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 6 and 1 and type the answer here:
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  • Actually I've been 2008'ed for quite a while now, but only recently fully 2008'rtm'd

  • Actually I've been 2008'ed for quite a while now, but only recently fully 2008'rtm'd

  • Can I play games with Server 2008.

    I'm software developer who likes to play games. Especially when my work-laptop kicks my home computers ass...

  • It's possible to run Media Center on Windows Server 2008. Exist way how get media center into WS 2008?

  • Is there a way to turn off the Enhanced IE Security features? In Windows Server 2003 this was under Add\Remove System Components. I dont see anything under Server Manager. The rest of the tips rock and this is WAY faster than Vista SP1 RTM even with all this stuff turned on.

  • Yes, you can turn off IE enhanced security. Open Server Manager and click on the root node. Now on the right hand side just scroll to the Security Information pane in Server Summary. To ther right there are links to some tasks, and Configure IE ESC is one of them.

  • 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.

  • Mary Jo Foley has an article on bringing back creating Windows Workstation 2008 (Part I) and proposing

  • 2008 is just an enhanced version of Vista of course it uses the same drivers, Windows Server is a server and Windows Vista is a client. Technology wise they use the same kernel,  inside the OS however 2008 is an enhanced security and deployment center. Which can respectably used as client or in this case a sexy workstation :P

  • Nice Guide. but i m more of a freevare lover

  • NAP Server is only available on 2008

  • Someone that managed to get Vista sidebar working on w2k8 please share the experience, i cannot get it working by just coping the files...

  • Alternative for using codec pack: use VideoLAN VLC Player.

    It's free and it can play almost any format. For example HD-movies in mkv format can be played nicely...

  • I have been running Windows 2008 as a workstation for a few weeks, and both love it and hate it.  Faster and less ram then Vista, more hardware works with Win2k8 then Vista on my laptop.  Bad - MP3 blue screen the system, many audio functions can cause blue screen the system.

    Power management is much better then Vista with my laptop, (HP nw9440).

  • to # ServerOS Lover

    That is a great tips site i must say. Its always good to bookmark things like this.

    BTW, the only thing i cant get to work, that deffinitely worked with Vista, is my Logitech Bluetooth Hub. It doesnt see drivers for it for some unknown reason.

    I am using dINOVO midea desktop, and i tried software versions 3.3 - 4.40 and none worked.

    Did anyone get it to work???

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