Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OS
Posted: Mon, 11 Feb 2008 22:40:00 GMT
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.
11. Processor Scheduling
As pointed out in a comment on my previous post; On Windows Server 2008 background services are given preference over interactive programs. You can change this behavior by
Control Panel > System and Maintenance > System > Advanced System Settings > Advanced > Performance > Settings > Advanced > Processor Scheduling
Setting this to Programs will make foreground programs more responsive.
12. Visual Effects
One thing you will notice on Windows Server 2008 is that by default you will not see Preview Thumbnails in your Documents / Music / Video folders. This has to be enabled explicitly.
Control Panel > System and Maintenance > System > Advanced System Settings > Advanced > Performance > Settings > Visual Effects
Based on your preference you can tweak these settings.
13. Power Options
Do your bit for a Green World! The Balanced (default) power plan on Windows Server 2008 does not turn off hard disks by default. On Vista hard disks are turned off after 20 mins. You can change this by
Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Change plan settings
It does take a bit to kick start the hard disks when you resume work but that’s a sacrifice worth making for a greener world :).
14. IE Enhanced Security
IE Enhanced Security Configuration has been moved from Add Remove Windows Components (on Windows 2003) to the Server Manager on Windows Server 2008.
Server Manager > Security Information > Configure IE ESC
You now have a choice to disable it only for Administrators.
And to end with a couple of clarifications
* Why am I recommending Windows Server 2008 over Windows Vista ?
I am not!
* How to get Sidebar / Media center on Windows Server 2008?
My honest opinion would be to look for alternatives.
* Will hardware problems go away moving to Windows Server 2008?
Not likely. One of the biggest complaints against Vista was hardware issues. Without proper drivers from your hardware vendors your ride on Windows Server 2008 is again going to be bumpy. For me all Vista compatible drivers worked fine with Server 2008 and I believe they should work for you as well.
* Will all software work on Windows Server 2008?
Most will but some setups detect Windows Server 2008 as a server OS and may not install. The compatibility mode does not have a Vista option only XP / Windows 2003 and other legacy OS.
I -Info about sidebar:
I found in recent builds of Windows Server 2008 folder named “Windows Sidebar” in Program Files and I was able to run it smoothly 🙂
II- – If – I – Not avaible
I have succesfully installed Sidebar on W2k8.
1) Just copy “c:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar” folder from a Windows Vista machine.
2) Run from console: “sidebar.exe /RegServer”
(these are the all options you have: sidebar.exe /autoRun /AX /CPL /detectMem /showgadgets /uninstallgadgets /RegServer /UnregServer)