This topic comes up so often in so many places that I thought I’d compile a list of reasons why someone might run Windows Server 2003 on a workstation. If you have anything to add, please comment.
Reason 1) The Developer.
I’ll use this example first since it’s the one that applies to me. Developing applications that require Windows Server functions in many cases will require you to run Windows Server. Yes, there are alternatives… You can have a development workstation and a full test server, or you can run Windows Server in Virtual PC. But there are a great many cases where developing applications for ASP .NET, Windows Sharepoint Services, and other Server functions is made far, far easier by actually developing directly on that platform.
Reason 2) Workstation versions.
Windows XP “2002 Edition” is built on Windows NT 5.1.2600.
Windows Server 2003 is built on Windows NT 5.2.3790.
Windows XP “2003 Edition” for 64-bit Extended Systems is built on Windows NT 5.2.3790.
That OS is very clearly targeted at workstations (as the “XP Professional” branding indicates). It is, however, built upon the Windows Server 2003 codebase (in fact, it’s built on Windows Server 2003 SP1).
Reason 3) Terminal Services.
As was pointed out to me by a reader, Windows Server 2003 is used in countless organizations for its Terminal Services functionality for their desktop and workstation computers. In fact, one of the hospitals I work with uses Windows CE thin-clients for just that. In these cases, a great deal of desktop functionality is required.
Reason 4) Windows Server 2003 works wonderfully as a workstation OS.
It uses the same driver model as Windows XP. It includes DirectX 9 and all the desktop features of Windows XP Professional. It even includes Windows Media Player 9, and even some games! It includes the “Themes” service and the Windows XP “Luna” theme. It runs any program that Windows XP does, except where an installer or application explicitly checks the OS version number. And in those few cases, there are easy workarounds.
Do most people need Windows Server 2003 on their computers? Of course not. Should anyone illegally obtain Server 2003 to replace XP on their home computer? Again, of course not.
But are there valid reasons for users asking questions about non-server functions of Windows Server? Yes. In fact, there are several.
Please feel free to comment. I’ll add any pertinent information if there’s something I left out.