Configure Windows Server to be used as a desktop

Using Windows Server editions for VDI instead of the Desktop editions can be an attractive option, because Microsoft uses a different licensing scheme. The Desktop editions require a VDA license in order to be used as virtual desktops, which is a subscription license, paid yearly. On the other hand, the Datacenter edition of Windows Server is paid once and allows you to virtualize any number of Windows Server instances on your VDI platform. The Datacenter license may seem expensive, but it is usually cheaper than the VDA license after the second year, for the same number of desktops.

However, Windows Server editions are a bit "uncomfortable" to use as a desktop with their default settings. In this document we briefly explain how to make them more user-friendly.

Windows Server 2016

Begin by selecting the "Windows Server 2016 with Desktop Experience" installation type. In previous versions you would have to also install the Themes module, while in this version it is automatically included.

Enable sound

Go to the Services application and look for the "Windows Audio" service. Set its startup type to automatic and start it now.

Disable the Shutdown Event Tracker

Open the group policy editor. Select the item at "Computer configuration" → "Administrative templates" → "System" → "Display Shutdown Event Tracker" and disable it.

Disable IE Enhanced security configuration

Open the Server Manager and select Local Server. On the right, select "IE Enhanced Security Configuration" and set it to off.

Enable Adobe FlashPlayer

On an Administrator Terminal window, run the command:

dism /online /add-package /packagepath:"C:\Windows\Servicing\Packages\Adobe-Flash-For-Windows-Package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~10.0.14393.0.mum"

Optimize performance for VDI

Look for the "Performance of Windows" application with the search box and open it. In the Advanced tab, select "Adjust for best performance of: Programs" and disable the page file. In the "Visual Effects" tab disable those you do not need, since they penalize VDI systems.

Allow regular users to shutdown the system

You can assign this in either a GPO or Local Security Policy. Run as administrator gpedit.msc

The setting that you're looking for is in Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment > Shutdown the system


Fix Windows Server Essentials Experience Configuration wizard opening on session login.

If you installed the Essential edition, this can be an annoying problem. The normal procedure is to open the Server Manager, and then "Remove Roles & Features", "Windows Server Essentials Experience". This wizard should not appear when the Windows Essentials Experience is not installed. Unfortunately, it does.

Open regedit, look in HKLM/software/microsoft/windows/current version/run and delete the essentials wizard key.