Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta "Aero Enabled" Workstation

In February last year I wrote a blog post entitled Windows Server 2008 "Aero Enabled" Workstation Edition where I showed you how you could use Windows Server 2008 as a Workstation operating system. Since Microsoft has now released the beta for the next release of the server version of Windows, Windows Server 2008 R2 which is based upon the Windows 7 kernel I thought I would do the same again. We'll also look at some of the differences between the releases.

Microsoft has made the beta of Windows Server 2008 R2 publically available and you can download it from here.

Installation of the Windows Server 2008 R2 beta went well on the three machines that I have installed it upon although the Windows 7 beta seems to have better driver support for some devices. Just like Intel, NVIDIA has pre-release Windows 7 graphics drivers which were installed by the Windows 7 beta although with Windows Server 2008 R2 beta I had to install the 64-bit Windows Vista driver. Although this is a server operating system I would hope that by the time that Microsoft ships Windows Server 2008 R2 that it would be able to download the same drivers as Windows 7 from the Windows Update site.

Performance of the Windows Server 2008 R2 beta is outstanding and given that it is based upon the same kernel as the Windows 7 beta this was not surprising. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes on ZDNet previously posted some interesting performance benchmarks comparing Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 Build 6956. Both the Windows 7 beta and the Windows Server 2008 R2 beta are build 7000. You can read his post here.

With the NVIDIA Windows Vista x64 drivers installed lets look at how you now enable the Windows 7 aero enabled desktop. Windows Server 2008 R2 allows you to add one or more roles for the server and also one or more features. We'll begin by opening the Server Manager and adding the Desktop Experience feature.

Along with the Desktop Experience feature you may wish to also install the .NET Framework 3.5.1, the Windows Server Backup and associated command line tools, and the Wireless LAN service. We'll next have to open the Services control panel applet which is available from the Start menu within the Administrative Tools programs group. Within the Services applet change the start up type of the Themes and Windows Audio services to Automatic and start both services.

Once these services have been started and assuming you also have the appropriate graphics driver installed you'll be able to enable the aero enabled Windows 7 desktop within Windows Server 2008 R2. Open the Control Panel and under Appearance and Personalization select the option to Change the theme.

If you select the Windows 7 theme you will then have aero enabled, assuming driver support, desktop. Of course you will probably wish to change the standard background and upon doing so you'll observe that the new task bar is transparent and will change color accordingly.

Over the next few days I'll follow up with additional blog posts about using the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 beta releases.