Use Windows Server 2008 R2 as a desktop OS

I am very happy with Window 7. I enjoy the OS quite a bit. The only problem that I have is, there is very poor virtual machine support. Other people may disagree with me here, but I don’t like Windows Virtual PC.

I have been using Microsoft’s Virtual PC 2007 for years. I like the product, it is easy to use and it is compatible with Microsoft’s Virtual Server 2005 (which I use extensively). The new product however, is very difficult to configure, is much more difficult to import existing machines into Virtual Server 2005, and does not have 64 bit virtual machine support.

The lack of 64 bit VMs is the largest flaw of the product. Microsoft claims that VM support in Windows 7 is for compatibility with older software and that is why it doesn’t need to be 64 bit. I think that it is stupid that my OS, and CPU are 64 bit, but Microsoft will not let me use those features when working with virtual machines. The worst part about it is that Windows Server 2008 R2 is 64 bit ONLY. The new OS that Microsoft wants us to work with will not run as a VM on their desktop software.

The way around this flaw in Microsoft’s technology that I use is by running Windows Server 2008 R2 on my desktop. Here is how I do it:

1: Enable Hardware Virtualization

This part is very important. My goal is to be able to run 64 bit virtual machines. To do this, I plan on installing Hyper-V. A prerequisite to Hyper-V is Hardware Virtualization, thus we need to enable it first.

You can enable Hardware Virtualization in the BIOS. It is different in every BIOS, but it is usually under the CPU Options.

2: Install Server 2008 R2

Install Windows just like you normally would. (For me this means install windows to at least an 80 GB partition. I like to keep all my data on a different partition to 80GB is enough for me.)

3: Enable Autologon, Disable Shutdown Event Tracker, and change password requirements

At my home, I like my computer to autologon. I am the only one that uses it, so selecting a user and entering a password is a waste of time. Also I don’t want to have to enter a reason I shut down my computer every night when I go to bed.

Change Password Requirements

Click Start(now the Windows logo in the bottom left corner)->Administrative Tools->Local Security Policy. Expand Account Policies and click Password Policy. I like to change history to 0, Min and Max age to 0, length to 3, and complexity to Disabled.

Autologon

Open a command prompt and type control userpasswords2. This will open a dialog allowing you to enable autologon. Uncheck the box that says ‘Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer’ and click OK. Enter your username and password and click OK again.

Shutdown Event Tracker

Click Start and type mmc. Click File->Add/Remove Snap-in…, add the Group Policy Object Editor snap-in, select the Local Computer and click OK twice. Now expand Local Computer Policy->Computer Configuration->Administrative Templates. Click on System and browse to ‘Display Shutdown Event Tracker’. Set it to Disabled.

4: Update all your drivers

I know that the new Windows Update will try to find the best drivers for you, but since this is the server OS, it will not find you the best Audio or video drivers, so you should update these on your own. (I would never trust Windows Update to install any drivers unless I absolutely had too. I trust a vender’s website much more than Microsoft.)

If you cannot find Server 2008 R2 drivers, try Windows 7 X64 drivers, then Server 2008 x64 drivers, then Windows Vista x64 drivers. You should be able to find something that works.

5: Install important Roles (Hyper-V, File Services)

After I do my driver install, I install all of the Windows Roles that I fell I will need. I install two roles, Hyper-V and File Services. Hyper-V allows you to work with Virtual Machines and File Services adds Windows Search.

Open Server Manager -> Roles. Click Add Roles, Next, Check the boxes next to File Services and Hyper-V. On the Select Role Services Screen for File Services add the Windows Search Service. Click Next and Finish. The computer will reboot before the roles are finished installing.

6: Add Features

After the Roles comes the Features. I install the Desktop Experience, and Ink Support features so I can enable Aero, and I install the telnet client because I use the telnet client for work.

Open Server Manager -> Features. Click Add Features, Next, Select Desktop Experience, Ink and Handwriting Services->Ink Support, and Telnet Client. Click Next and Finish. Computer may reboot before feature installation completes.

7: Disable IE Enhanced Security

If you plan on browsing the web using IE, you are really going to want to disable the Enhanced Security that comes with the server OS.

Open Server Manager, find the Security Information section and click Configure IE ESC. Set IE ESC to off for Administrators and Users.

8: Enable Aero

Now that we have a working OS, we can work on the eye candy. We need to enable Aero and Windows Audio.

Click Start and type services.msc. Find the Themes Service and the Windows Audio Service and set them to Automatic Start. Reboot. After the reboot, Right click on the desktop and select Personalize. In the center section, select the Windows 7 theme under Aero Themes. Click OK and you now have Audio and Aero.

9: Setup the Wireless LAN Service (If you need wireless)

To make a wireless adapter work in Windows 2008 R2 you need to add a new feature called the Wireless LAN Service.

Open Server Manager -> Features. Click Add Features, Select Wireless LAN Service, Click Next and Install.


That is how I install and configure Windows Server 2008 R2 as a desktop OS.


Here is how to install the Zune Software on Windows Server 2008 R2.

EDIT: I have done some googleing and have found a couple new changes that you might like to try.

vijaysk adds:

1: Processor Scheduling

In the Server OS, background Services are given preference over interactive programs. To fix this, Right Click on My Computer (just Computer now), Select Properties -> Advanced System Settings -> Advanced Tab -> Under Performance Select Settings -> Open the Advanced Tab. Under Processor Scheduling select Programs.

2: Visual Effects

In Server 2008 R2 you will not see any thumbnails by default.

Right Click on My Computer (just Computer now), Select Properties -> Advanced System Settings -> Advanced Tab -> Under Performance Select Settings. Tweak as you see fit.

3: Power Options

Windows Server 2008 R2 by default does nothing to save the earth. You can adjust the power settings by Opening Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Power Options.

John Savill adds how to add Gadgets to Server 2008 R2.

4: Gadgets

To add gadgets to Windows Servero 2008 R2, Copy the ‘Program Files\Windows Sidebar’ folder from a 64 bit version of Windows 7 to the ‘Program Files’ Folder of the Server 2008 R2 install. Copy the shortcut ‘Desktop Gadget Gallery’ from the start menu of any copy of Windows 7 to the Start menu of the Server 2008 R2 install.

From an elevated command prompt run:

Regsvr32 atl.dll

regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sbdrop.dll”

regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\wlsrvc.dll”

“C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sidebar.exe” /RegServer

Now Copy the following lines into Gadgets.reg and import it into the registry.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Sidebar]



[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Sidebar\Compatibility]



[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Sidebar\Settings]

“SidebarDockedPartsOrder”=”0×1,0×2,0×3,0×4

4 Responses to “Use Windows Server 2008 R2 as a desktop OS”

  1. Mohit says:

    Great article. I had everything running with the help of Desktop Experience feature except for the Gadgets and finally I land here. With some minor tweaking to your provided method for Gadgets, I was able to take them from a 32-bit Win 7 installation to a 64-bit Win 2008 R2 installation. Thanks.

  2. Hari Cakep says:

    Thanks… I’ve been searching to found out how to enable the gadget on windows server 2008 R2. :D

  3. Mike says:

    I tried this but id didn’t work for me. I copied the folder Windows Sidebar from a laptop with windows 7 home premium sp1 X64 to windows server 2008 R2 X64 Enterprise, i follow the instructions but nothing… what can i do?

  4. sridhar ekbote says:

    thank you very much, you are awesome

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