Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OS

Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OS

Windows Server 2008 is the best OS to be released till date from Microsoft's stable. And the moment I got hold of the RTM build I could not resist installing it on my workstation. Due to the nature of my work I always prefer running a Server OS on my main workstation... I have been running Windows 2003 disguised as XP (with all the themes and stuff) all these days.

So here is my tale of how I went about setting up Windows Server 2008 to look and fell like its desktop counterpart Windows Vista.

1. Enable Hardware Virtualization

My workstation is a x64 machine with hardware virtualization capabilities. This means I can run Hyper-V on my machine. Even if your machine's hardware supports virtualization it is most likely not going to be enabled by default. You have to enable it via your BIOS setup.

2. Install the latest Graphics and Audio drivers

Being a server OS Windows 2008 carries with it basic graphics and audio drivers. To utilize the full strength of your hardware ensure you install the latest drivers for both graphics and audio hardware. Only with the proper graphics drivers will you be able to enable the "Aero" experience on Windows 2008.

3. Desktop Experience Feature

The Desktop Experience Feature enables a bunch of stuff that is by default present on a desktop OS. Most importantly it includes Themes, Windows Media player and the Aero related features. You will have to enable it form the Server Manager. The "Turn Windows features on or off" / "Add remove windows components" has all been rolled into the Server Manager now.

Server Manager > Features > Desktop Experience

Installing the Desktop Experience feature does not enable them. You have to manually set them up.

4. Themes

To enable Themes you will basically have to enable the Themes Service. Again being a server OS it is not enabled by default.

Services.MSC > Themes

Set the start up type to Automatic

Enabling the Aero Theme.

For this go to Control Panel > Personalization >Theme and select Windows Aero

5. Search

Search is also disabled by default on Windows 2008. Searching is important for me as I use it a lot to find my emails. To enable search you will have to add the File Services Role via Server Manager.

Server Manager > Roles > File Services > Windows Search

Outlook relies on this search service.

6. Disable Shutdown Event Tracker

Since I am using it as a workstation I do not want to keep a track of all the Shutdowns. The Shutdown Event Tracker is the pop up that you get asking you for a shutdown reason. To disable it

Open mmc.msc

Add the Group Policy snap-in

Under Administrative Templates expand System

Set Display Shutdown Event Tracer to Disabled

7. Audio

For audio you need to enable the Windows Audio service. You do this by setting the startup type to Automatic.

Services.msc > Windows Audio

Ensure you have proper drivers for your audio hardware... for me the default driver was not enabling the headphones ... it started working fine after I got the proper driver.

8. SuperFetch

As a workstation, enabling SupertFetch will give you that additional bit of responsiveness. The SuperFetch services is disabled by default and when you try to enable it you will most likely get an error message "The operating system is not presently configured to run this application"

You will have to make two registry changes to enable this service. I basically copied them over from my Vista machine.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters

EnablePrefetcher DWORD 3

EnableSuperfetch DWORD 3

9. Get a codec pack.

For media hungry buffs download a codec pack. This will ensure you can play all media files.

10. Enable Hyper-V

With Hyper-V you can run virtual machines on your workstation. This is useful if you want to run your tests on older OS versions. Enabling  Hyper-V is easy

Server Manager > Roles > Hyper-V

Remember you need a Hyper-V enabled Windows 2008 licence and also your hardware has to support virtualization.

Also If you are using an existing VHD it may ask you to re-Activate Windows as it detected hardware changes.

One good thing about Windows Server 2008 is that it no longer asks for the i386 folder like Windows 2003 while you enable features.

Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OS ... Cont'd

[Update 2012] Windows 8 is the Super workstation OS I had been waiting for

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  • Please add 2 and 4 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • Started the Themes services, it's running and set to Automatic, but when i go to enable Aero  I get an error telling me that the Themes service is not running when it is, any ideas?

  • Hello. I cannot open some websites.

    Any ideas?


  • to # Chris Haaker:

    burn DVD

    you can use "CD-Burner-XP" to burn CDs, DVDs, *RWs, ... It works quite well, no matter how many bits or which os.

  • I've installed Server 2008 on my HP 6510b, and I have to say, it's much more responsive than the preinstalled Vista (I've not tried SP1 though), or the XP SP 3 I used.

    RAM usage is moderate, boot times are a bit longer than usual (not that I shut it down that much - standby rules), and getting WiFi to work was a bit tricky, as I could not read any help on the internet, understandably:)

    As expectable from a server OS, after more than a week uptime, no performace loss is visible, unlike many previous OSes.

    It's been a long time since I liked a Microsoft OS this much, they really did a great job on this one. Congratulations guys! ;)

  • @Joe: It runs roughly 900 bucks for Open Business versions plus 40 bucks per client license.  Probably costs about the same for retail versions.

    For sure, Vista Ultimate would be way cheaper if you want server 2008 to act as vista anyway.

  • Price is for standard edition.. which would be all you need anyway..

  • When I'm not messing with WPF and SL, I write software that needs to run on servers (behing WCF endpoints,

  • Running Windows Server 2008 on a Laptop

  • Dedicated Servers. Dedicated Server Search provides a wide range of Dedicated Servers and Dedicated Servers hosting packages, Dedicated Servers are Windows based Server and Linux Based Server for small and medium-size companies.

  • Change Optimiced for Applications intead of background process in advanced system settings, I think this will change the "slice" of the processor used for a better interaction with IO.

  • I actually dont have a features option in the server manager even if I have server 2008 installed. anyone know why this is ?

  • hans E because you use cracked version :)

    Server 2008 is simply faster than vista no matter the kernel.

    Even if you install the same services, and features its still faster.

    Dreyfus try to read before post - 2008 CAN handle up to 64GB of ram even if single application cant use more than 4GB of ram.

  • HyperV doesn't work for me. it won't run, apparently it's because I british? Does anyone know when or if this is fixed yet? It's quite embarassing that this wasn't a simple thing to have working out the box. Activation didn't work either strangely.

  • Hyper-V was simple to install through adding its role. There is an update you should get from the fresh Win 2008 Server install, that updates Hyper-V to RC0 As I recall. Sounds like something is awry on your box if you had trouble with activation too?

  • damn I don't know but I am not able to install sound driver and VGA driver in my laptop it's model name is sony vgn fj 170. I've just got installed server 2008. now how can I talk to my gf? on net?:(....plz email id is  plz Pm me for support

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