Windows Tip Sheet

Me and My Cursor Shadow

Cursor shadow can cause some serious lag in a virtual environment.

Talk about poor performance: In a recent e-mail, a reader lamented that his cursor was jumpy and nearly unusable in a Remote Desktop session. After a bit of digging, I realized that he was actually using Virtual PC (or was it VMware?) on the remote machine. That works fine, except that the WinXP default cursor -- with its shadow enabled -- does, in fact, perform horribly. The problem is that Terminal Services doesn’t recognize most custom cursors natively, so it emulates them through some funky graphics routines. He had already set the Remote Desktop connection options for a low-quality connection, though, so cursor shadows -- which count as a “custom cursor” -- should have been disabled.

On his computer, that is. The problem was inside the virtual machine on the remote computer. The VM was set to use a shadowed cursor, and that’s what was causing the problem. Recent versions of VMware actually warn you about this if they detect it happening. The solution is to disable the cursor shadow, and make sure you’re only using the default cursors, inside the VM. Problem solved, and the cursor was all speedy again.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at

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