Windows 2008 Server on my MacBook Pro

A troublesome disk (a story for another time) has forced me to reinstall my MacBook Pro and review my Windows partition.

My Boot Camp partition was running Vista Ultimate x86 which felt sluggish, ignored the last 1GB and bugged me with UAC. One Windows update kept failing to install which also prevented SP1 from completing.

Apple’s Boot Camp doesn’t support 64-bit Windows (except on the Mac Pro) and my 64-bit experiences have been unpleasant so far (no Flash for IE x64, limited 64-bit shell extensions, Live! refusing to install, drivers etc.) The increased x64 memory consumption would also be an issue when running in a 1.5GB virtual machine via Parallels or VMware Fusion.

Windows XP was one option but losing IIS7 and DirectX 10 would see me reinstalling Vista within weeks so I decided to try Windows 2008 Server x86.

Boot Camp happily accepted the 2008 Server x86 CD where I chose the BOOTCAMP partition, formatting it as NTFS and electing for a standard installation. The Boot Camp drivers subsequently installed without complaint, all 4GB of RAM was accessible and there are no 64-bit compatibility issues.

Microsoft are giving away 1 year evaluation copies of Windows 2008 Enterprise Server x86 as part of their Heroes Happen Here launch program for Windows 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 if you don’t happen to have an MSDN subscription to hand. There are however a few tweaks you need to do to get a more desktop-like experience:

Install desktop features

Head into Server Manager and Add Features then choose Desktop Experience to install Windows Media Player, Aero etc.

Go into Services and set the Themes service to Automatic and Start it to make themes available and then choose Browse… from the Theme Settings in Personalisation to select %windir%\Resources\Themes\Aero.theme

Install wireless networking

This one had me stumped for a while as I thought my wireless card/drivers weren’t working. The reality is that 2008 Server has wireless networking removed by default so head into Server Manager > Add Features > Wireless LAN Service to install it.

Enabling hibernate

Open a command prompt and enter:

powercfg.exe /hibernate on

Remove annoying shutdown

Head into the registry to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows NT\Reliability and change the ShutdownReasonOn DWORD key to 0.

Relaxing local password policy

A controversial change I’m sure but I’d rather choose something complex and unique that will last 90+ days than something memorable every 30. Head into Local Security Policy > Account Policies > Password Policy > Maximum password age and change it to something more reasonable.

Going further

A great guide with screen-shots on additional tweaks for a more workstation-like experience also exists – wish I known about that earlier!

Simone Chiaretta has highlighted the that tap-to-click is absent and there are some Bluetooth issues stemming from missing drivers.

[)amien

12 responses  

  1. Excellent! I’ve been waiting since the VS2008 launch party for you to post this :)

    I’ve got a few spare hours this evening so I’m going to give this a go on my MBP as the Vista install is a little on the shafted side.

    Adrian RitchieApril 2nd, 2008
  2. Interesting – I have the 32-bit version of Vista on my MBP and that gave me little trouble, except that now it generally gathers dust; I should install SP1 sometime but I can rarely be arsed to boot it up, OS X has become warm and comfy now.

    I still can’t understand why anyone would want to install a 64-bit OS on a regular desktop machine though, unless they need to run monster databases in-memory or big workstation apps like AutoCAD or XSI. It just chews more memory for simple tasks (since all the pointers are twice as wide), and don’t get me started on drivers. Have you really ever run out of a 2GB address space in a single desktop app (since Windows doesn’t let you get at the full 4GB)? I know I haven’t on anything but a production server. I guess I can sort of understand it if you need to test in that environment for parity with live deployment, but I’d rather have a dev server performing that duty than weighing down my desktop.

    steveApril 2nd, 2008
  3. That guide has Vista widgets running at http://www.win2008workstation.com/wordpress/2008/03/08/installing-custom-gadgets/ although I’ve never got into them myself.

    [)amien

    Damien GuardApril 3rd, 2008
  4. As you know, is it possible to run “Vista” Sidebar gadgets on Win2008 Server?

    SimoneApril 2nd, 2008
  5. “although I’ve never got into them myself.”: Yeah, compared to Dashboard, Vista’s gadget sidebar is clunky and frustrating to use.

    steveApril 3rd, 2008
  6. The most annoying thing of the dashboard is that you have to activate it in order to see a widget, so cannot be used to receive notifications as Vista Sidebar

    SimoneApril 3rd, 2008
  7. I think I’m going to do the same thing on my MacBook (without Pro) and see it Win2008 with everything one runs more smoothly than Vista

    SimoneApril 3rd, 2008
  8. Running Server 2008 for some time now. Finally something like an alternative to XP.

    @Simone: Actually you can move widgets to the normal desktop simply by grabbing it with the mouse, and hiding dashboard again. Widget will then always be visible.

    ekl – May 18th, 2008
  9. Guys just a quick question. I am planning to buy macbook pro although I have been a PC guy all my life. Am into development (little bit of web too) using visual studio and sql server. My question is, have you guys faced any issue with respect to development using windows in macbook pro machine? Thanks for the reply.
    Andy

    Andy – August 4th, 2008
  10. Hi Damien,

    Great post. I’m shopping for a new laptop and plan to run W2K8 64bit on it. Lots of reasons why but basically it comes down to needing HyperV. Do you have any sense of how the performance of W2K8 on the Macbook is relative to a similar WinTel machine?

    Milan – October 18th, 2008
  11. Thank you for the tip “Server Manager > Add Features > Wireless LAN Service.” I can’t tell you how many how-to guides and web pages I read, and couldn’t get Wireless to work, before I found this solution on yours. Bravo for the thorough documentation!

    J – November 24th, 2008
  12. Hey I found a solution to the bluetooth driver issue. This website has a set of inf files that can be used to set it up. They are made by the person who made the page, but they seem to work for me, I am running it on a macbook pro. He does make a disclaimer about them, basically saying use at your own risk and to make a restore point. The only thing I had to do was add a restart into his directions. hope this helps. Thanks for the tutorial.

    daniel – May 25th, 2009

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