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 7 and 8 and type the answer here:
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  • Do you have all the latest drivers etc. from Sony eSupport?

  • server 08 has full directx 10, or 10.1 as it may be. You need to enable video acceleration. Right click on the desktop -> personalize -> display settings -> advanced settings -> troubleshoot tab -> change settings (UAC warning) -> move the slider all the way to the right.

    if you want to check it, run dxdiag from start search.

  • maxtheitpro (gag!) you are exactly the sort of arrogant twonk that makes me want to puke.  Where were you when Server 2003 came out?  I've been using it for 5 years now and if 2008 is just vista with a coat of paint, then I don't think I'll be rushing to flush 2k3 down the toilet.

  • You can install Windows Live Writer technical preview (from microsoft / officially supported not a hack) on windows server 2008 x64 now

    see <a href="">How To Install Windows Live Writer on Windows Server 2008</a>

  • Well, this is going to be interesting. I&#39;ve spent the day installing Windows Server 2008 on my brand

  • Have just installed 2008 but driver support seems to be limited due to it being built around x64 core. I can't get wifi at the moment. If anyone has a wifi card that work could you please let me know.

  • is it possible that I can play games on it? like Crysis and the new Crysis Warhead when is gonna be realeased?  

    (sorry for my bad english)

  • If u r trying to install Windows Server 2008 on laptop, you will need to install Wireless LAN feature, and also manually start the service.

  • Does anyone think that it's a good idea to make a user account for my main account, or is it better to stick with Admin? I know in Linux it is safer not to run in root all the time. Do you think the same applies to Windows Server 2008, or is it going to be more of a hindrance than anything? I'm always having to type the admin password every time I want to do something.

  • Looking at websites with appealing names like there seem to be (home) users

  • i like so much windows server 2008, i found many more fascilities than win server 2003 .

  • I have recently converted several desktops and laptops to Windows Server 2008 x64 to essentially leverage

  • I am now 6 months into running Windows Server 2008 as my desktop. I use Hyper-V, VS 2008, Firefox, IE, IIS, burn CDs/DVDs, and SQLServer most of the time as my work on the PC.

    I love this OS. It's better than anything I have ever used. Fast, Reliable. No blue screens. I can't even remember any applicaiton shut down messages. Drivers are rock solid.  Did I mention fast?

    While my personality is always one to look ahead, IE to Windows 7, I really don't right now until I know it's better than THIS - I hope MS makes a workstation equivalent of Windows 7 out of the server version...

  • FYI GoGrid is offering virtual Servers. They have a free $100 trial when you use the promo code 'GGED'. They are one of the first to offer 2008. EC2 doesn't even offer windows.

  • Thanks for the article. I have successfully installed and using Microsoft Server 2008. I also have installed VMware just to run xp and vista on it. However I ran in a bit of problem trying to get the video card going. I have a Precision T7400 with NVIDIA FX1700. Of course there is no driver for server operating systems. After a lot of fighting with the machine I finally decided to use the Beta version of the Vista driver from Nvidia website. That seemed to solve the issue. I just thought I would share it incase anyone else is having hte same problem. Thanks again for the great article.

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