When attempting to install the Desktop Experience component on Windows Server 2008, it may fail with the following error:
<Error>: Attempt to install Desktop Experience failed with error code 0x8000FFFF. Catastrophic failure (Exception from HRESULT: 0x8000FFFF (E_UNEXPECTED))
This issue can occur if the Desktop Experience component has previously been installed and uninstalled. Several Windows Updates which include Media Player components are installed if the Desktop Experience is installed, but they are not removed if it is later uninstalled. These updated components can cause the reinstallation of the Desktop Experience to fail due to being newer than expected. These updates are known to include:
Uninstall any of these updates that are installed on the system, reinstall the Desktop Experience component and then reinstall these updates.
Microsoft has confirmed this to be a problem with the products listed above.