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Which is more recommended for a stable desktop workstation.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Well, XP is a desktop OS and 2003 is a server OS. That pretty much makes XP the desktop choice of the two, and also by far the most-used Microsoft desktop OS at the moment.

Edit: To expand on the above, as a desktop OS, XP has wider driver support for random hardware. You're also less likely to run into issues with software that does naive version-checking. Finally, the UI is a little bit different, and designed by default with more of a desktop workflow in mind.

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XP and 2003 use the same drivers - However some software is artifically unable to run on 2003, especially security related ones. On the other hand XP IS awefully stable, and the speed difference isn't much, so... I don't think there's a huge benefit from running 2003 even if its a little faster.

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Windows 2003 Server tweaked as desktop OS is faster, more reliable and stable than Windows XP (by a country mile). of course, this comes at a price, the $999 tag is a real showstopper here. :)

drivers are not really an issue, most mainstream hardware works just as well as in XP.

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As noted by another answer utility software (e.g. Fine Print) needs a server version to run on Server 2003. If this is important then you need to stick with XP.

On the other hand, Server 2003 IIS is V6 (vs. 5.1 in XP) and allows multiple web sites (e.g. different host names or ports can have different default folders) and is significantly more advanced (major version newer). If you are doing web site development then you may well need 2003.

Another option would be to use Win7. This includes IIS7.5 (with the ability to define multiple web sites) and is a client OS for other software.

(Licensing costs should not be an issue: you do have an MSDN subscription don't you?)

Personally, I previously used 2003 on my workstation (and was annoyed by not being able to use some utility software). These days I use Win7 (with VMs for when I need a server install).

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If you're contemplating this question, you might be better off with a Linux Workstation. I know this might seem like an odd answer to your question, but if you're looking for an OS that is stable and reliable for desktop use, one of the major desktop Linuxes is probably your best bet. Hardware support is excellent these days too unless you're using a Lexmark Printer. If this is going to be a "serious" machine, you could certainly do worse since I doubt you'll be using the machine for gaming.

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Gee thanks downvoters. My point was that if the question is "which is the recommended more stable desktop workstation: XP or 2003", the real answer is "neither". What this user appears to be looking for can't be found there. – Solaris Dec 20 '09 at 17:15
I use Ubuntu extensively and agree with you, it is very stable and great for dev work. – Daniel Jan 13 '10 at 4:29

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