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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  • Most of you have way too much time on your hands. Just use OS X and be done with it. There is NO new features in Windows 2008 that haven't already been in Mac OS X Tiger (2 years old). LMAO. Apple and Google are so far ahead of MS now it is just ridiculous. Now Chrome has reduced IE marketshare another 10 percent. Microsoft is going DOWNHILL and gaining speed.

  • Been a while since I blogged. Life kinda gets in the way. Natalie ( my youngest ) been having the HSC

  • I do IT support.  I support several operating systems.  I want to be able to open them up in a moments notice so I have a reference when someone calls.  My laptop has do 4 gigs, 64bit, and VT.  The drive on the way is 320 gig 7200, and the processor T7200 2.0 ghz.  When the 320 gets here I'll be setting it up.

    VMWare's ESX is bare metal and is what I'll use if it will install.  I've heard both ways, but I know it wants SCSI.  If Plan A fails, that would mean plan B which is a host OS with VMWare Server on top.  It's really the only viable option since VMWare VMs are the defacto standard for software vendors and businesses around the web to distribute pre-configured installs for FreeBSD, Netware, SUSE, etc.  This saves man-years of time, errors, and aggravation.

    At first I wouldn't consider 64 bit OS let alone SBS 2008.  There are driver issues, I only have 4 gigs of RAM, software vendors get $ in their eyes when you have a server OS, and plenty of software won't install when it sees it's a server.  I planned to use XP Prof as the host OS if necessary.  What I've read here has me at least considering SBS 2008.  I might not even need a VM for Vista if this would be close enough.  I could virtualize the other 2008 Server in SBS Premium to demo terminal services.

    Here's the rub.  I need NTVDM for some development tools. I have no problem with running that in a VM but I would not want the files to be separate from the SBS 2008 files as is normally the case.  I could I suppose have the VM log into the 2008 Server to access the files on its drive.  I'm not convinced I want to do this yet, but do you see any flies in the ointment with this plan?


    PS:  I see one thing missing in order to round out the 2008 plan, and that is adding system recovery.  That's easy enough to do with 2003, so I would assume it could also be done with 2008.

  • I just did something I’ve been meaning to do for a long while: re-tooled my laptop with Windows Server

  • dose this ver have a login wher you need to change the password  and if so how do you find the password for it


  • Just installed the Desktop Expeirence, as I was having trouble with an Epson scanner (the software was complaining that some files were missing), and now it works

  • @MS Chumps

    You're obviously a mac-guy, since you know nothing about the IT business. What about the powerful Explorer in Vista? What about meta-tagging? Perhaps the weak/limited "Time machine" app? I've used Leopard and came back to Vista simply because it wasn't powerful enough for my needs.

    Now go back to designing your pretty artwork in photoshop, since that's all you probably know how to do.

    BTW, our company uses OSX server and it crashes regularly, and all it is is a file server. My previous workstation had to be rebuilt, along with about 4 colleagues simply because the desktop became corrupt (constant freezes, icons randomly disappearing). And these are Mac Pros. So much for superiority.

    As for myself, I'm about to try W2K8 server on a separate partition and see how I like it. My job allows me the luxory of playing games at work so I hope I can get directx 10 working on the server edition (I currently use Vista SP1 as my workstation).

  • just installed trial server 2008 and it wants me to change the password ! "what was the password in the first place"

  • For antivirus, try PC Tools AntiVirus (free or paid). Works like a charm.

  • great article.

    I had problems to get the game bioshock working. it was because of the missing games explorer.

    Some games e.g. bioshock require some additional dll files.

    A good description how to add the required dlls can be found here:

    Hope that helps somebody.

  • 3 Weeks with Windows Server 2008 on My Laptop

  • Finally. Ever since being told of a rough estimate of the date it was to be released I've been waiting

  • Using Windows 2008 Workstation editin since weeks, months! Works like a charm, event Bluetooth has a solution.

    Laptop with 8go Ram, Hyper-Vised all my 500Go Labs! Performance, Stability, Jeez just pitty of the "Know-all-but-nothing" wannabe Geeks who can't refrain commenting that Vista is the same..  :)  Thx for the info.

  • Has anyone given any thought to using Small Business Server 2008 as a development workstation? I'm going the 2008 workstation route and wondered if I should give this some consideration since you get WSS 3.0, IIS 7.0, SQL 2008, etc. all in one go. I thought it might be easier to manage.

    Any thoughts?

  • I have tried 3 different sound cards trying to get 2008 server to recognize them properly with no luck.

    Do you have any suggestions for sound cards or chipsets that will work?


    Vi Wickam

    On-Site Computer Solutions

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