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I'm setting up a terminal server for a 5 user company to replace ageing windows xp desktops. At the moment I'm experimenting with internet radio streaming because a couple of users are accustomed to their radio streams playing in the background as they work :(

After extensive testing and trial and error I have determined that the audio quality depends upon Windows Media Player (WMP) being installed. The streams the users access are always the same via Tunein.com and the Flash streams are too choppy to be acceptable.

I've installed WMP via the "Desktop Experience" feature, but I'm not keen on all the other features that get installed e.g. themes, defender. I have not been able to find any information regarding the standalone installation of WMP, so I tried VLC and that seemed to work fine.

Although, VLC is an option I would like to ask for any alternative solutions to the radio streaming requirement of my users ;)

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Technically not an "alternative", but could be used with your initial solution. After you install Desktop Experience, you can disable the other features:

  • Themes, just disable the Windows Service
  • Windows Defender, just disable the Windows Service
  • Sound Recorder, remove from start menu once installed, or apply a Software Restriction
  • Windows SideShow, not sure about this one. Chances of it being used are slim; has anyone ever actually seen a SideShow compatible device?
  • Disk Cleanup, the users most likely won't have permission to run this anyway
  • Sync Center, apply GPO to block
  • Character Map, harmless and actually very useful for some people
  • Snipping Tool, harmless and actually very useful for some people
  • Video for Windows (AVI support), I suspect this is going to be required for WMP to work

I'm not 100% sure on this, but I believe the reason Desktop Experience is required to be installed is because Windows Server lacks a lot of the underlying functions that WMP requires to run.

However, note the following on the Technet article:

Installing Desktop Experience does not automatically turn on any of the features it installs. After installation, you must manually enable any features that require configuration changes. For example, to use a desktop theme, use the Services snap-in for Microsoft Management Console to enable and start the Themes service, and then select the theme.

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Great information Mark! I wasn't aware that the features are not enabled by default. –  joshu Aug 29 '12 at 22:31
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