Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop – Drop Shadows inconsistent

Noticed that the drop shadows on a Remote Desktop session to Server 2008 R2 are inconsistently displayed.

On a Windows 7 PC you get a black drop shadow around each (white) letter of the text under all desktop shortcuts. On Server 2008 R2 remote desktop this drop shadow is often missing. Clearly a bug (or is it – no, it really is).

The top left icon’s text usually displays correctly. The other icons’ text comes and goes randomly. If you have a dark background image this is not a problem. If your corporate branding means that you have a pale background image it is a problem, as the white text obviously is somewhat hard to read.

Workaround, both steps needed:

  1. Add the following to your .theme file:
    [Control Panel\Colors]
    Background=255 255 255
  2. Use a Group Policy preference (or your favourite alternative method) to update each user’s registry:
    ListviewShadow (REG_DWORD) = 0

This will set the desktop background to a solid colour of white (your background image will still be overlayed on top of this). With a white background Windows will use black text for icon labels, if the drop shadows are turned off, and that is what the registy value does. It’s equivalent to right-clicking Computer then going to Properties – Advanced system settings – Performance,  Settings… – unticking “Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop”.

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9 Responses to Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop – Drop Shadows inconsistent

  1. scanjam says:

    Nice work mate! Thats a great bit of troubleshooting! JS


  2. Joshua says:

    Excellent work. Thank You for documenting this!


  3. Alistair says:

    nice one – just doing my first rebranding and this is exactly what I needed


  4. rcmtech says:

    Looks like this is also a problem on Server 2012 as well. I’ve yet to test if the above workaround works on that OS yet though.


  5. Conan says:

    Can not get this to work on Windows 7 or 2008 R2. Even using group policy to force the theme that has been modified doesn’t work. Curious if Windows no longer respects that change to the .theme file or what the deal is. Seems like there are enough of you reporting success I’m not sure why it isn’t working on my end.


  6. timmy8ken says:

    I can confirm this works on Server 2012 R2 also.

    I also followed the instructions in this Server Fault answer to set the background colour to white with a group policy:



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