One of the first thing you might want to do, once you have installed Server 2008 R2 is get the Windows Aero features back. The classic theme just does not fit everyone’s taste, so here is how to get all that Aero goodness back.

Note: The rest of this article assumes that you have completed the Installing the Windows Desktop Experience section in part 1 of the series.

Installing Drivers

Whether your graphics are powered by Intel, AMD or NVidia you are going to have to head to your manufacturers website and download the proper drivers for your device. Server 2008 R2 does in fact include video drivers, but these are basic drivers that will not let you get the Aero experience we are looking to get. Although the rest of this guide will work with out doing this step, you will only be able to get the Basic Themes, that is, no Aero features such as transparency.

Enabling Themes

As with most things that are not required for Server 2008 R2, the components required to have non-classic themes are disabled by default. Even though we have installed the Windows Desktop Experience in the first part of the series, the components were installed but not enabled. In order to get the Themes working we have to manually set the Themes Services to start up every time Windows boots. We do this using the Services MMC, the quickest way to get there is to press the Win + R key combination, type services.msc and hit enter.

Scroll down until you get to the Themes Service

Double-click on it, to open its properties

As you can see, by default, the Themes Service is disabled, so go ahead and change it to startup automatically


Click ok, then go ahead and reboot your PC. When its back up and running, right-click on the Desktop and select the Personalize from the context menu. Once the Personalization dialog opens select the Aero Theme.

HTG - DC1 - Windows Server 2008 R2 x64-2011-12-18-09-44-58

You may think that’s all there is to it, but there is still one last thing that needs to be done. We need to optimize Windows for appearance. To do that, again, press the Win + R key combination, this time type sysdm.cpl and hit enter.

When the System Properties dialog opens, switch over to the Advanced tab and under the performance section click on the settings button.

You will need to switch the radio button over to the option that says Adjust for best appearance then click on ok.

Now you will have all the eye candy that you are used to in Windows 7. Up next, we’ll cover how to enable sound in Server 2008 and then turning on Search.

RELATED: Using Server 2008 R2 as a Desktop OS: Sound (Part 3)

Profile Photo for Taylor Gibb Taylor Gibb
Taylor Gibb is a professional software developer with nearly a decade of experience. He served as Microsoft Regional Director in South Africa for two years and has received multiple Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) awards. He currently works in R&D at Derivco International.
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