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I installed Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter on my Sony VGN-Z56TG laptop. After I finished installing it, I noticed that some features in Windows 8.1 were missing from it, and some other limitations. Examples:

  1. I cannot connect to Wi-Fi networks.
  2. I cannot sign in with a Microsoft account.
  3. I cannot decorate the Start screen or change the system colors.
  4. The Store is not available. Attempting to launch Internet Explorer Modern merely launches the desktop version.
  5. The operating system did not detect the proper resolution for my laptop screen and is not letting me change it from 1024x768. Also, I can't change the screen brightness from the brightest, wasting my battery life when not plugged in. Additionally, it hurts my eyes, and I have to switch to High Contrast Black to minimize the effects.

(As I said above, the limitations presented here are examples. There are more limitations besides the five that I listed here.)

How can I enable features like those in Windows Server 2012 R2? In other words, how do I sort of "combine" the UI functionality of Windows 8.1 with the server functionality of Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter? I would prefer to do it without a third party tool, because I am a little afraid of installing unnecessary stuff (including adware) on the system.

Update: I did the things suggested in the comments and the answer and solved the first problem of not being able to connect to Wi-Fi networks, and partially fixed the third problem of not being able to change the system colors, but I still can't decorate the Start screen. The second problem seems solvable to me by changing a Group Policy setting. I also partially solved the fourth problem of not having the Store, but I get an error that says that I can't use the Store with the default Administrator account when I try to use it, which I think I can solve by creating another account. However, (as far as I know) the Store requires you to sign in with a Microsoft account, so I still can't use the Store due to the second limitation even though I've managed to install the Store. The Internet Explorer Modern tile on the Start screen is still launching the desktop version.

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Are you sure you have all drivers installed? Fifth issue is usually caused by missing drivers for GPU and manufacturer-specific power management extensions. –  gronostaj Dec 17 '13 at 11:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted
+50

You will find some of your questions answered in the article :
Convert your Windows Server 2012 to a Workstation!
which contains many more adaptations than you have asked for in your post.

The section Windows 8 UI Internet Explorer especially shows how to make Internet Explorer run as Windows 8 UI application when started from the Start screen. As this involves registry changes I have not replicated it here.

The problem of using an Online Microsoft Account (Windows Live authentication) is still unsolved in that forum.

That said, I would second the comments that advise against using Windows Server 2012 R2 on a laptop. It would be more preferable to run Windows 8 with Server 2012 as a virtual machine, which would give you a better user experience.

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In addition to what is here, to fix the fifth issue, I installed the driver (after countless searching attempts, I finally found it): sony-asia.com/support/download/358697 (for Sony VGN-Z56TG, my specific laptop, which is an Asian model) (Even though they say that they are for Windows 7 x64, they worked for Windows Server 2012 R2 as well) –  deleteme Feb 26 at 22:33

Open an elevated PowerShell and run:

Add-WindowsFeature Desktop-Experience

among other stuff, this will install the Windows store which lets you download other modern apps.

I'm not sure whether this solves all your problems, but it is a start.

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This fixes some of the problems, but does not answer my question entirely. –  deleteme Oct 28 '13 at 16:51

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