The Compleat Windows Server 2008 Laptop

I just did something I’ve been meaning to do for a long while: re-tooled my laptop with Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V virtualization. I really appreciate the Hyper-V performance, as well as the modularity of the operating system: it’s easy to turn pieces on and off so you only run what you need. This is a great setup for a developer or IT Pro who needs to run server software on the go.


A few friends asked how I set it up, so I thought I’d put it on my blog for anyone else who’s interested and hasn’t already tried it. There are plenty of great resources already on the web, but I didn’t find any single resource that showed how to get all my desired laptop features working. So here is my list of links to the various steps for transforming the Windows Server 2008 install into a mobile workstation with the Vista UI, search, wireless, Bluetooth, etc.


Note that Hyper-V requires hardware and BIOS support in order to work, so it’s generally available only on relatively new machines made in the last year or so. Also, when you enable Hyper-V, the operating system shuts off the sleep (S3) and hibernation (S4) features because supporting these states in a hypervisor is an “incredibly complicated problem”, according to Virtual PC Guy. I can only imagine...


Anyway, here are the sites that got me through the process, in more or less the order I did them:




Install the OS

Just install the OS to start; I chose x64 of course so I could get to all 4GB of memory on my laptop.


In Server Manager, enable the “Wireless LAN Service” feature to install Wifi handling. Several people recommended doing this before installing the Wifi drivers; I did it in the other order and it worked anyway.


Install drivers for your laptop. Vista drivers generally work fine; I had no problems with any of them.

NOTE: I had a few unknown devices even after installing the obvious drivers, but they all got taken care of when the Bluetooth stack was added later on.

Enable the Vista UI and Desktop Search

UPDATE: Step #6 is missing a part ... go into Group Policy Editor as it says, or by typing "gpedit.msc" into the Start/Run box. Then navigate the tree to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System and find the "Display Shut Down Event Tracker". Disable this policy and the shutdown event prompt will go away. Thanks, Barry!

NOTE: I skipped step #8, enabling the Superfetch service. Do a web search for Superfetch and decide if you want this thing anticipating your application usage and pre-fetching the apps in the background. Seems faster to me without it.

Disable Internet Explorer Enhanced Security mode

We all want to be secure, but this is a workstation...

Adding the Vista Sidebar

Bluetooth – the hard careful way

Bluetooth – the easy way (thanks to Spence’s download – worked great for me!)


(Spence happens to have a MacBook-Pro, but AFAIK it’s the same for any laptop.)

Windows Mobile Device Center (to sync your phone)

(You may want to check for the most recent version)

Hyper-V Setup

Migrating VPC’s to Hyper-V

Great Hyper-V Blog


I hope this is helpful … Have fun!


Thanks for reading my blog. This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. I welcome your comments and feedback.

Comments (2)

  1. Kris says:

    How is the performance? I am planning to do the same but am worried about the performance for doing demos with Biztalk, Sharepoint.

  2. I actually set this up on two machines. The one where I enabled all these desktop features is only marginally faster than it was using Vista with Virtual Server 2005… no such thing as a free lunch I suppose! The other one I only enabled Hyper-V and left off all the other stuff and it seems MUCH faster, almost as if it’s running directly on the metal (which may be close to true in Hyper-V!) I’m considering setting up a dual-boot on my every-day laptop so I can boot it as a desktop w/slow virtualization or a server w/fast virtualization.

    Remember that memory and disk speeds make a huge difference! Putting the snapshot directory on a different spindle is also helpful if you can swing it.

    Also note that with Hyper-V you can run multiple CPU’s (or cores) in a guest VM, which should help if you’re not disk bound … and also you can run 64-bit guests, which will become increasingly important as server products move in that direction.

    That said, it would be interesting to do some real performance testing; so far I’ve only got empirical evidence.

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