Windows-Server-2008-Workstation-Converter Should you get rid of Windows Vista and convert Windows Server 2008 to a workstation so you can run it comfortably on your desktop or laptop? In this post, I will discuss the most common pros and cons on this topic. Instructions on how to convert Windows Server 2008 to a workstation edition have been spreading on the Web for some time. With the free Windows Server 2008 Workstation Converter by sawo, this process is now much easier and faster. I tried the tool today, and it took me about 15 minutes to convert Windows Server 2008 to Windows Workstation 2008.

Let’s first discuss the alleged advantages.


This reason is the most often cited. You know, there are some rumors going around that Vista is slow. Some bloggers ran benchmark tests comparing Vista to Windows Server 2008 [1] [2] [3], and they all claim that Server 2008 is faster than Vista. It seems like the performance gains range from 10% to 20%. However, I am not 100% sure if one can trust these tests because performance depends heavily on Windows configuration. For example, if you have Windows Search enabled on Vista, but not on Server 2008, you certainly will get useless test results.

Less bloat

I seriously doubt that the Server 2008 code is better than Vista’s code. As far as I know, Vista and Server 2008 share about 70% of their code. Vista has been bashed before because its code contains server functions, but Microsoft wanted to keep the core of Vista and Server 2008 as similar as possible. Even though there is no service pack yet for Server 2008, its official name is Server 2008 SP1, which is supposed to signify that it comes with the same core as Vista SP1.

Therefore, if Windows Workstation 2008 is really faster, there can be only one reason for this: Vista is slowed down by some functions that Server 2008 lacks. Some people perceive additional features as bloat. So be it; I think that if you add all Vista-specific features, such as Aero and Windows Search, to Server 2008, you will end up with a Vista machine. Another option is to just remove the “bloat” from Vista by disabling all the features you don’t need.

Server 2008 experience

Are you curious about Server 2008 and do you want to learn more about its functions? I remember that I did just this with Windows NT 3.51. One way to get started with a Server OS is to run it on a desktop. However, if you really want to learn Server 2008 administration, you have to work with its roles and server-specific features – and for this you need a complete network with clients.

Server features

Server 2008 has some features that might also be interesting to have on a workstation. For example, if you want to be able to connect via RDP to your workstation while someone is already logged on, you can make use of the Server 2008 Terminal Services. Hyper-V and the full version of Internet Information Server 7 (IIS7) are more good examples.

Actually, I have been considering running Server 2008 on my laptop because of Hyper-V. I often test software in a virtual environment and Hyper-V certainly has its charms. However, it lacks important features for software testing. For example, it has no virtual switches and does not support NAT and linked clones. So, I will stay with Vista and VMware Workstation. I think that this example shows that typical server software does have its downsides if you use it in a desktop environment. “Linked clones” is not really a feature you need for server virtualization.

I suppose you realized that I do not really believe that there are compelling reasons to prefer Windows Workstation 2008 to Windows Vista. However, there are considerations that speak against Windows Workstation 2008.


I suppose most apps that work on Vista will also run on Server 2008, although I am quite sure that there are a few desktop programs that will have problems. However, the main point here is that any time you run into problems, you will wonder whether the source is a program flaw or the fact that you are running the app in an environment for which it was not programmed. We have some experience with this because we offer typical desktop apps (dictionaries, full text collections, biographies, etc.) on a Terminal Server. Thus, I can tell you that there are many desktop apps that show strange behavior in a server environment. Don’t tell the vendor’s support that you run their application on a Server – they might just laugh at you. What is the number 1 rule if you want to avoid computer trouble? Follow the crowd, always.


I will assume that you belong to the good guys and always pay for commercial software. If so, then the additional costs might be a knockdown argument against Windows Workstation 2008. Amazon wants $859.49 for Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista Home Premium costs $94.99, and Windows Vista Professional costs $299. The price difference corresponds more or less with the cost of a high-end desktop.

Do you still think that a “10% performance boost” is worth a few hundred bucks? In this case, I recommend Windows Server 2008 Workstation Converter. The tool allows you to disable typical server features and to add typical Vista functions. The only thing that didn’t work when I tried the tool was adding gameux.dll. Here is the complete list of features from the readme:

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  • Set owner name/organization
  • Enable windows audio
  • Optimize CPU performance for programs
  • Disable IE Enhanced Security Configuration
  • Install .NET Framework 3.0
  • Enable SuperFetch
  • Install desktop experience
  • Enable themes
  • Disable CTRL+ALT+DEL at Startup
  • Disable shutdown event tracker
  • Change computer name
  • Enable wireless networking
  • Enable offline files
  • Enable windows search service
  • Enable auto logon
  • Delay activation
  • UxTheme patch for x86 and x64 systems
  • Disable verbose messages at startup/shutdown
  • Install the vista aero cursors
  • Install the vista sidebar (x86 and x64)
  • Install the control panel item for game controllers(x86 and x64)
  • Enable Speech Recognition (require files from vista)
  1. Lukas Beeler 15 years ago

    The first time i read about this topic, i thought it was completely ridiculous.

    But many sites, including slashdot, took them at face value and wrote serious posts about the topic – making them seem more important than they really are.

  2. Jacob Hornbech 15 years ago

    I did the same when 2k3 server came out, and liked it.

    However some software vendors today, check if the software is installing on a server environment, and if it is it stops the installation. Adobe PS and some Anti Virus vendors f.i.

    The con with being able to log into the workstation, while another is at the console is a big plus. I tried to RDP my workstation at home, while my girlfriend was logged on, and it threw her off… Quite annoying…

  3. Jacob Hornbech 15 years ago


  4. nev 15 years ago

    How about a app that disables all the functions on Vista to Server 2008 bare min in a single click?

    I installed Vista Basic, just for the hell of it, and it’s very fast, faster than the server 2008. Opening explorer, network connection, computer management.. etc.

    One can disable functions all day long, but nothing beats not having it in the registry and drive in the first place.

    A A-LA-Carte version of Vista maybe?

  5. Lukas, I also thought it must be a joke when I first read about it. I think, if it was published at Slashdot, it was mostly to slap Microsoft. It is a way of telling them that they are no longer the desktop kings.

    Jacob, everytime I want to check something on a users PC, I am annoyed by the fact that Microsoft doesn’t allow more than one simultaneous RDP connection on desktops. This is what I call stingy.

    Nev, you’re right that would be a much better idea. I think, Microsoft will allow you to disable Windows features more easily in future Windows versions. Windows Server 2008 with its server roles already goes in that direction. It is always one of the disadvantages of Windows compared to Linux that one can’t install only the features one really needs.

  6. Brian 15 years ago

    nev, they already have an a-la-carte version of Vista. It’s called Windows XP (and even that you have to disable some needless crap).

  7. Brian, why not Windows NT it is lightweight and lighting fast? 😉

  8. Ken 15 years ago

    This is interesting, I will definitely switch to 2008 when i need to reformat my vista or do a HD upgrade. So far vista x64 runs good and it uses 1.5 out of 6gigs of ram.. but i also like to enjoy the speed boost wtih 2008

  9. Ken 15 years ago

    BTW, anyone have any experience running VMWare Server on 2008? It doesn’t run on my Vista x64

  10. Exotic Hadron 14 years ago

    Nice thingy. Any ideas on “porting” Sidebar from Windows 7 x64 to Windows Server 2008 R2? The simple gud ole trick with /regserver switch that worked on Windows Server 2008 just doesn’t seem to work on Windows Server 2008. The sidebar app just gets closed automatically once you start it. (Looks close to what you experience on Windows 7 when UAC is disabled; but now— on Windows Server 2008 R2— in hapens so when UAC is enabled!)

  11. Steven taub 13 years ago

    Question. If i convert to a server 2008 from server to workstation, will I be able to administer Sharepoint, if it’s on the same Desktop

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