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Converting free 'Windows 7' Server into a workstation

Students can download Windows Server 2008 R2 for free. Turn it into 'Windows 7' in only a few steps.

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Topic: Windows
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1 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Windows 7 is a popular desktop operating system to use, and it's preinstalled on many new computers. But, if you want to upgrade, you'll have to bite the bullet and pay for it. Or... do you? Windows Server 2008 R2 is the same operating system, just tweaked slightly to run better on servers. And, seeing as it's provided to students for free, you may as well download and use it to keep up to date.
But this doesn't come without its problems. This short guide will show you exactly how to tweak it to run just as Windows 7 would.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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2 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
To download, head over to the DreamSpark website and download Windows Server 2008 R2 using the download manager. You will need to sign in using your university username and password to download and get a genuine key.
Seeing as the download is 2.8GB (it's the 64-bit image you will download, so make sure that your computer is 64-bit. It probably will be, but best to check anyway) you might want to go up to your university campus and download from there. At least then you'll have a faster connection with fewer restrictions.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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3 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Once you have downloaded the ISO image, burn it to disk (this utility works really well) and restart your computer. Once you follow the setup prompts, make sure you install the correct version of the operating system. You are aiming to install Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard (Full Installation) - and then carry on the installation as normal.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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4 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Once Windows kicks up for the first time, you'll be prompted to enter a password. Because this is a server edition, you'll need to use a strong alphanumeric password, with maybe a few weird unconventional characters. So, something like "m1key$aw3#ome" - for example - will suffice. This may be a bit annoying, but it does force you, the user, into good password habits.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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5 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
When you downloaded Windows from DreamSpark, you were given a product key to use also. Right click Computer and select Properties. At the bottom of this screen, choose Change product key. Copy and paste this in and it'll activate without a fuss. If you have accidentally installed the wrong edition - so anything other than Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard- then it may not activate.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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6 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
To change your computer name (which may be a requirement by your university IT department), when the Initial Configuration Tasks pops up, click on Provide computer name and domain then enter your computer description in the box. Then, while still on this tab, click Change then enter your computer name in the box according to your university's requirements. Click OK, then Apply and OK again. You may be prompted to restart your computer (...again).
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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7 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Again, in the Initial Configuration Tasks window, select Enable automatic updating and in the popup box, make sure you select the top Enable Windows automatic updating and feedback option to take the worry of keeping your new operating system up to date.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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8 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
You will need to restart your computer a few times during this setup process. It's annoying and you may feel like you need to do it more than you would have to on Windows 7, but once you're all set up, your new server operating system is designed not to actually shut down - even though you can. So, in the long run you'll end up having to restart/shutdown less than you would have done.
When this Shutdown Event Tracker pops up (we'll fix this later on), select a random option such as Other (Planned) and mash the keyboard with a random comment in the Comment box. Provided the OK box lights up, that's all you need to worry about.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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9 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
The features are incredibly important, unlike the roles which are not. These features will include some of the basic Windows 7 functionality that you would have had, but are not installed by standard because those using a server operating system rarely need them.
In the Initial Configuration Tasks window, select the Add features option and make sure you select the following: .NET Framework 3.5.1, BranchCache, Desktop Experience, Ink and Handwriting Services (only if you have a tablet/touch PC), Internet Printing Client, Peer Name Resolution Protocol, Quality Windows Audio Video Experience, Simple TCP/IP Services, Windows Biometric Framework (only if you have a fingerprint reader), Windows Server Backup Features, Wireless LAN Service and XPS Viewer.
Please note: any feature you install which attemps to install a role (it will say so), make sure that you do not accept this. You may have to do this a couple of times, but you will end up with what you need without anything unnecessary churning up your precious computer memory in the long run.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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10 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Once you've restarted and the Initial Configuration Tasks window appears, make sure that the features enabled under the heading are there. The above roles should be non-existent if possible. In this screenshot, it was necessary to install File Services but this won't have a significant impact on the overall performance or memory usage of the computer, as the file server aspect simply won't be used.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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11 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Now we need to disable the annoying Shutdown Event Tracker. To do this, go to Start then Run, and type in gpedit.msc and hit OK. As you are logged in as the administrator (which will be changed later to help secure your computer) it will load straight up. Under the left hand pane, go to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates then click on the System folder.
Scroll down and double click on Display Shutdown Event Tracker. Click the Disabled radio button then Apply and OK. The Shutdown Event Tracker will no longer be displayed when you shutdown.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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12 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
To disable the somewhat irritating Ctrl+Alt+Del sequence before login, go to Start then Run. Type in gpedit.msc then hit OK. Go to Computer Configuration -> Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Local Policies then select the Security Options folder. Double click on Interactive logon: Do not require CTRL+ALT+DEL and select the Enabled radio button, then Apply and OK. This will no longer require the use of the 'three finger salute' before you log on.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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13 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
The next time you restart, as you won't need to use the Initial Configuration Tasks anymore, select the tick box at the bottom of the screen saying Do not show this window at logon and then hit Close. This screen will no longer bother you again.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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14 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
The services are the programs which not only run in the background and out of sight but keep Windows from ticking over. Some services need to be enabled to make sure you get the full 'Windows 7' experience, whereas others can be turned off. It's relatively straight forward once you get the knack of it.
Go to Start, then Administrative Tools and then Services. As you're logged in as the administrator (we'll fix this later) it should load straight up.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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15 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
When you come across a service, simply double click on it and change the startup type to either Automatic or Manual - each for the list below, and also select Start or Stop based on the list below.
Services to set to Automatic and to Start:
-- BranchCache
-- Print Spooler
-- Windows Audio
-- Windows Audio Endpoint Builder
-- Offline Files
-- Quality Windows Audio Video Experience
-- SSDP Discovery
-- Themes
-- Tablet PC Input Service (if you have a tablet/touch PC)
-- WLAN AutoConfig
-- Wired AutoConfig

Services to set to Manual and to Stop:
-- Windows Defender
-- Remote Registry
-- Windows Remote Management (WS-Management)
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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16 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Because this is a server operating system, Internet Explorer gets seriously locked down, making it very difficult to do even the simplest tasks. To disable Enhanced Security Configuration, click the Server Manager button in the taskbar, then select Configure IE ESC from the right hand pane. From here, select Off to both settings - for Administrators and Users - then click OK. Changes will be made immediately and there is no need for a restart.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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17 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Because having the administrator account by default can be a bit dangerous and cause all kinds of problems if you encounter malware, it's best to create a standard account to limit the scope that malware can have.
Go to Start, Control Panel, then User Accounts. Click on Manage another account then select Create a new account. On this screen, enter your new username and select Standard user, then click Create account. Done!
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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18 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
To customise the settings of your new account, select the account you have just created and go through each option to change the account password and change the account picture especially.
Once you are done, log out and log back in with your new user account details that you have just created. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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19 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
You'll be faced with pretty much the same desktop experience as before. But now that you are logged in as the correct user, you can start changing your user profile settings such as the theme.
Go to Start, Control Panel then Personalisation. Provided you have the correct hardware drivers installed, and that you have gone through previously and ensured the Desktop Experience features are added and that the Themes services is enabled, you should be able to click on the Windows 7 theme, enabling Aero Glass window features and the ability to change your background to the Windows 7 default.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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20 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
What's on your desktop is important. Just because this is actually 'Windows Server' doesn't mean you can't put icons on the desktop. While you're still in Personalisation, in the left hand pane click Change desktop icons and then select, add or remove icons from your desktop with the check boxes. Personally, I remove the Recycle Bin but everybody's different, so chop and change as much as you want.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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21 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
Now comes the more daunting task. From Start then Control Panel, you have nearly 40 different areas to customise. These are all the same Control Panel items as Windows 7 so there is nothing massively new or confusing in here. It's best to start with the Action Center and work your way all the way down to... well, Taskbar and Start Menu - as the remaining few can remain relatively untouched for ordinary users.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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22 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
At this point, it's quite difficult to notice that this operating system isn't in fact Windows 7. Some server relics are left behind, such as the icons on the taskbar. Simply right click on the Server Manager and Windows PowerShell and click Unpin this program from taskbar to get rid of them.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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23 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
To customise your taskbar and Start menu as you probably would have done through the Control Panel already, you might have missed one thing. One item you will not need (and should probably avoid, just to be on the safe side) is the Administrative Tools. In the wrong hands, these tools can be quite damaging on your precious computer.
Right click the taskbar and select Properties. Click on the Start Menu tab at the top then click Customise. Scroll to the bottom and under System administrative tools, select Don't display this item, then hit OK, Apply then a final OK.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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24 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
To make sure that you get the full visual effects out of what is essentially Windows 7, right click the Computer icon on the desktop and select Properties. Click on Advanced system settings in the left hand pane, then under Performance select the Settings button. For an easy life, just select the Adjust for best appearance radio button.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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25 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
While on this dialog box, select the Advanced tab, and under the Adjust for best performance of: section, select Programs. This ensures that memory allocation goes to running applications instead of behind-the-scenes services to ensure that your applications run as fast as they can be.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.
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26 of 26 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet
And still on this dialog box, select the Data Execution Prevention tab. DEP can be a bit trigger happy at times and can cause your computer to blue-screen if it feels it's under attack. This can be useful, but more often than not it's just plain annoying. Select the top radio box that says Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only to cut down the chance of your computer blue-screening and restarting on you.
To read more about this, head on over to the ZDNet iGeneration blog.

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