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Using Windows Server as a desktop

by Dermot Hogan
Thursday 7 August 2008.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I really do have strong views about Vista: I loathe the thing. As a software developer, I find there is just so much of Vista that gets in the way...

I recently had something of a revelation: I understood why some people might actually like Linux on the desktop. Now, don’t get me wrong - I don’t really have any very strong views on operating systems (unlike cars where it simply has to be BMW, M5, black and with go-faster-stripes. Sad, really). What I do object to is the religious intensity of the debate. An operating system is an operating system - so get a life freetards.

So for the last year or so, I’ve been typing away on Vista with an ever increasing chance of doing myself serious coronary damage. A few weeks ago I’d had enough. I’d heard some rumours about using Windows Server 2008 as a desktop OS, so I thought I’d give it a go. I needed a new hard disk (having eight or so virtual machines hanging around for testing Ruby In Steel seriously reduces your hard disk capacity), so with a nice new 750GB drive installed, I looked at this site. This gives you a pretty clear step-by-step approach to doing the business and it’s the best general guide around that I’ve come across. If you do a search for information on using Windows 2008 Server as a desktop, you find a whole load of people doing exactly this with numerous suggestions and fixes for common problems.

For me everything went smoothly apart from getting the graphics drivers for my ATI card - Windows Server 2008 really didn’t want to know and offered no help even as to the manufacturer of the card. I had to reboot to Vista Desktop and find out what the device actually was, then get the drivers.

That said, everything else went smoothly (though it did take me a little time to figure out how in install Solitaire) and I now have a nice clean, fast desktop OS with none of the Vista junk that used to drive me crazy. I have no idea why Windows Server 2008 is faster, it just is. You might look here for some possible explanations, but it seems to be generally acknowledged that Windows 2008 Server just is faster.

Now, Vista Desktop and Windows 2008 Server have pretty much the same code base - and I think that with some nefarious hacks you could convert one into the other - so it must be down to registry settings. But more than that, to me the difference is that with Windows 2008 Server, you start off with a clean base and you add the things that you need. In contrast, with the Desktop, you start with a pile of stuff you don’t need (at least I don’t) and have to remove things to get to something that I can live with.

This is where I began to understand the Linux desktop mindset (servers are a different thing entirely). You can start off with a core Linux system and just add the bits you need. Of course you need to be somewhat technically savvy to do this, but, hey, we’re programmers aren’t we? So why on earth doesn’t Microsoft give us the same facility with a Vista Programmer Edition?

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  • Using Windows Server as a desktop
    13 August 2008, by Cliff

    I know I’m in the minority, but maybe you should give Vista another try. I’ve found it to be just as fast as win2k8 if you follow the following simple rules:

    1) Avoid "home" products. Home basic, home premium. Forget them. Vista Business and Vista Enterprise do exactly what they intend to. You add functionality as you need it (as you’d expect a business product to.)

    2) SP1. ’Nuf said.

    3) Turn off Aero. That’s usually the big performance difference between vista and 2k8. I’ve been developing on Visa for almost a year (yes, even before SP1) and with each month, things get a little easier and a little better. Was Vista half-baked? Undoubtedly. But it has had a year and a half in in-the-field testing now, and it is as solid as I expect most desktop OS’s to be. YMMV.

  • Using Windows Server as a desktop
    7 August 2008

    I agree. I loathe Vista and loved Windows Server 2008 when I installed it as a desktop OS. However I was forced to switch back once I found that unfortunately "server" versions of popular software that I rely on pretty frequently are 10x more expensive than the desktop variations. Acronis True Image that will run on a server OS is $$$, Diskeeper server version is $$$, etc....

    Just be prepared if you rely on any software where the manufacturer differentiates between desktop & server versions that you will have to pay more as a consequence of running Server 2008 as your OS.

  • Using Windows Server as a desktop
    7 August 2008, by Michael

    You should try vlite. Vlite enables you to customize your Windows Vista installation before you actually install it.

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