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 3 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • i am using a cutdown version of Vista (speedy Vista v4) and it runs fast on my quadcore (well it would) what i want to know is does this still run faster than any vlite edition Vista, also how much ram does it use on start up

    your answers will be greatly appreciated

  • I use it on my laptop and desktop and It rocks,

    I got the sidebar running (Thanks to my colleague WIM) this way, and I have a normal way of adding gadgets this way:

    copy the gadget directory from a Vista machine to: C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Sidebar, and then from that dir:

    sidebar.exe /RegServer

    regsvr32 sbdrop.dll

    regsvr32 wlsrvc.dll

    Good luck

  • You can download gadgets and use them without issue. There is a small step you have to take but its only once per gadget.

    Download 7zip if you do not have it already.

    When you download a gadget, right click on it and select extract with 7zip. Then delete the original gadget, going back to your extracted gadget, add the .gadget extension to it, then toss it in your gadget folder.

    example, say you downloaded applauncher.gadget

    use 7zip to extract it, it will be called applauncher

    delete the downloaded one, rename the extracted one from applauncher to applauncher.Gadget

    toss it in your C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets folder if your on 64bit or in your C:\Program Files \Windows Sidebar\Gadgets folder if your on 32bit.

    then right click on the sidebar, click add gadgets and they are there ready to be added.

  • It took me months to convince my manager that I need a new laptop. Then it took me a few more to convince

  • Had huge issues installing a compatible video driver, which had an amazing effect on system performance.  Finally got past it and have been enjoying the performance and responsiveness that Vista should have had!

  • How enabling the wallpaper on the logon screen (would like to change blue background if possible).  Has anyone been able to do this?

  • I wonder if Server 2k8 has the same DRM (Digital Rights Management) goo as Vista.

    If not, then maybe that's a good reason for Vista’s apparent worse performance lower stability.

  • So did I miss reading whether or not it has DirectX compatability at all? Vista is a memory hog and I only installed it to familiarize myself with it but I am so tired of how slow it runs. I run XP and it benchmarks at almost twice the speed and performance. I would love to use Server 2008's sleek and slim core to operate the software and games that we all know and love from the good old XP environment.

  • @ MauroS: no drm. this is faster than my recent installs of xp,32 and x64, and much more stable. for those xp hold outs: get a clue ;)

  • 漢なら Windows Server 2008 をワークステーション OS にしなよ!

  • 漢なら Windows Server 2008 をワークステーション OS にしなよ!

  • I am on the bandwagon now, I just got a Vista x64 PC and nuked it with Windows Server 2008. It runs well, definitely the developer OS of choice now! A few notes I found that I didn't see mentioned anywhere:

    1. Setting "Virtualization" and "Virtualization for Direct I/O" in the BIOS, per the recommendation here (and my intent is to move to Hyper-V), does entail a CPU performance hit even if you are not using Hyper-V.  It's not a big one, but it's noticeable in benchmarks. That said I left it on because I intend to use Hyper-V.

    2. You may need to install tje Java SE runtime.

    3. I used the K-lite Mega Codek Pac (free) and I can watch movies fine. I tried another player that came with the PC, and it kept complaining about wrong region.  I trashed that and now I used Media PLayer or Media Player Classic (came with K-lite)  to watch movies.

    4. I needed to update printer drivers from the mfr. web site.  Just to reinforce always check for latest drivers on a project like this.

    5. I use LogonStudio Vista to change the screen background on my PC when logged off, I hate that green look. Well it doesn't look. Not sure if it's because of being Windows Server 2008, x64, or dual monitor system.  I have a post in on their forum, so ugly green it is for now...

    6. Windows Defende cannot be uninstalled, it can just be stopped from running in the Startup tab.  ipV6 also cannot be uninstalled. Both are part of the OS now.

    7. I am disappointed that Avast! Antivirus does not run on Windows Server - darn!  So I am in the market for an AV package. What is everyone running?

    8. I also need a Hash checker (to check the checksums on MSDN downloads),  2BirhgtSparks HashOnClick does not support x64 context menus.

  • One other point - Java.

    I was not able to get Java to actually work. ver. 6 update 5 and 4 both crashed Firefox, and caused IE7 to do weird things. On a lark I went to the Early access page on and got the Bet version6 update 10, and that works like a charm in Firefox.  IE7 it does nothing, it's like the Java is not there, although it reports it installed and enabled.  This problem in x64 has been reported on their web site, so I am tracking it. Has anyone else found a good Java approach besides this?

  • Over the last couple of weeks my Vista SP1 installation started to degrade.  One of the wonders

  • been trying server 2k8 x64 for a couple weeks now

    and all I have to say is : WOW

    (maybe the wow starts now should be for server 2k8 not vista)

    and all this while I am on a 3year PC  

    (athlon64 singlecore , 2GB DDR)

    blazing fast compared to vista RTM x64, vista SP1 x64 and XP SP3 RC

    unfortunately my cpu can't handle hyper-v so I am with vmware

    workstation now but works OK

    j2se sdk seems to be working fine on opera , IE7 and IE 8 beta 1


    absolutely great hash checker :

    for security software : been using eset smart security business

    it's great antivirus and the firewall seems OK

    but I had to ditch my kaspersky antivirus (needs server edition)

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