Update (12-Jan-09): The latest Windows Live Essentials installer supports Windows Server 2008 (including x64), so no more hacks are necessary to get Messenger and/or Live Writer to work.
Update (7-Jan-09): Check out the addendum on Hyper-V performance issues below.
I’ve been using the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2008 as my development platform for the last few weeks, and have been quite happy with it. Following is a more or less verbatim transcript of the e-mail I sent out to the development guys at Delver, which may of be of some benefit to others:
Like it or not, this operating system does need more memory, but it also handles more memory (unlike 32-bit Windows which is practically limited to 3.3 [or so] GB). With 4GB on this machine I run the following applications constantly and it hardly ever swaps:
- Google Chrome (with a buttload of tabs)
- Total Commander
- Process Explorer
- Visual Studio 2005 + ReSharper 3.1.1
- Live Messenger
As an aside, this is also a list of software I currently use and recommend
Practically every application I’ve tried so far works (the exception being the file monitor in MediaMonkey, I’ve an open bug on this). I also make it a point to try x64 versions of software where available, and these are the important bits you should know:
- Eclipse has a 64-bit version (which runs on 64-bit JREs). I tried it for a bit and it appears to work fine, but are there some problems with Subclipse (the integration plug-in for Subversion). Subclipse can work in one of two modes: using a Java-native Subversion client library, which is unfortunately very unstable (the IDE simply crashes after 5-10 operations), or a native-code thunking API called JavaHL. The Subclipse distribution only comes with 32-bit binaries, however, and I couldn’t find 64-bit JavaHL binaries (the SlikSVN x64 client works like a charm, but doesn’t come with a JavaHL implementation). For this reason I’d recommend the following:
- Install a 32-bit JRE on your machine (the latest JRE is recommended). Either set your JRE_HOME accordingly or (preferably) use the -vm flag for the Eclipse launcher.
- Install a 64-bit JDK for development purposes. Configure Eclipse (via Windows->Preferences->Java->Installed JREs) to use the 64-bit JDK as the default runtime. This lets you develop on a 64-bit VM.
- If you use YourKit Java Profiler, make sure to install the integration plug-in in 64-bit mode (it lets you decide) if you use a 64-bit VM for development.
- Checkpoint VPN-1 SecuRemote (the Checkpoint VPN client) has no x64 version, which means it simply cannot be installed. I resorted to a Windows XP 32-bit virtual machine running on Hyper-V for when I need VPN access. Hurray for Checkpoint.
- Visual Studio 2005: Just install it as you normally would, along with ReSharper. You don’t need to do anything, and debug sessions for .NET code start as 64-bit processes. One caveat: it appears that the 64-bit debugger does not support edit-and-continue; if this is really an issue for you, here are instructions on running the debugee as a 32-bit image.
The various Microsoft Live! installers (Messenger, Writer, etc.) don’t support Windows Server 2008, even though the products themselves do. A quick Google search will get you instructions on how to install them anyway (use the individual MSIs directly). (12-Jan-09) No longer relevant, just download the latest installer.
- The following applications have native x64 versions that “just work”:
- Eclipse (other than the problem described above). The version is not easy to find, you have to go through the Other Downloads page any find the x86_64 build.
- MySQL. Everything works as you’d expect.
- Gimp has an experimental x64 version which, again, isn't that easy to find: you have to go via the SourceForge project page and look in the stable releases. So far this version seems quite fast and robust.
Things To Do
You’ll probably want to perform these steps to get the environment closer to what you’re used to:
- Disable the annoying shutdown event tracker.
- Disable Internet Explorer enhanced security mode.
- Start->right click on Computer->Properties->Advanced System Settings->Performance Settings...->Advanced and select Programs instead of Background Services (changes the paging behavior and makes everything much more responsive).
- To get a more Vista-like look:
- Install the Desktop Experience feature from the Server Manager
- Change the “Themes” service startup mode from Disabled to Automatic
- Right-click your desktop->Personalize->Theme and change to Windows Vista
- Right-click your desktop->Personalize->Window Color and Appearance and change to Windows Aero
- If you want audio:
- Change the Windows Audio service’s startup mode from Disabled to Automatic.
- If you get audio stuttering, change the registry key HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Multimedia\SystemProfile\SystemResponsiveness from 100 (0x64) to 20 (0x14)
If you want to use virtualization (Hyper-V), make sure you update to the latest BIOS (I had an older BIOS installed that didn’t have an updated processor microcode) and enable the feature in the BIOS menu (usually disabled by default).
- It’s fast (feels way snappier than Vista)
- 64-bit OS (closer to our actual production environment)
- Virtualization support (Hyper-V)
Update: Hyper-V and Multimedia Performance
Apparently installing the Hyper-V role can have some repercussions when it comes to multimedia performance in Windows. Specifically, when running under the hypervisor you may experience very high CPU spikes (mostly kernel time) when starting up any DirectShow-based application (e.g. Windows Media Player or the considerably better Media Player Classic Home-cinema) or a remote desktop session. These will effect make your machine freeze for 5-10 seconds.
According to the rather insightful comments here, this quite likely has to do with NVidia drivers though I have not yet verified this. I don't have consistent need for Hyper-V so I simply disabled it, which resolved the problem. If you require virtualization and still want proper multimedia support you may have to resort to ATi cards.