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 2 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • I've got a license from a friend, and I must tell: This is the fastest windows I've ever used.

  • I notice Microsoft is releasing Windows Server 2008 Foundation for small businesses which doesn't include

  • Windows 2008 is surely going to replace Windows 2000 and windows 2003 as Windows NT was replaced by Windows 2000.

    So better learn it and be prepared. Start learning by clicking on my name.

  • Windows 2008 is surely going to replace Windows 2000 and windows 2003 as Windows NT was replaced by Windows 2000.

    So better learn it and be prepared. Start learning by clicking on my name.

  • If you are a SharePoint developer developing on windows server 2008, I’m pretty sure you share my frustration.

  • Windows Server 2008 is the fastest OS I have ever used. It’s truly amazing at how fast it performs every

  • i hope server r2 will be good as r1 :D

  • Have been on WS 2008 R2 for while (I'm a programmer).  And need now to upgrade to Release Candidate which appeared on MSDN not long ago.

    Already knew many (but not all) of the things above.  Didn't know about prefetch (and 'super' prefetch).  I turned prefetch on with the two registry settings that you recommend Vijay but even after several reboots c:\windows\prefetch doesn't appear.

    Is it located somewhere else now?  I've looked around but have yet to find it.

    Maybe I set the registry settings incorrectly - I'll check.

    ...

    no, the registry values appear to be correct.

    How else (aside from presence of prefetch directory) might one determine that prefetching is indeed working?

  • Prefetch does not appear to be available in R2 the same way it was in 2008 Server.  I have not found anything that discusses it, don't know if it was just built in, turned over to hardware, eliminated, or what.  Hopefully we will see it mentioned on a blog some time.

  • Prefetch does not appear to be available in R2 the same way it was in 2008 Server.  I have not found anything that discusses it, don't know if it was just built in, turned over to hardware, eliminated, or what.

  • hi there,

    I have had a chance to try Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition Hyper-V Edition with ASPHostCentral (http://www.asphostcentral.com)

    This is what I found:

    1. Administering Windows Server 2003 is a lot easier and I believe that Windows Server 2003 works faster in the sense that all hardware remain the same

    2. Lots of improvement, particularly in the area of IIS features, security settings, etc found in Windows 2008

    3. Creating several particular VPS are so much easier with Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V Edition.

    If I am thinking long term, I should be using Windows Server 2008. Up until now, I still have my site hosted at ASPHostCentral, paying roughly $4.99/month and this is certainly a great bargain!

    I am now looking to test Windows 7, which is due to be out very shortly...

    "windows maniac",

    Rudolf M.

  • I think you're crazy - if you want a secure OS that bad and willing to put all that effort in, go get a linux distribution!

    Seriously, have you tried getting all the multimedia and bespoke apps to work on server - "not for this version of the OS" will happen ALL the time. Forget about ipods, tv cards, sound cards or other xp apps - you may aswell be on another os.

    This is just another example of a geek running too many services, stopping others to make it essentially a desktop - whats the point??  

    You'll get the same viruses and malware as anyone else, but wont be able to use the tools to remove/prevent them because you;re running an os thats there to do its job - serve others, be a server.

    Just seems a complete waste of energy to me - get your desktop os (Windows 7), updated, with patchse, av and anything else you want and then get on with your lives.

    Windows 7 speeds beat the hell out of ANY server product.

  • Well that opinion flies in the face of a ton of developers ....thanks for the lecture..maybe do a little reasding and check back with us.

  • I just intall apache and mysql on windows server 2008 without any problems compared to windows server 2003.

  • hey my any games ain't working in Win Server 2008...help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee???

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