” as shown below to re-calibrate your system.
When the machine initalises it assesses the capabilities of your system’s hardware (and software drivers) to determine whether Aero Glass is appropriate. Each area of your system’s graphics performance are rated resulting in a score that’s displayed in the applet. BEFORE re-initalising (refreshing) my system the Graphics score was shown as 1, afterwards it was 3.5 and moments later Aero Glass worked perfectly.
The image below shows the user interface in Aero Glass.