[Note: This is a copy of this post]
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.