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.
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
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
Add the Group Policy snap-in
Under Administrative Templates expand System
Set Display Shutdown Event Tracer to Disabled
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.
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
My recent server issues notwithstanding, I am totally in love with Windows Server 2008. I think it is
well why might u ask
i use windows media center
and i would like it on server 2008
I was ready to start working (fighting) with Vista. But this looks promising. I'm waiting to get my new hardware to give it a shot.
Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OS
Geez guys, why run Server 2008 if you're just going to install all the Vista crap back on it like the sidebar? Just run Vista :P
With the release of Windows Server 2008 (RTM) we have seen there is a new kernel inside of this OS that
ChadMoran.com : If you have been living under a rock for awhile I suppose you would not know that Vista SP1 brings over the new kernel from Server 2008. They are both fairly identical with the exception of the software included and max concurrent connections allowed. Really Vista SP1 is just going tobe as good if you reduce the services and such down to what Server 2008 starts out with. 2003 was a new kernel compared to XP 32bit yes, but it will no longer be that way between client and server OS, the SP's will make sure the kernel is updated in both to the same from now on.
yes i agree with some comments here:
XP --> Server 2003 - there is a difference in kernel (Server 2003 had a newer kernel)
Vista SP1 --> Server 2008 - MINIMAL difference... SP1 for Vista brings the kernel to the same as Server 2008
So in my opinion there may be a SMALL difference between Vista SP1 and Server 2008, but nothing noticeable for day to day use.
THIS is the question we need to be discussing... nothing else.
I am also interested in using this on a tablet. Can the handwriting panel be enabled?
When using Server 2003, I had trouble with some peripherals (scanner, USB external disk). How may this affect server OSes versus desktop OSes?
XP & Vmware workstation - simple & fast.
:sanderg : The server family of windows are generally much more fussy about obtaining Microsoft verified drivers for your peripherals, this is to ensure system stability and security
Martog, you are correct, I had only heard rumors about it, I didn't know it was true. Thanks!
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. Driver issues are worse than with Vista and it hates my X-Fi with a passion :( But Crossfire works like a charm and it is way faster than Vista [which isn't saying a whole lot].
One thing Vijayshinva misses is right clicking on [YourName] and going to properties, then selecting Advanced tab, clicking on Performance button, Advanced Tab and ticking "Programs" instead of Background Services. This will give many more cycles to the apps you are using. Basically it tunes it like Vista/XP are tuned, instead of like 2003/2008 are tuned.
Excellent article. Thanks for it. It'll really come handy. :-)
Microsoft Windows MVP