After a recent reboot, our 2012 R2 Remote Desktop server's system colors are all wrong. It almost looks like it is in High Contrast, though it reports that it is using Basic.

Here is a screen-shot of the awfulness. enter image description here

This problem exists in both Remote Desktop and a locally logged on console. I can confirm that there are no new drivers, and that no MS updates have been installed since the prior reboot (when things were working fine).

There are many developers logging into this system... it is likely some setting was changed that did not take hold until reboot... but what/where?

Anyone with any ideas on how to fix this mess... it would be very appreciated.

UPDATE: We determined that themes other than Windows Basic are unaffected. We've copied over another basic.theme file, and that did not fix it. Now I'm thinking that there is some registry setting for the default theme colors that is hosed. I just don't know where.

UPDATE 2: We altered the basic.theme file, so that it points to aero.msstyles instead of aerolite.msstyles. That seemed to fix our problem... even if it does turn on more eye-candy that we want.

At this point, what we really need is a registry or file location that determines all the colors for the AeroLite style -- that is the one that is somehow damaged.


I sure scratched my head on this issue. Here's the solution for anyone who runs into this again.

Navigate to C:\Windows\resources\themes\vscache

Take ownership of the vscache folder. Delete everything in that folder. Restart the server. At reboot, the files will be recreated by the system and you should be golden.

  • Any explanation, possible caveats? – vonbrand Jan 29 '16 at 2:36
  • The issue occurred after installing patches and the system rebooted. However we couldn't determine for sure the patch caused it. My suspicion is this, a few days prior, a user accidentally hit the keyboard combination to turn on high contrast mode. We assumed it only affected her profile. Being that it was a user not an admin will full rights to make the change, I believe something went wrong and only manifested itself at the reboot. However as soon as we fixed the issue we let the users start using so I won't be testing that theory on a live system. – Jessie Jan 30 '16 at 14:02

This (white-font on white background) may occur after update and restart, 1st solution is delete AeroLite.msstyles cache files:

del C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\aero\VSCache\AeroLite.msstyles*.mss
shutdown -r -t 0

and restart (like write @CrypticSage)
2nd solution (if you cant restart server now) is change theme from AeroLite to Aero on user account (and relogin):

REG ADD HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ThemeManager /v DllName /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d ^%systemroot^%\resources\themes\Aero\Aero.msstyles /f
REG ADD HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ThemeManager /v PrePolicy-DllName /t REG_SZ /d C:\Windows\resources\themes\Aero\Aero.msstyles /f
shutdown -l

Reinstalling the desktop experience feature solved this problem in our case.

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