Windows Workstation 2008: Step 1

Enabling the Aero Interface for Windows Server 2008

I’ve been using Vista as my main desktop since before it was officially released and honestly while I don’t dislike it I was also never satisfied with it. For me the main issue has been performance. My main desktop was a 3 GHz system was a 1.5GB of RAM. This system ran XP great but has always been sluggish under Vista.  I HATE waiting for the system to respond and this system tries my patience several times a day. As the New Year rolled in I decided to put together a new system to replace it. This time I used a quad core with 4GB or RAM and room for 4 GB more.  However, just as I was ready to load up Vista I had a  thought, I had heard of people running Windows Server 2008 as a workstation and I had a copy of Windows Server 2008 Standard edition so I thought I would see how Windows Server 2008 would fair as a workstation platform. I was look for more robustness and better performance. Plus, one additional benefit that I was looking to get was the fact that Windows Server 2008 can run Hyper-V. This would allow me to run VMs from my desktop. You can’t do that with Vista – or with ESX Server for that matter. Along the way I thought I’d see what other issues I may run into.

Completing the installation was a piece of cake, the Windows Server 2008 installation is a simpler and better experience that the Vista installation. However, the first glitch I ran into was that Windows Server 2008 didn’t recognize my XFX video card where Vista did.  The fix was simple enough. I downloaded the drivers from the XFX web site and installed them.  Windows Server 2008 recognized them right away.

The next thing I saw was that there was no Aero interface. Granted, I could have easily done without it because there’s nothing in Aero that really helps your productivity. But I thought since I was going this route I would enable the Aero interface. To enable Aero you need to install a Windows Server 2008 feature named the Desktop Experience. In addition to the Aero interface the Desktop Experience adds a number of other programs including: Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Media Player, Video for Windows, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows SideShow, Windows Defender, Disk Cleanup, Sync Center, Sound Recorder, and Character Map.

To install Windows Server 2008’s Desktop Experience open up Server Manager. Next click on Features then right click on Features and select Add Features from the context menu this will display the Add Features Wizard that you can see in the following screen shot.

Scroll through the Features list until you Desktop Experience. Check the box in front of Desktop Features and then click Next followed by Install. This will start the installation process. When it’s complete you’ll see a Restart Pending notice in the features list. Click on Close and then click Yes on the Do you want to restart now? dialog.  This will reboot the server. After the server boots up the Resuming Configuration screen will be displayed showing the progress of the installation. When that is finished the Desktop Experience will be installed on the system.
That’s the first step to installing Aero interface. However there are still a couple of more steps that are required. Next, enable the Themes service.  Click on Start then Administrative Tools then Services to display the Services dialog. Scroll through the services until you see Themes. Right click on Themes and then select Properties as you can see in the following screen shot.

On the Properties dialog change the Startup type to Automatic and then click OK. Then click the Start the service link to start the Themes service.

Next, tell Windows Server to use the Vista theme by right clicking on the desktop and select Personalize from the context menu. Then click Theme to open the Theme Setting dialog. Click on the Theme dropdown and select Windows Vista as illustrated in the following screen shot.

After selecting the Windows Vista theme click Apply and then your Windows Server 2008 Workstation will be using the new Vista theme. However, there’s one more step required to the Aero interface. Right click the desktop and select Personalize. Then click on window Color and Appearance.  Then in the Color scheme dropdown select Windows Aero as you can see in the following screen.

That put the Aero interface on my Windows Workstation 2008 build. In the next post I’ll cover some of the issues I ran into with activation, audio, and services

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