DIY Users Set Up 'Vista Workstation'

Bummed out by Vista's performance? What if there was a way to get a desktop edition of Vista that's faster than what you've got?

Does Windows Vista seem a little sluggish and underpowered? Want to switch to an edition of Windows with a little extra kick to it?

No, it's not Windows XP. Welcome to Windows Vista "workstation" – better known as Windows Server 2008.

Windows Server 2008, which Microsoft officially launched on February 27, has a feature called "server core" that lets an administrator set up only the key functions and capabilities that are needed for a specific task.

As it turns out, it also can be used to help set up a stripped down version of the server that some bloggers characterize as Vista Workstation.

In fact, at least two bloggers – one unidentified and the other a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) employee located in India – have published instructions online describing how to set up just such a workstation configuration.

Changes include tweaking performance, adding in the "desktop experience" along with the Aero Glass user interface, disabling the shutdown event tracker, and installing audio and video features. However, both have differences, depending on the user's goal.

For instance, the Microsoft employee, Vijayshinva Karnure, enables Windows Server 2008's Hyper-V virtualization hypervisor, which is still in beta test.

Windows Server 2008 and Vista share a lot of the same code, including the fixes coming this month in Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1). Among the changes in SP1 are upgrades meant to speed up performance on disk-intensive tasks such as copying files between drives.

How does the ersatz "workstation" perform? Significantly better than Vista with SP1, according to the Exo blog, the Weblog for Devil Mountain Software, a small, four-year-old test suite developer in Florida.

"Given all the press surrounding Vista Service Pack 1 and the supposed parity of the SP1 and Server 2008 kernels, we were expecting to find little or no performance delta between the two platforms ... so we were understandably surprised when repeated test runs showed Windows Server 2008 outperforming Windows Vista w/SP1 by a margin of 11 to 17 percent," said a post last week on the Exo blog.

Devil Mountain created an earlier controversy in late November when its tests showed that Windows XP SP3 performed better than Vista SP1. At that time, Microsoft representatives criticized Devil Mountain's testing procedures.

Microsoft has since said that the final release of Vista SP1 performs better than beta versions of SP1, but many users still complain about the operating system's performance.

Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft, has been doing something slightly similar – he's testing Hyper-V on an edition of Windows Server 2008 that he's stripped down to a workstation-type configuration, although he doesn't specifically think of it as Vista workstation. "I've been using it for about three weeks, and I love it," Cherry told

He cautions, however, that converting the server operating system into a workstation may violate Microsoft's end-user licensing agreement or EULA. "Just because a Microsoft employee is doing it doesn't mean that it's license compliant," Cherry added.

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