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Thursday, February 21, 2019

What’s the Difference Between Windows and Windows Server?

Windows Server Manager Dashboard

Microsoft offers desktop and server versions of Windows. At first glance Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 look similar, but each has different uses. Windows 10 excels at everyday use, while Windows Server manages many computers, files, and services.

Windows 10 and Windows Server Share Similar Code

If you load up a clean copy of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, it would be easy to confuse the two at first. They can have the same desktop, same start button, and even the same task view button. They use the same kernel and can feasibly run the same software. You can, for instance, install Google Chrome or Microsoft Office on both.

But the similarities stop there. Microsoft designed Windows 10 for use as a desktop you sit in front of, and Windows Server as a server (it’s right there in the name) that runs services people access across a network. While Windows Server does have a desktop option, Microsoft recommends installing Windows Server without a Graphical User Interface (or removing it), leaving just a command line to work which reduces the overhead needed to run the server. This includes a push to choose Nano Server, which drops the GUI and local login capabilities in exchange for using far less space than the standard Server install.

Windows Server Includes Server Software

Select Server roles dialog

If you have the GUI enabled, moments after Windows Server loads, a Server Manager program launches showing the first distinct difference in the two Operating Systems. Here you can add on server-specific features like Windows Deployment services, DHCP services, and Active Directory Domain Services. These features allow deployment of an OS remotely to other machines, the creation of static IP address for client machines, control of a network domain for joining other computers to a domain, and creating domain users. Features like these aren’t available for Windows 10 natively, although you could install third-party software like the Apache web server.

Also, Windows Server supports features like SMB Direct for faster file sharing, greater support for Resilient File System, the only way to get similar features without Server is to use Windows 10 Pro for Workstations.

Servers are designed to work in conjunction as well, so you may have one server fulfilling one or two of the roles above, and another server taking on other roles to spread the work.

Windows Server Supports Higher-End Hardware

Windows Server also supports more powerful hardware. While Windows 10 Pro has a max limit of 2 TB of RAM, Windows Server allows for 24 TB. A desktop user is unlikely even to consider such a large amount of RAM, but servers can make good use of their greater RAM capacity, between managing many users, computers, and potential VMs through Hyper-V.

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