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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  • 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 Intel-based laptop?? Which architecture "should" provide better performance? I'm aiming for a nice, reliable Toshiba lappie...just have to decide on the architecture.

    Again, excellent info on this blog!!

  • "So far the only 2 things I like about 08 over Vista is Vista reports 2.75 Gigs of memory out of my 4 gigs and Server shows and uses all 4 in x32. And it uses about 1/3 the memory of Vista out of the box. "

    You are forgetting about aggressive caching: using more memory is good, it's why you purchased memory in the first place.  Unused memory does not improve your performance, it is simply a waste of money.

  • Has anyone gotten x64 WMP to play DVD movies?  I have tried the K-Lite and Vista Codec Package x64, but it keeps saying it cannot play the DVD maybe try reducing the screen resolution (which doesn't help).

    This error message is indicative of no codecs I believe.

    WMP x32 with K-Lite works great.


  • well.. I have a brand new Asus laptop that has no driver support for Win XP .. and after trying Vista it really does blow.. I tried to install XP on it and failed badly.. so much of the hardware just couldn't be installed.. (including the Nvidia Graphics card) Asus will not support users wanting to upgrade to XP and will not give us drivers for anything other than Vista! :(

    Yet another reason to go the server 2k8 way... now.. The fun begins trying to get hardware support for fingerprint readers Graphics... sound etc under Server 2k8 (trust me I would rather be running XP if at all possible) I hate Vista!

  • I have installed Server 2008 EE on my new Toshiba A305-S6839 and everything is working perfectly except the Intel 4965AGN wireless card.  I have installed the driver and Intel Proset 2 and all is recognized in Device Manager just fine.  However, in the Proset 2 software the driver/card is not found.  I have tried drivers/software from Toshiba, Intel, HP, and Lenovo but Toshiba has the latest driver version and software version. Any thoughts?  I hate to go back to Vista as Server 2008 is running with 300mb less than Vista and is quite noticeable difference in speed.

  • NM, the tutorial above doesn't mention wireless networking is now moved to a "Feature".  I enabled Wireless Networking Services and it worked just fine.

    Also, no one has mentioned the Vista application TweakVI for use on Server 2008.  It is great for several speed hacks.

  • The hillbilly recently upgraded his trailer to Windows Server 2008 but it wasn't interesting enough

  • The hillbilly recently upgraded his trailer to Windows Server 2008 but it wasn't interesting enough

  • wow after all the trouble we have gone to, to get a stable, secure, fast OS in WinSrv 2008 "Workstation", the last thinbg I am going to do is install TweakVI when it says I have to disable DEP for it to run properly.  

    A simple explanation for those unfamiliar with DEP:

    Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is a security feature included in more modern Microsoft Windows operating systems that is intended to prevent an application or service from executing code from a non-executable memory region. This helps prevent certain exploits that store code via a buffer overflow, for example.

    Any software that executes code from a non-executable memory region is unsafe.

  • Any idea on how to do the Vista Performance Rating feature on Server 2008?  I am interested in wondering the difference on this laptop.  FYI, a basic Vista Ultimate install used 1gb on complete boot of this laptop, Server 2008 EE uses 700mb.  This is a 30% decrease in system resources being used.  This is the reason why I would like to run the Performance Rating test on this.


    Here is different windows speed test.

  • I was wandering how the licencing would work for 2008?

    I want to run it as a 64x workstation on my notebook (all specs above board) with the ability to run games as well as servers.

    What version would you recommend and what is the average price?

  • When I installed my new machine I considered installing Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V . But this my

  • When I installed my new machine I considered installing Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V . But this my

  • Quando instalei a minha nova máquina considerei a hipótese de instalar o Windows Server 2008 com Hyper-V

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