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 8 and 8 and type the answer here:
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  • managed to transfer sidebar from vista to server 2008

    but not all the gadgets work, probably missing activeX stuff

    managed to install DreamScene thing from ultimate under 2008

    works fine

    so its probably no problem to run media center, you just have to know all the files that belong to media center and copy them over

  • and u need to add some reg entries

  • Thanks for this post, I've been running Win2008 for a week now and it's simply much faster and lighter than Vista SP1 !

    Just curious though, which anti-virus do you use with Win2008 ?

  • like win2k8 as desktop :). I am using clamwin anti-virus. Happy to use something else if its free.

    How did you guys get DreamScene & sidebar gadgets to work? Not critical pieces... but would like to know how.

  • Is there DX (10, 10.1) support in this config? I'm guessing it's something that just needs to be enabled, but it seems like Server 2003 needed DX installed separately...

  • Seems to be that DirectX 9 or an equivalent is missing... TV Tuner applications/driver are missing components that make them functional...

  • copy this from vista...

    regsvr32 /s

    regsvr32 /s

    regsvr32 /s

    regsvr32 /s

    regsvr32 /s

    regsvr32 /s

    regsvr32 /s

  • I would also like to know how you made the Sidebar work :)

    Also is it possible to integrate the Games Explorer from Vista?


  • Yup! Various files were missing... scoured through various inf's from the TV tuner driver and WIn2008, then, copied them over from Vista. Error in the driver's installation only showed up when using the 'Add Legacy Hardware' option in the Device manager.

  • This is a continuation of my previous post Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OS Here are

  • This is a continuation of my previous post Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OS Here are

  • I've been using Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition as a workstation for about a week running Hyper-V on my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p, and it is FANTASTIC.  I haven't needed or wanted to hack the registry - it works great making the changes above.  64 bit rocks- haven't had any app incompat issues yet.  Running 4 VMs on 4 GB RAM at the same time - very very easy to setup new VMs on Hyper-V.  

  • Dear BS0D, you know nothing :)

    There is no difference using Windows Server 2008 as a workstation. It's just you wanna think that. Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 shares the same kernel and Server 2008 identifies itself ans Service Pack 1. The build no. between Vista SP1 and Server 2008 it's absoltely the same.

    You're vista machine reports the coorect no. of GB available to Windows if if's the RTM version ad not the SP1 because it's a 32 bit OS. Vista SP1 32 bit reports the total no. of installed ram just for  customers to see that they have what they paid for. A 32 bit OS can't handle more that 4 GB of ram (including viodeo card memory and other mapped memory, so 4 GB address space in total). So all is in your head. belive me.

  • ..and BSOD I forgot... Server 2008 doen't have SuperFetch enabled... so if you desable it on Vista you'll get the same... with the ram... Or the same if you'll enable it on Server 2008 as in Vista ;) but my recommandation is to keep it enabled.

  • Actually I've been 2008'ed for quite a while now, but only recently fully 2008'rtm'd

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