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Windows Server 2008 as a Workstation?

A number of resources for converting Windows Server 2008 into a workstation OS are popping up here and there on the Internet. These guides server exactly two audiences as far as I can tell:

1. Fools/dreamers/people with too much time on their hands.

2. The 17 people who actually need to run a server OS on a day-to-day basis.

Sorry, but you're only one of the two. If you're the latter, please enjoy yourself. But if you're not the latter and you're convinced you're not the former either, read on. Because you're just fooling yourself.

Here's why: Windows Server 2008 is much, much more expensive than Windows Vista. A cursory search of Windows Server 2008 at reveals that Microsoft's latest server OS doesn't come cheap: The mainstream Standard Edition is $699.99, while the very cheapest version, Web Server, is $389.99. (Would Windows Web Server 2008 even work as a workstation? I'd have to check, but then I'm not an idiot. At least not in this way.)

But what about Windows Vista? Do a search for Vista at NewEgg and the results are easier to live with (this despite all the complaints about how expensive it supposedly is). The retail packaging for the most expensive Vista edition, Ultimate, is just $289.99, $100 cheaper than the very cheapest Windows Server 2008 edition. But you can get Vista Ultimate for just $189.99 if you get the System Builder packaging, which, let's face it, is what people are buying on NewEgg. That's HALF the price of the cheapest version of Windows Server 2008.

But maybe you don't have to pay for Windows for some reason. You get MSDN through work or something. In such a case, you're living in a fantasy world anyway, but let's work with it. Why would you go through all the work to configure Windows Server 2008 so that it looks and behaves almost exactly like Vista, but not quite exactly? Because you're convinced that Windows Server 2008 somehow performs better than Vista. But that's a lie: Windows Server 2008 and Vista are based on exactly the same source code. If you turned off all the visual features in Vista, it would fly just as fast as Windows Server 2008, especially if you turned on every single interactive feature that's been disabled in Windows Server. They're the same OS.

Compatibility is, to me, a bigger problem. There are just too many applications that will check specifically for certain Windows versions for this to be viable. All it takes is that one application. Just ask anyone who's tried an x64 version of Vista to know the folly of doing the wrong thing for what you think are the right reasons.

Using Windows Server 2008 as a workstation OS may sound like a good idea. But it's just an exercise in expense, wasted time, and, ultimately, folly. Microsoft makes a great workstation OS. It's called Windows Vista with SP1. And I'm a big fan.

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