Vista Problems (Surprise?)

I recently migrated to Vista (a story and a review for another day), but one thing has been bothering me. The “Visual Effects” settings (from My Computer Properties -> Advanced System Properties -> Performance Settings) do not stick.

If I customize the settings, they get reset on logoff or reboot. This is true no matter which account I use, Administrator or limited user. I tried to monitor the dialog box with procmon to see what registry keys were involved, but there were quite a few and they looked annoying to research.

The strange thing is that the dialog box is an administrator-only feature, which would imply that the settings are system-wide. Yet monitoring the dialog box shows all sorts of per-user settings go by.

I used the classic Windows theme for XP (I hated Luna). Aero is tolerable so I decided to give it a shot, but I don’t like all of the frilly, useless animations. For example, windows “slurping” into the task bar and menus fading in and out feels kitschy to me, and only seems to serve as some sort of visual distraction or delay. So I disabled all of these animations in the Visual Effects dialog, and soon discovered that as soon as I logged out and logged back in, I had to reapply all of the settings.

I couldn’t find any other instances of this problem on Google. Damaged Soul managed to find one but it contained a red herring and no solution. I gave up and solved it programmatically, with a small, very insecure (I was lazy) C program sitting in my Startup folder.

Select All Code:
#define WINDOWS_LEAN_AND_MEAN
#include <windows.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <tchar.h>
 
int main()
{
	HANDLE hToken;
	ANIMATIONINFO info;
 
	if (!LogonUser(_T("Administrator"),
		_T("KNIGHT"),
		_T("blahblahblah"),
		LOGON32_LOGON_BATCH,
		LOGON32_PROVIDER_DEFAULT,
		&hToken))
	{
		exit(1);
	}
 
	if (!ImpersonateLoggedOnUser(hToken))
	{
		exit(1);
	}
 
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETDISABLEOVERLAPPEDCONTENT,
		0,
		(PVOID)TRUE,
		SPIF_SENDCHANGE);
 
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETCOMBOBOXANIMATION,
		0,
		(PVOID)FALSE,
		SPIF_SENDCHANGE);
 
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETDRAGFULLWINDOWS,
		0,
		(PVOID)FALSE,
		SPIF_SENDCHANGE);
 
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETSELECTIONFADE,
		0,
		(PVOID)FALSE,
		SPIF_SENDCHANGE);
 
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETCLIENTAREAANIMATION,
		0,
		(PVOID)FALSE,
		SPIF_SENDCHANGE);
 
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETMENUANIMATION,
		0,
		(PVOID)FALSE,
		SPIF_SENDCHANGE);
 
	info.cbSize = sizeof(ANIMATIONINFO);
	info.iMinAnimate = 0;
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETANIMATION, 
		sizeof(ANIMATIONINFO),
		&info, 
		SPIF_SENDCHANGE);
}

Two notes from playing with this API:

  1. SPI_SETDISABLEOVERLAPPEDCONTENT appears to do nothing? I thought it would be related to Transparent Glass, but… Transparent Glass is a user-mode (per-user?) setting. You can change it in your display preferences, and oddly enough, that will cause it to flip the switch in the Administrator-only settings! I have no idea what’s going on there. Also, transparent glass is the only “effect” setting not to be reset on logging off.
  2. SPIF_UPDATEINIFILE fails with ERROR_MOD_NOT_FOUND on Vista. Maybe it does that on previous versions too, I have no idea. Maybe I’m forgetting to link to something or maybe I’ve missed a security policy thing somewhere that fixes all of my problems.

Now that I have my hacky fix, I don’t feel like investigating the problem any further. But it’d be nice to know what’s going on here, and why those settings can’t per-user in the first place.

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