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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  • Just a quick note for kids that fiddle with local rights and GP settings all the time:

    Start, Run,

    GPEDIT.MSC will pop the local GPO editor

    SECPOL.MSC will open the security policy editor specifically

    Great tips.

  • I 've been using Win2K3 as a workstation too from day 1. Never looked back :)

  • Knew it was 2003 all along - I saw it boot!

  • For those who ask why install 2008 and not just keep vista: There is a million reasons. For one, 2008 is a server, duhhh! It's services such as IIS are designed to accept many more concurrent connections. I believe vista's maximum is 10 concurrent connections. I can go into many reasons why Server is better, but i won't waist my breath.

  • I wonder whether anyone notice this. If you try to change the Paging File to another Drive.. the OS will not allow you to do it and it will always revert back to the C:\ . Though we know that admins normally dump heaps of ram into the server box but then again windows still uses that paging file no matter what. If anyone got an idea how to get the page file to another drive. Putting it on post will be great. Thanks

  • I have split and placed my pagefile to two separate drives, away from C:, so there is something you are not doing right.

  • Thank you for the very useful guide, however on my laptop Server 2K8 seems like having audio issues when disk access is too high, reminds me of the Vista Beta stuttering when there were incomplete drivers and when severe disk access happened, the audio started to chop. This however happens as with the stock drivers, so with 1.88 Realtek HD Drivers. Also any other SATA drivers don't help this one. Seems like I have to bear with it and wait :(

    But so far love it - it's insanely fast, however the tearing audio can be sometimes a real nuisance.

  • @keke and everyone else.

    Can you pls discribe how to make the TV-TUner work under Server2008?

    thanks in advance!

  • Bien que ça puisse paraître étrange, et à première vue incompréhensible

  • I've managed to get Sidebar working (for the most part - I can't seem to add Gadgets unless I do it first under a Vista installation and copy the Gadget files from my user profile on the Vista machine to my user profile on the WS2008 machine).  It seems all the directions about setting up Sidebar ommited the fact that you must port over a registry key from Vista (HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Sidebar).  You'll need to export the whole tree from a Vista installation that corresponds to the Server version you are running (i.e. x86 or x64) and then import it into the registry on WS 2008.  To install Sidebar, follow the steps which have been outlined on other sites and then import the registry key.

    I struggled with this for days, until I finally found this step.  Now, sidebar is running.

  • Hi people,

    I'm trying to get my tv tuner working too but didn't find how yet ,

    when registering the stuff keke said, some won't register (like, you have to remove the /s or it will not alert), anyone else has an idea how to achieve this ?


  • i managed to install my old tuner pinnacle pctv sat  with XP drivers..

    works fine :)

  • I did just fine with 2008 Server 64 bit edition on my Laptop.  Audio drivers were not a problem. I have yet to check blue-ray support.

    Power Support was the one that was going to worry me, but hybernate seems to work fine as do power profiles.  A few pieces of MSFT software won't install becuase they know it is a server OS, not a Client OS.

  • @brandon

    Is there a compatability mode option available?

    Also for anyone....I'm a WoW addict, will it run?

  • Wow is work fine, I thing faster than vista.

    Say dll error on startup, but no problem.

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