Windows Server 2008 as SuperWorkstation

Posted: August 7, 2008 in Software

Let say, you have more than 4 GB RAMs and Windows Vista 32 bit could use less than 3 GB, 1 GB will be wasted. Vista 64 will take care this RAM issue but unfortunately, your notebook or hardware vendor doesn’t supply it (such as Izzi broadband). So, how to solve this problem?

Good news that, Windows Server 2008 (32 bit) support more than 4 GB RAMs and has no issue with Vista tailored driver. Windows Server 2008 simply accept Vista driver without any fuss. More good news? You can download Windows Server 2008 (32bit or 64bit) from Microsoft website (for free) and they let you evaluate it for 240 days (8 months) legally.

Any more good news? Yes indeed, there is some methods laying on web, on how to freeze this activation counter (which will allow you to use this OS for free infinitely) and it is about time when talented programmer out there able to crack / boot loader slick activation thingy.

According to various review, they claim Windows Server 2008 has better memory management. In some benchmark, WS08 beat Vista (in term of memory performance) as much as 30%. Moreover, Windows Server 2008 could be customize to be look as good as vista, including but not limited to Aero effect, sound, graphics eye candy and so on and so forth.

According to MSDN, Windows Server 2008 32bit able to support up to 64 GB of RAMs (with PAE enable).

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.

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.

Crave more info? No problem :

Credit to : MSDN and Me.

  1. Anonymous says:

    While you are correct in that the non-x64 version of 2008 can work with more than 4GB of RAM, this is PAE memory and only applications written specifically for PAE will be able to use it.

  2. expertester says:

    Tips how to install Avira Free in Windows Server 2008 :

    1.) Start –> Run –> Regedit
    2.) Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE –> SYSTEM –> CurrentControlset –> Control
    3.) Now change the permissions of the folder “ProductOptions” –> add your user account (for example Computername\Username) and deny yourself the read rights for the whole folder. Be careful not to deny the whole rights for all administrators or something like that (I tried that first cause of a black out and it leads to windows not being able to boot).
    4.) Now you should be able to install Antivir PE

    In case you want to revert the permission settings just log to your administrator account. Here you can again grant your user account full rights for “ProductOptions”.

  3. pure_borneo says:

    All Acer aspire 4530 user, I finally managed to install Win Server 2008 Ent X64 on my laptop, many thanks to experter for providing clear and informative article tru this blog.

    You can read my blog about acer 4530 here

  4. shark says:

    bro….i;ve deny whole right for all admin….so,what should i do to revert…give me some clear explaination…..plesae

  5. adheeslev says:

    “…Vista 64 will take care this RAM issue but unfortunately, your notebook or hardware vendor doesn’t supply it (such as Izzi broadband). So, how to solve this problem?”

    I know you did not using izzi anymore. But i just wanna share to you and others that might face some problem and try to googled it but cannot find the driver, I found the driver of iZZiyou Kyocera iBurst USB modem/ User Terminal for Vista and XP 64 bit OS at:

    It is from Lebanon, one ISP that using same technology with iZZi.


  6. ssnova says:

    @Shark(I realize the post is over 3 years old), I did the exact same thing, I was careful not to apply to all users however somehow it ended up not booting. I just get a black screen with a mouse cursor when I restart.

    The worse thing is, I did not(my fault) make a backup point or image of the install to “repair” my install. Apparently it will not let me “repair” when booting in cd but installing over original files.

    If anyone could chime in I would be really grateful, as I would really hope to save my current install(for many reasons, other than hassle).

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