‘Crapware’-free: Longhorn Server does not include useless desktop apps

by Bharat Suneja

We’ve been hearing a lot about ‘crapware‘ apps installed by hardware vendors on desktops and laptops – apps like AOL (or other ISP) software, myriad browser add-ins and toolbars, trial versions of anti-virus, firewall, and security software that you may never use – perhaps because your organization has standardized on some more manageable enterprise versions of such apps, or the apps installed are either not the the ones you would choose, or they’re completely useless. Annoying as it is to get these apps installed by default, what’s even more annoying is the fact that most vendors generally give you no choice to get a computer with a “clean”/base operating system installed.

Given the razor-thin margins in the PC industry, vendors cannot resist augmenting their bottom line through such deals with application vendors.

However, little attention has been paid to the crapware that comes with the operating system itself. For instance, why does a server OS need Windows Media Player installed by default? Cursors of different shapes and sizes? Themes and wallpapers? NetMeeting? It’s a long list.

It’s a common practice in many organizations, where servers are deployed/redeployed on a regular basis, to build a secure server image sans all these apps and services that are of no use on a server (further locked down using the organization’s secure server build procedures).

Luckily, that’s not the case with Longhorn server. None of the crapware or desktop-like apps get installed by default. Should you want to, features like “Desktop Experience” can be installed.

Click here for a complete screenshot

Additionally, Server Core – a barebones install of the OS sans the Windows Explorer GUI interface (can be managed locally from the commandline or remotely from a workstation with management tools installed), and purposing a server based on server roles – 17 of them available in Beta3, ensures Longhorn servers are leaner, with a reduced attack surface.

It’s important to realize that the Windows management experience is going to change from the everything-turned-on-by-default model of previous versions of Windows (server and client OSes), where you disabled or removed the components you did not need, to one where you get a basic install that makes the OS functional, requiring other components to be added/enabled/configured later, as required.

One component that does get installed by default is Internet Explorer. It would be great to get rid of this as well – though a web browser may be seen as an essential component of the OS by many, particularly – as the argument goes – for the ability to download patches/updates/drivers, etc., do you really want to browse web sites from the server? Using IE?

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