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After starting a new job I decided to begin studying Microsoft’s System Center (SCCM) 2012 at home. There is just one problem. I don’t have a £2000 server or even a desktop powerful enough to run it. SCCM itself needs a 64-bit, quad-core processor with 8GB, or better, 16GB of RAM with lots of fast disk space. It also needs a separate server running as a domain controller.
Ironically, my laptop is a core i5, so I decided rebuild it with Windows Server 2008 R2, to use as a workstation. The key reason was that R2 includes Hyper-V. Hyper-V is ideal for any lab environment, as it’s almost like using a video recorder. You can pause, rewind changes to whole virtual machines, meaning you can experiment and rollback to previous states.
Hyper-V beats all other virtualisation products but has stringent hardware requirements: it’s 64-bit only and needs either Intel VT or AMD-V BIOS support, which again my laptop met.
A possible deal killer is the need to do a clean install wiping your OS drive (or whole disk if you only have one partition). I found a great workaround is to buy an SSD and move the old boot drive to a SATA caddy in the DVD bay. If you need DVDs buy an external USB instead.
So I was ready to build my laptop as a Windows 2008 workstation. There are a couple of online articles (including the 4sysops article – WINDOWS SERVER 2008 R2 SERVER – THE PERFECT WORKSTATION OS and even two whole websites win2008R2Workstation and msfn on the subject, but they concentrate on overcome annoyances owing to the hardened security:
|Wifi missing||Add feature|
|Logon without ctrl+alt+del||Set Local Policy|
|Disable shutdown event tracker||Set Local Policy|
|Grants users shutdown||Set Local Policy|
|Disable IE enhanced security||Un-tick options on Server manager summary page|
|Enable sound||Set service to automatic|
|Desktop experience||Add feature|
Annoyances of Windows Server default security settings
Things that make you go hmmm ^
Unfortunately, despite researching, I found out the hard way that there are more basic omissions that are not available as they are inappropriate to Server 2008 R2. They are:
|Windows Easy Transfer||Fixable with sigverify tool|
|XPS viewer||Disabled by default|
|Windows Media Center||Use an alternative Media Center|
|Codecs to play MP4 videos||Use VLC|
|Windows Performance rating||Hack available|
|Windows Sidebar||Fixable by copying files from Windows 7|
|No hibernation (if you use Hyper-V)||Unavailable|
List of features and possible fixes for Windows 2008 Workstation
Note, power consumption is identical to Windows 7 especially with your OEM’s power management software. The good news is you can get around most of the above easily, although a few qualify as serious hacks.
As I wanted this for training not entertainment, the above issues are irrelevant except Easy Transfer. You could use Microsoft’s User State Management Tool (USMT) instead, although you need to install Windows AIK or its replacement, Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (WADK). Although the Windows ADK is small 1.5MB, it is a downloader and installer in one. The full WADK is 2.55GB.
Before you decide to proceed, ensure you are happy without these things. If you’re rebuilding your machine you may well want to use Easy Transfer but thankfully it’s an easy one to fix.
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In the next part I will describe how to build a laptop with Windows Server 2008 R2.