Cubase 8 Doesn't Start Under Win 8 High-Contrast Theme

Let me preface by saying this is a little different from the usual problem where Aero has been disabled under Windows 7. Please read on.

I’ve been a happy Cubase user since the mid 90’s. After all these years, my vision is failing, so I’ve been using the high-contrast themes in Windows 8, which worked fine with Cubase 7.5. Unfortunately, Cubase Pro 8 won’t start under a high-contrast Windows 8 theme – it exits with the “DWM composition is not running; please switch to an Aero theme” message.

While I understand the reason Aero needs to be enabled under Win 7, I don’t believe this should happen under Win 8 for the following reasons:

  1. According to Microsoft, high-contrast themes in Win 8, unlike in Win 7, are actually “Aero” themes (i.e., like the Win 8 default theme, they support desktop composition fully). The only caveat is that the application (Cubase 8) must contain a Windows-8 compatibility GUID in its manifest for this to work. If this is not done the Windows API will emulate the old “classic theme” interface for better backward compatibility with older applications. I wonder if this is the problem. The MSDN article is at:

  1. I’ve done nothing to disable “Aero” or desktop composition. I’m just switching between a high-contrast theme and the default theme (Shft-Alt-PrtScrn hotkey does this under Win 8 when enable from the Accessibility Control Panel). Under the default theme, Cubase 8 runs fine, except my screwed-up eyes can’t read the bright-white menus.

  2. The desktop window manager (DWM.EXE) is running when the message is issued.


  1. Select the High-Contrast Black theme from the “Personalization” Control Panel under Windows 8.0 x64
  2. Start Cubase Pro 8 x64

Expected result: Cubase starts
Observed result: Cubase exits after displaying a message box with “Please switch to an Aero theme”

Can anyone confirm this under Win 8.0 or 8.1? I’m wondering if updating to Windows 8.1 might fix the problem but haven’t tried this yet, since my system is stable as is, and my understanding is that the update to 8.1 can be non-trivial.


A couple minor updates:

  1. Behavior is the same under Cubase Pro 8.00 under Windows 8.1
  2. Behavior is the same under Cubase Pro 8.05 under either Win 8.0 or 8.1.


Behavior is the same with Cubase Pro 8.0.10, Win 8.1.