Aero Glass for Windows 8.1 released, download links inside


If you were a fan of the Aero visual style on Windows 7 and Vista with transparencies, blur, glow and other fancy effects, you would surely have missed it on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Many people were disappointed that the sleek, transparent glassy look of Windows 7 with rounded corners, glossy buttons and blur was gone in Windows 8 and replaced with flat, opaque colors without even as much as a gradient to make things look nicer. Well, you can have it back on Windows 8.1 and Windows 8. Here's how.

An ambitious developer, 'BigMuscle' who hangs around at the MSFN forum, tried to bring back Aero Glass when Windows 8 was released. He did so by hooking Desktop Window Manager (DWM.exe) functions. 'BigMuscle' reimplemented effects such as glass transparencies and blur using DirectX. It was an enormous amount of work reviving glass for Windows 8. We wrote about the project while it was still in its infancy. After many months of development, version 1.0 of Aero Glass was released for Windows 8. But that's not all.

Windows 8.1 made some big changes to the Desktop Window Manager again and 'BigMuscle' had to work hard again to re-implement everything and make his project work on Windows 8.1. This week, version 1.0 of Aero Glass for Windows 8.1 also got released. It is a paid app (the free version isn't really free, it occasionally shows a message requesting you to donate and displays a watermark on the Desktop). To function smoothly, Aero Glass requires the debug symbols for some Windows processes and DLLs to be downloaded from Microsoft's public symbol server. If you donate and get the license, then the symbols are automatically downloaded, so for most users, this will be the easier way.

The Windows 8.1 version of Aero Glass differs significantly from the Windows 8 version and the two are not compatible with each other so make sure you get the correct version.

Download Aero Glass for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

You can donate as well as generate a license for yourself after donating from this web page. Enter the email address there that you used for donation and the machine code which will be shown to you after installing Aero Glass. The machine code is unique to every PC.

How to bring back the full Windows 7 look to Windows 8

Downloading and installing Aero Glass for Windows 8.1 or Windows will only give you back the glass effects that were removed from the Desktop Window Manager. It does not give you back the Windows Aero visual style which was also changed in Windows 8 to have square corners and flat caption buttons in the title bar. To bring it back:

Aero Glass on Windows 8 with the Classic Shell Start Menu - Looks like Windows 7, doesn't it?

Install UxStyle for Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 so you can install custom unsigned themes. Read this article if you are not sure how to do this: How to install and apply third party themes in Windows 8.1

  1. Download the correct visual style for your version of Windows. The ones I recommend are:
    For Windows 8.1: Aero 8.1
    For Windows 8: Aero 8
  2. The ZIP file in these themes have all the instructions for installing it. The above themes have both variations - rounded as well as square corners.
  3. Aero Glass itself includes a feature to load theme resources. Download some theme resources from this web page.

How to bring back the glass into the Classic Start Menu

  1. If you are using Classic Shell on Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 which is the recommended premium Start Menu of choice for me, then open Classic Start Menu settings and look for a setting called "Enable Aero Glass (requires Aero Glass mod)" on the 'Menu Look' tab. Turn it on and click OK. From the skin tab, you could use the Windows Aero skin or the Windows 8 skin (depending on whether you want rounded corners or square).
  2. If you are using StartIsBack, installing the visual styles mentioned above is enough to get glass working, however, StartIsBack is commercial and does not include as many customizations as Classic Shell.

For any questions or technical support related to Aero Glass for Windows 8.1/Windows 8, ask in the Windows 8 section of the MSFN forum.

If you are not a fan of the Aero theme and instead prefer the Windows 8 look, you could always use Winaero's beautiful theme for Classic Shell on Windows 8.1.

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Author: Gaurav Kale

Gaurav is a software enthusiast from India and Classic Shell tester & UX consultant. He started with Windows 95 and is good at software usability testing. He firmly believes that user experience is just as important as software code quality and architecture for software to be successful.

45 thoughts on “Aero Glass for Windows 8.1 released, download links inside”

      1. It would be nice if it was actually possible to donate and get rid of the nag screen, but the donation page doesn’t work.

      2. They even say it’s impossible to remove the watermark that shows even on a pure white desktop background.

  1. I would really like to know HOW to acquire the private (donate) version. I really like the look, it’s nice and simple, but there’s no “Donate” button or anything anywhere!

    1. Their website now says “Any development support (donations etc.) is currently suspended. Please, be patient until this page is finished. Then you will get more information about development support. ” Apparently the project is put on hold. Unfortunate.

      1. I laughed at this but…
        You have to open their website using INTERNET EXPLORER browser, to be able to donate! :D
        This is no joke! I donated the author with 2€ :)

  2. Agreed. I don’t mind paying, but ONCE. If change CPU or HDD (according to developer) I need a new key which is b*ll**it. Also how much do I need to pay? 1 ,2 , 20, 100 buck? This is so obscure so not even worth the hassle. Chances are in 6 month you will have to pay…again. And then a year later again after you upgrade your PC, or hdd dies. Classic Shell + Win7 theme is good enough.

    1. Hello. Your post is one of the common false problems. I work in IT and I have experience that only very small amount of system need to change their HDD/SSD or CPU in several years. But when I implemented this limitation in Aero Glass, many users started to complain like they need to change HDD or CPU hundred-times per year. So I made a deal with some of them if they need to change HDD/SSD in a year, I will provide them a new key for free. Nobody of them has asked me for this yet. Why? Because the problem does not exist at all. Users just see some limitation so they have a need to complain although the limitation does not limit them in any way.

      And the second thing is described on Aero Glass home page and tightly connected with the first “problem”. The amount of donation depends on you, the value you give is the value you get, that’s all. So if you donate some sturdy value, you can even generate new key for tens HDD changes. But if you cut the value to lowest possible, you shouldn’t expect any special benefits. And it seems to be fair to me.

      1. I’d like to get to get this (Aero) and donate to thank you for your time, but I don’t know what would be fair. I don’t want to insult you, so help me out and tell me what is a good donation… Thanks, Mac…

    1. This seems highly suspect. I’m guessing someone found out that it is malware/spyware.

      If you really need something as superficial as Aero Glass, Microsoft offers “downgrade” (more like upgrade, lol) rights for Win 8 Pro where you can get Windows 7 Pro for free. This gives you back all of your Windows 7 features like Glass and you can dump that start screen garbage. Don’t pay this “Big Muscle” chump a dime for his lame utility that he thinks he deserves payment in perpetuity for.

      1. // he thinks he deserves payment
        Nope, I don’t think that I deserve anything. It were users who were asking me to provide ability to donate. And it was almost 2200 users who think that my software is worth of donation.

        It is very funny to see how users are trying to denigrate my software just because they cannot get unrestricted version for free. I believe, when this software has been free, you would be the first one who install it. I even believe when someone creates the crack for it, you will be the first one who will install this “lame utility” :-D

        1. I have to laugh at how very true this is.

          This site praises Classic Shell to hell and back, but I know that if Classic Shell went on a paid model people would say it isn’t worth it and no one would use it.

          The fact is, you worked hard to provide functionality that no one else has. Open Source has degraded our sense of “worth” and people often settle for bottom-tier programs which get praised only because they are free.

  3. I tried to ask on forums but they won’t tell me why or they won’t reply me back, can you find out why website closed it down even you don’t have idea?

  4. Can the technology ‘Big Muscle’ developed by used to restore gradients to styles in Windows 8.1? Some developers built custom themes for Windows 8 to be used with UXStyle, but in Windows 8.1 gradients for the title bars were removed. In particular this affects Windows Classic Style. Would his approach offer a way to support gradients in Windows 8.1 and UXStyle?

    1. It’s possible. BigMuscle used some very dirty programming in his tool, way of doing things that only hackers or virusmakers normally think of: injecting code into system dll’s. In other words, he searches for and then forcibly modifies loaded windows dll’s in RAM with his tool. As a result, some other software suddenly “thinks” that the aero interface now is available and voila, we can use it. Very dirty stuff, but it works. And yes, you can bring back other stuff this way too, of course.

      1. *eye roll*
        Injection isn’t “dirty code”, nor are wrappers or using undocumented features.

        These types of tricks are used all the time to supply fixes to closed source programs; in fact you’ll find many people use OpenGL wrappers to get old games working with additional features on modern systems.

        And as much as they try to claim otherwise, wine uses these types of tricks to get programs to see itself as a native windows environment.

  5. It really stinks that Microsoft got rid of Aero Glass in Windows 8. I was hoping they would bring it back with 8.1 but alas they did not. You would think that if they looked at all the discussion on the topic they would figure out that their customers like the look/feel of Windows 7 much better than Windows 8.

    1. It should be sinking in that they don’t care what we, the user thinks. They’ve decided what we should like, and that’s it. Windows 8.1 removed even more features (such as gradients) that were present in Windows 8.

  6. The software has been cracked, and the unrestricted version is now available on piratebay. The upload by ‘legion_1’ works perfectly.

    1. This app was cracked by PainteR.
      He do not accept the way of forced donations so he broke the protection.
      It took 2 days for him.

      1. The version on Pirate Bay is for windows 8.1, not windows 8.
        For those who don’t like cracked versions, i made a small tool that closes the nag screen automatically as soon as it appears. I made a version for x86 and x64, so everyone can enjoy. I also included instructions for a way to install it in such a way, that it can close the nag-screen at desktop-startup. This way people don’t have to wait for the tool to load.
        You can find it here:

        I made it for win8, but it will probably also work for win81. Just try it out manually. It’s actually an AutotIT-script i made that i converted into an .exe file. It sits and waits for the nag-screen to appear, then closes it and waits again. That’s it.


          1. For windows 8.1 you can use the cracked version from Pirate Bay. This does not exist for windows 8. That’s why i made the nag remover.

      2. It’s nice to know that the mods support piracy. I’ve always loved the idea of putting viruses inside of software that unleash themselves if someone attempts to change parts of the code… though it’d be easier if you make your own compiler so you can do some really crazy low-level asm stuff that makes it easier to check for tampering while hiding that you’re doing it.

        (Especially since you can have code that rewrites itself in memory, treat executable code as variable storage, or even is specifically written so realigning the program counter can cause the same code to do two different tasks).

        Once cracked, it waits a month so that it gets many many people to download and install… and then it systematically destroys every file in the system, starting with things you use most. (Unfortunately, the law probably wouldn’t like it. Curse those feds!)

        1. Nobody support piracy here. I just mentioned the fact.
          And I am sorry, but rest all information in your comment about viruses is not true, speaking politely.

        2. One story of the past…

          Once upon a time, I developed one software. There was a bad man who was stealing the parts of my code and was creating its own software without respecting my copyright. So I did one insidious thing and I put there a code which deleted all data on his HDD. And really, one day, he contacted me that all his data were lost. The biggest paradox is that the software was open-source so he was stealing my code without knowing what it really does. End of story :-)

  7. Just bought a computer with Windows 10 on it. Days passed and I was still left with its horrible themes.
    Thankyou, indeed, for your work.
    But how do I donate, please?

    1. I see that someone read this post, in order to approve it. Please will you also tell me how to pay you and get rid of the nag screen and watermark. Thankyou.

      1. Why don’t ask the developer directly? I doubt that he tracks comments on every site which cover his tool.

  8. So this soft is blackmailing you to pay money to remove the stupid popup. And is very funny how “Big Muscle” says 2200 people paid him because they liked so much his program. I prefer to have no Aero but live without this garbage.

    Win7 can be found on torrents free.

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