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 5 and 6 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • Can some one point me to a comparison from win 7 64 bit to server 2008 64 bit.

    I'm thinking of trying the win 2008 server version but would like to see what people say is faster.

  • Can some one point me to a comparison from win 7 64 bit to server 2008 r2 64 bit.

    I'm thinking of trying the win 2008 r2 server version but would like to see what people say is faster.

    sorry i meant 2008 r2

  • Anyone have an idea why the w2008 server install fails after the initial file load?? THe screen goes blank and the install just hangs before requesting the language selection.


  • Hey,

    Thanks a lot for the wonderful article.

    Was really useful to me.



  • I have a video card installed on my box running windows server 2008, I'm trying to get the s-video out to work. Any suggestions?

  • probably the best OS made by Bill's company :)

  • I did work using Windows 2000 Server, WIndows 2003 Server, Windows 2008 Server (with Hyper-V), and now I'm installing Windows 2008 R2 Server on my new Precision.

    Great way to use the hardware :)

  • I have Windows Server 2008 Standard x32 installed and when I got to install 2GB DDR2 on each drive, it will not reboot and just beeps at me as well as flashes a red system health.   Why, the server is compatible for this extra memory

  • Muito bom o post, fácil de entender.

    Poderia disponibilizar em outras linguagens, como o Portugues..hehe..

    Of Brasil

  • Muito bom o Post, fácil de se entender, parabéns, vai ajudar muitos curiosos como eu..rrss.

    Obs: Poderia disponibilizar em outras Linguagens como o Portugues..hehehe.


    Of Brasil

  • I advise you tu use Windows 7 with Virtual PC or another hypervisor plateform.

    I don't understand why you do this ?

  • hi Chris Haaker

    Any ideas on why I cannot burn a DVD with my DVDRW drive? Works like a champ in Vista. OS sees it, etc. but will not let you burn a disc or drag files to it with the OS. I havent tried third party software yet.

    I ve the same problem i solved it with CDBurnerXP,  its free soft

  • Anyone know how I install my graphic board on win server 2008?

  • Going on with #2 above, windows vista drivers seem to work best on server 2008 - but not always do windows 7 drivers want to work.

  • Article is great, but I am struggling to find a good Anti-virus which can be installed on Windows Server 2008 R2.  The MS Security Essentials does not work on Servers!  Can someone recommend any Free Anti-virus which can be installed on Windows 2008 R2?

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