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 4 and 6 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • Windows Server 2008 is the fastest OS I have ever used. It’s truly amazing at how fast it performs every

  • Nice guide :)

    Does anyone know whether it is possible to move Windows Media Center to Server 2008? I have a valid Ultimate license, and I expect to get my Server 2008 at the launch party later this month.

  • Aside from hardware virtualization, what does using Server 2008 on the desktop give you that a Vista SP1 system (properly tuned with unnecessary services off, etc.) doesn't?  There really isn't a difference between the two.

    (This is in contrast to Server 2003 vs XP, because Server 2003 was a completely newer fork of the OS.)

  • Usare Server 2008 come una workstation

  • How to enable the handwriting panel for tablet PC’s and the pen flicks?

  • I ran svr2003 for a while and I have just gone thorught vista and back to XP. My main problem I am having todate is 7.1 sound.

    Svr2003 doesn't support 7.1. Nor do creative support svr os. I have a audigy 2zs and vista I had to buy a program to make it work with vista, but I find vista too.... rubbish to stick with it.

    I would like to use svr 2008, but does it support 7.1 sound?, do I have to use vista drivers?....

    anyone know?

    (I dont want to waste time and money to find out).



  • Some answers. It's on the MS web site. You can only upgrade to Server 2008 from Server 2003 (i.e. std to std, std to ent, ent to ent, etc.). I doubt if audio card manufacturers will (officially) support Server 2008 as it wasn't made to be a desktop.

  • Windows Server 2008 is pretty good with accepting drivers that were developed for Vista. I have even been able to install the nVidia Quadro FX graphics software on Server 2008. Try installing the latest audio drivers developed for Vista, and you'll be surprised what functionality it really has.

    Also, Server 2008 is designed differently than Vista, and you will see performance differences even if you set all the same settings as Vista has. Windows Server 2008 is much more modular as well.

  • Vijayshinva Karnure of Microsoft India offers up some advice about using Windows Server 2008 as a desktop

  • Note that if you enable the Hyper-V role, you will lose some power management features that are essential on a notebook. You won't be able to put the notebook to sleep, so your only option is to power it down. This is due to the architecture of the hypervisor and there is unfortunately no workaround for this.

  • Has any one upgraded windows 2003 server std alone server?

  • I made mine into a desktop os but something I noticed is that the mouse will have some sort of graphic lagging. Anyone notice that as well?

  • Guys did anyone manage to install vista sidebar??? anyway to actually get the .exe files from vista. I am on SRV2008 as main os atm, so no luck here,

  • if anyone can get windows vista media center running on it

    i will run it for sure

    hell yes

    any ideas ?

  • gman: can you provide at least one reason? :)

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