There are two general types of operating system in this world: server operating systems and desktop operating systems. As a rule, server operating systems are built for stability and security, while desktop operating systems – the kind you run on your personal PC – are built for flexibility and accessibility.
As a general rule, you don’t want to run a server operating system on your desktop PC. In fact, the only people that should run a server OS on their desktop or laptop computers are people that write software for servers, Quality Assurance (QA) testers, and certain IT guys that use their computers for testing purposes. But that hasn’t stopped a few misguided people that think it’s “cool” or “edgy” from running a server on their desktop. You know the type – “Look at me! I’m too cool for Windows XP! I’m running Windows Server 2003!”
And so, for the past few years, both myself and most of the posters at the Ars Technica forums have heaped scorn and ridicule upon people that run Windows Server 2003 as their desktop operating system. But then Windows Vista came out. And then Windows Server 2008 came out and changed everything.
As I noted in my News for 03/12/2008 post, many people are finding out the Windows Server 2008 can be easily tweaked to look and feel almost just like Windows Vista, yet Server 2008 runs around 20-30% faster than Vista on the same hardware. I found these numbers intriguing, and did some additional research… which led me to this site, which offers a free guide for tweaking Server 2008 to make it look like Windows Vista. I got myself a free copy of Windows Server 2008 (thanks, Microsoft!) and went to town. I eventually ended up with this:
Yep, that’s Server 2008 running on my desktop PC (click the picture to “embiggen”). It does, in fact, look and act like Windows Vista. But it’s not 20% faster than Vista on my computer… it seems like it’s 40% faster than Windows Vista! In fact, I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve experienced so far. Running Windows Vista on my computer – a circa 2003 Asus P4GE-V motherboard with a Northwood P4 (3.06GHz with HT), 2GB of RAM, a Radeon x1300 Pro video card and three PATA hard drives – was like installing Windows XP on a P133 with 32MB of RAM. But Windows Server 2008 – even with the eye candy turned on – only feels slightly slower than Windows XP on this box. In fact, Server 2008 acts like what I thought Vista would act like on this computer!
Feel free to try this out for yourself – I’m actually dying to find out if it works as well for you as it does for me. Keep in mind, though, that there are a few caveats to running a Windows Server operating system. Some programs are incompatible with Server 2008 (they most likely wouldn’t run under Vista, either). Also, many system utilities – such as disk defraggers and anti-virus apps – will check the operating system when you try to install them, see the word “Server” in the name and refuse to install. In most cases, the reason for this is not technical, but one of greed. Since it’s mostly companies that run servers, and since companies have deep pockets, many vendors offer a “Home” or “Personal” edition of their software for home users and a (much more expensive) “Professional” or “Server” version for servers. Although in most cases the software is exactly the same, the prices sure aren’t.
If you decide to run Windows Workstation 2008 (or are already running it), please leave a comment and tell me how it’s going for you!