Convert your VPS/Dedicated server into an always-on workstation

There are many ways to get your work done while on the road. E-mail/Calendar/Files can be accessed by numerous online applications. But nothing beats having your own desktop available online wherever your are. Since there aren’t many of these solutions available online the best way to go is converting your Windows Virtual Private Server or Dedicated server to a fully-configured windows desktop. Since these servers are configured to be used as some kind of server, we need to make some configuration settings before we can use it as a desktop.

Step 1, The base server:
The first step is to acquire a windows server 2008 dedicated server, for rent from € 40,- per month. Make sure it is Server 2008 Standard or above, preferably R2, which will give you a windows 7 experience.

Step 2, enabling desktop experience.
Desktop will provide you with windows 7 components and features like: Windows Media Player – Desktop themes – Video for Windows (AVI support) – Windows Defender – Disk Cleanup – Snipping Tool and some more

  1. Login to your server using remote desktop.
  2. Open Server Manager: click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and click Server Manager.
  3. In the Features Summary section, click Add features.
  4. Select the Desktop Experience check box, and then click Next.
  5. Complete the wizard by clicking Install.
  6. click ‘features’ and click ‘add features’. Check the ‘desktop experience’ box and click next and finish. After this is installed you are able to
  7. Click start, and enter services.msc in the ‘find’ area and press enter
  8. Change the properties of the ‘Themes’ and ‘Windows Audio’ service to automatic and start both services.
  9. Follow these instructions to enable sound over RDP in server 2008 R2

Please note that to be able to enable the windows 7 theme you have to log in localy first. In an rdp session the themes will be greyed out.

 

Step 3, let your server know it’s a desktop.
To make sure your applications will get priority over background processes, we need to switch the processor scheduling from background to programs.

  1. Click Start, right click on Computer and select Properties.
  2. click Advanced system settings on the left side of the screen.
  3. In the Performance section click Settings.
  4. Click on the tab Advanced, select Programs
  5. Click on the tab Data Execution Prevention, select  Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only
  6. click OK twice.

 

Step 4, enable file indexing.
For your outlook to work properly, and to be able to search files and documents quickly you should enable the indexing service.

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Server Manager.
  2. In the console tree of Server Manager, right-click Roles, and then click Add Roles.
  3. In the Add Roles Wizard, click Next.
  4. On the Select Server Roles page, click to select the File Services check box, and then click Next. On the File Services page, click Next.
  5. On the Select Roles Services page, click to select the Indexing Service check box under Windows Server 2003 File Services, and then click Next.
  6. On the Confirm Installation Selections page, click Install.
  7. Follow the instructions in the Add Roles Wizard to complete the
    installation.

Please note that you manually have to add your document folders to be indexed. You can do this by right-clicking the specific folder, selecting properties and ticking “allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties” on the properties screen.

Step 5, disable Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Confiuration.
By default, Internet explorer enhanced security configuration will prevent you to browse normaly by blocking almost all websites.

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Server Manager.
  2. Under the Server Summary click Configure IE ESC.
  3. A dialog box appears, select Off under administrators or users depending on your user type.
  4. Click OK and close the server manager.
  5. Restart your browser if necessary.

Step 6, install your applications.
You are now free to install your own applications like Microsoft/Open Office, (voice)chat applications, developer tools, photo-edit tools, alternate browser etc.

Step 7, organise file sync with your mobile devices and home/office desktop
To be able to access all your documents and files i currently use Dropbox, this makes sure i can work with the same documents when i’m not logged in to my remote workstation. Sign up for a free 2GB account here.

Feel free to point out more tips, tricks and tools in the comment field below.

 

3 thoughts on “Convert your VPS/Dedicated server into an always-on workstation

  1. Pingback: Installing Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V as LAB and UC workstation « msunified.net

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