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When I rebuild my desktop, I'm thinking of using server hardware instead of desktop hardware. I want to do this so I can easily add a lot of ECC memory (~20GB), and possibly more than one processor. I know that video hardware could be a problem, especially because I use 4 monitors. I should be fine with this, as long as I have two pci-e channels.

Are there any downsides to doing this? Anything I'm not seeing?

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migrated from serverfault.com Jun 10 '10 at 15:58

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Is that a high enough specification on a desktop PC? –  Richard Holloway Jun 9 '10 at 22:20
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Noise. Multiple, big fans are probably going to roar under your desk. –  Carl Campos Jun 10 '10 at 0:03

4 Answers 4

Generally this is possible with the following catches:

  • Current server hardware is almost always more expensive than its desktop equivalent
  • Fully Buffered server RAM and the slots that house it are not compatable with regular RAM, or vice-versa. Pound-for-Pound, server RAM is way more expensive than desktop-grade stuff.
  • Servers run loud and draw lots of power. There have been modern gains in power efficiency but they still draw mucho power
  • Servers run much louder and hotter than desktop components
  • Driver availability for server hardware running desktop operating systems is sometimes an issue, but generally the driver models are unified between Server 2003 & XP, and Vista/7 & Server 2008, so you can normally find a combination that works.
  • Be careful with the PCI-e channels. Modern GPUs often need x16 to function, and many servers come with x16 size slots but only x8 lanes available within the slot.
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On a sidenote: Some manufacturers like Apple and Lenovo ships server components (like Xeon) in their flagship desktop PCs. Since they are more powerful (usually). Basically yeah what Chris said. Louder, more power. But that's all. If you can isolate it for example and got enough to pay the bill, you're good to go. –  Shiki Jun 10 '10 at 18:12

That doesn't sound like server hardware, more like workstation level kit - either way you'll be just fine, I had a Proliant as a desktopfor years with no issue at all.

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Depending on the chassis and fans used, noise may be a problem.

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The problem here is the definition of "server." Just what is server hardware? Personally, and I think must people agree, server hardware has built in redundancies, fault tolernaces, and failovers.

True "server" hardware, like you find on enterprise servers, will not fit in a standard computer case. Often the cases are proprietary to allow for the extra components on a "server" class machine. Things like multiple PSUs, RAID controllers, disk bays, external connections, fans, etc...

With this extra protection, you will be paying more for the hardware.

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