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 1 and 4 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • I have only seen it via web site --

  • Thanks!! for the sidebar link!!!

    By any chance does anyone here have a logitech keyboard and mouse?   I installed the latest x64 vista setpoint 4.40.88 but  it doesn't give me any control over my mouse or keyboard (they worked before I installed the setpoint)   I'm wondering if I need some special drivers for setpoint to recognize them.

  • I tried 3.3 - version of logitech which does make the keyboard and mouse work but then you get dll issues.

    I used universal extractor on 4.4 and put the drivers in the C:\Program Files\Common Files\Logishrd\CDDRV2 - it now works fine on mouse - doesn't seem to do anything with the keyboard which is fine since I just make the special function keys do what they do on any other keyboard.

  • I do have Logitech Dinovo 2.0 set, but unfortunately i did not manage to get it to work with Server 2008. Keyboard works, but   mouse doesnt. There seem to be a problem with BT hub logitech is using. Windows gets stuck on adding new devices, and nothing happens.  

    I tried various versions of software, 10 different ways of installation, and nothing. There isnt much i could google on this one either. I got rid of it eventually unfortunately.

  • # who cares said: you got dreamscenes working.   I have the installable for Vista Ultimate - can you tell me how you got it working on your machine?   Also if you have any luck getting the full media center working please let us know.


  • Hello,

    The ONLY game I can't run in 2008 server is HALO 2 - how is that for ironic, MS's app is the only one I can't get working.  COD4, MOHA, Bioshock, Crysis, UT3, Q4, D3 etc etc all work great.   Anyone have a guess why HALO2 won't work.   I changed DEP for just MS essentials.   The game crashes during initial startup - as the light beam hits the H in HALO2.   I've tried turning off all services and apps except MS ones during startup.

    would really like it if there was a newsgroup for Halo2 PC as well.

    As soon as I start Halo2  I get the following

    Problem signature:

     Problem Event Name: APPCRASH

     Application Name: halo2.exe

     Application Version:

     Application Timestamp: 46368037

     Fault Module Name: halo2.exe

     Fault Module Version:

     Fault Module Timestamp: 46368037

     Exception Code: c0000005

     Exception Offset: 0006230e

     OS Version: 6.0.6001.

     Locale ID: 1033

     Additional Information 1: 1acd

     Additional Information 2: a9c80722b816b7308cbea4599bc30825

     Additional Information 3: 153f

     Additional Information 4: ad6ec9a9bfa34da5215dd4b5bb1fcd09

    Read our privacy statement:

    I'm using the latest drivers for my 8800GT, I have two Gigs of memory and every other game I play UT3, MOHA, Q4, COD4, Bioshock, Crysis etc all play fine.   Just this game gives me trouble.

    I wanted to see how the graphics were for some of my games that run great in

    XP so I tried Vista tried Vista w/SP1, tried Vista with SP1 and just about

    every feature turned off.   WOW - VISTA IS SLOW and I'm not talking about

    gaming, I'm talking about booting up, shutting down, copying files on the

    hard drive, copying files to the network, ANYTHING.   My goodness it is bad.

    So I read a lot of web pages about Windows 2008 running well  which

    surprised me since 2008 has a lot of the same code ad Vista SP1.   Since I

    like learning things and since I might have to support some 2008 servers I

    decided to give it a try.   WOW- 2008 is PEPPY - seems to do everything as

    fast as XP.   I went ahead and installed sidebar gadgets, the aero

    interface - everything I threw at it didn't phase it.   It uses up a lot of

    memory like Vista but I'm not seeing my processor going crazy like Vista and

    my hard drive isn't being thrashed.

    I really really wish MS had made Vista perform as Windows 2008 workstation -

    I think I would have installed it on a few thousand workstations by now.

  • I am having trouble getting Java to run on WS 2008 with IE 7. Runs fine with Firefox.  Anyone having trouble or does it run ok?  I have tried everything - full uninstall/reinstall, turn off IE Enhanced Security and DEP, ensure Active X etc. able to run....I get the JRE in the system tray, but a blank window pops up and I get no applet support. JavaScript runs fine, and everything runs fine with Firefox 2.

  • I just test that by going to dslreports and running the java based speed test under tools - yep - I got a little popup thing for java that was blank and it failed to run.

    I brought up the java console

    ERROR: unexpectedly couldn't get the ClassLoaderInfo for the codebase/cache key

  • NONE of windows live services work on windows server 2008 ... so if u do this kiss Windows Live goodbye!!!

  • Windows Live can work. Here's how:

    After several months of not using IM (oh it was SO freeing!) I finally decided to find a version of live messenger that works on server. I do like Live Messenger because it works well with the webcam for video calls. I finally found an old version that installs quite nicely-- and then learned that you can easily upgrade to the latest release and by copying the installed version from a Vista box. Forget about installing the new versions directly-- but you can install version 8.1, and then copy the current 8.5 binaries you installed on your Vista box. Here's the steps:

    1. Install Windows Live apps (messenger, writer, whatever) on Vista.

    2. Get Windows Live messenger v 8.1 here, compatible with Server 08 x64 (from

    3. After installing messenger 8.1 on Server, exit Messenger, copy over the files from C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Live from a Vista box, and run on Server the exe at C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Live\Messenger\msnmsgr.exe.

    You can also run Live Writer (doesn't need an install as it's a .NET app-- run the exe from the directory).

    A final word of caution: NEVER download Microsoft files from third part sites to try to workaround, as you're opening yourself up for viruses. But this hack gets you up and running using official Microsoft software. Who knows, you might even get product updates.

  • The issue with weather gadget not working in the sidebar, once you've installed it can be resolved by going to the gadgets gallery & searching for "MSN Weather". Download & install this & it's works fine!

  • Hmmm, Windows Live Messenger installed & works fine here...

  • Sidebar Gadgets: How to install.

    Download the gadget you want to your desktop.

    Create a folder on your desktop called ******. Gadget

    (******* being a sensible name of gadget)

    Use 7zip (or similar) to extract all the files from the downloaded gadget into the newly created folder.

    Cut/Paste this folder into "C\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets" folder.

    Open up gadgets from within sidebar & click on the newly installed gadget to start it as you would with any other one.

    Hope this helps someone out there...

  • I was running Vista Business in my Sony Vaio Laptop for almost a year and I wanted a change for change

  • Thanks for this article dude! I'm really liking the buzz around Win2K8. Finally, after nearly 15 years or so after Windows 95 was launched, Microsoft delivers the goods. Well, better late than never...right guys? LOL!!

    Anyhow, it appears the 64bit version of 2008 Server runs like a charm based on all the feedback I'm reading. Will this run okay on an AMD x64-based laptop or should I go for a Core 2 Duo Core Intel-based laptop?? Which architecture "should" provide better performance?

    Again, excellent info on this blog!!

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