Windows Server 2008 (and in particular, R2) uses an overall approach to functionality that is considerably different that it’s Windows desktop cousin. Windows desktop is all about maximum flexibility. The Windows Server approach is to be ‘lean and mean’ –> meaning that the out-of-the-box experience is limited to very basic operations. Recently I learned this when I found that my Thinkpad T61p wireless card didn’t work with Windows Server 2008 R2. Turns out you have to enable the Wireless LAN Service feature to get the wireless card to work. With Windows desktop, it is turned on by-default, but I guess a Windows Server OS isn’t supposed to use a wireless card
So how does this impact PowerPivot?? One of the things not installed by-default is the ‘Desktop Experience’ feature. This means that WebDAV is not enabled by in a Windows Server desktop. And WebDAV is the protocol that SharePoint uses to make a SharePoint site look like a file share. And unfortunately it is the way that many of the Excel features use for browsing a web site.
If you don’t have the ‘Desktop Experience’ role enabled, then you will notice that Excel desktop (when you install it on your server) will no longer be able to browser for SharePoint sites; nor will you be able to “Publish to SharePoint”. This is a common issue with many administrators that are also trying to use their server for desktop applications, such as Excel.
Also, as you can see in the screenshot, you also need to disable IE ESC otherwise SharePoint Central Admin (and all of the SharePoint pages) will not render properly.
Fortunately, the solution is simple: Just add the ‘Desktop Experience’ role to your server and you are good to go.