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I have a MSDN (Accademic alliance) subscription, and I have a rack mountable box, (I can't remember whats in it anymore but it has 2 CPUs and 1 GB of DDR 2 ram. I remember when I was given it (12 months ago) is was one of something called a Delta or a Charlie) I feel the need to improve my skills, by muching around with a windows server. (I've never use one before, or indeed ever set up any kind of server. (used plenty of linux ones though))

So I went on MSDN AA, and downloaded Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 x64 I wasn't paying attention and now (after I burnt it to one of my precious few remaining DVD) from my reading I don't think its appropriate for my needs.

The others on MSDN are: Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Datacenter-Enterprise-Standard Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard-Enterprise-Datacenter-Web

Which is good for someone who has never worked with a windows server before?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Server 2008 is analogous to Windows Vista.

Server 2008 R2 is analogous to Windows 7.

Datacentre and Enterprise are the same OS (just different license agreements), Standard has 95% of the features of Enterprise, and Web is strictly for web hosting, nothing else.

HPC is definately not the one you want. For 99% of stuff, "Standard" is fine. You can see a complete comparison here.

The only question is now which version to run - 2008 or 2008 R2.

2008 R2 is ONLY available as 64-bit, so you need to make sure your server is 64-bit capable. Otherwise, 2008 is your only choice.

However, you might have a bit of a problem, as 1Gb RAM is not really enough to run any modern Windows OS, let alone the server version. Also, just because it's dual-CPU doesn't mean they're going to be fast CPUs (especially if it's only got 1Gb ram, that indicates it could be a Pentium-3 or early Pentium-4 class server). So you might not be able to run either 2008 or 2008 R2.

Which only leaves you with Windows Server 2003, and if you're playing to learn, I probably wouldn't bother as there's not much point in learning something that's almost 10 years old unless you have a specific need for it.

Note that there are a lot of Windows Server 2003 installations still in production today, so you will almost definately run into one of them in your lifetime if you get into this properly, however 2003 and 2008 are chalk and cheese in a lot of things, so you almost have to learn everything twice. So start with the new one, and then retro-fit your knowledge if you need to.

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thanks, I can always grab more DDR2 Ram, its pretty common/cheap stuff. the CPUs are abit more of a problem, but I remember it was at least equiv to a pentium 4, so we'll see how this goes. –  Oxinabox Jun 20 '11 at 5:44
    
+1 - I'll just add that Standard allows one additional virtual machine instance, Enterprise allows four total instances on a physical machine, and Datacentre allows unlimited virtual machines. –  paradroid Jun 20 '11 at 5:49
    
Also, MSND AA shows a 32 bit version avaible to me... –  Oxinabox Jun 20 '11 at 5:50
    
Since I'll not be using 4GB of ram am i better to go for hte 32Bit version of Server 2008 R2? –  Oxinabox Jun 20 '11 at 5:59
    
@Oxinabox - Correct, < 4gb, use 32-bit –  Mark Henderson Jun 20 '11 at 6:06
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From a "playing to learn" point-of-view, I would not worry too much about your first foray into the server arena being Windows Server 2003. The principles are pretty much the same. There are a few differences, but lots to learn and it will give you a simpler starting point. I have been managing a Windows Server 2003 for the past 4 years and have been using them for many more and the transition to 2008 is minor. The interface is Windows 7, but it is entirely intuitive and any major changes are cosmetic. I have managed to transfer 90% of my GPOs to the new server and adjust the bits that wouldn't transfer. There are obvious things like bitlocker and bitlocker-to-go policies and Applocker, but play, learn, have fun, don't worry, make use of your older computer and I have palyed with great success on many different computers and Virtual machines with server 2008. In fact, if you like you could install XP on a computer and run W2k8r2 64 bit in a VPC 2007 environment, with 1GB it works fine. A little slow in places, but just turn off the visual effects and stuff and it is good to play with.

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