I use Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit on my main PC - a reasonably powerful machine. At the moment it is going through major instability and its time for a reformat. Being a student, I can use Windows Server 2008R2 for free under the Microsoft Dreamspark programme.

I'm trying to figure out if I should install as a desktop OS. I'm wondering if I'd get any benefits out of using it over Vista. I was thinking that:

  • It'd be more stable then Vista
  • It would have the Win 7 Stuff (which is in R2) without me having to get Win 7
  • Teach me to use the system

Would it be worthwhile doing? Or too much bother for what it is? Thanks for any advice

  • Keep in mind that if you are eligible for DreamSpark you should also be eligible for Microsoft's academic pricing for Office and Windows. For a while, Win7 was just $30; now it's gone up to $65. You should also check to see if your school has an MSDNAA subscription, in which case you may be able to get Windows 7 for free.
    – nhinkle
    Nov 4, 2010 at 3:06

8 Answers 8


Off the top pf my head, there are these disadvantages:

  • No DirectX for sound and graphics (although you can probably manually install it)
  • No BDA drivers for TV cards
  • Fewer installable drivers in general
  • No Bluetooth
  • No IrDA support (not used much these days anyway)
  • Some desktop software will refuse to install, because of licencing issues on a terminal server (I know of several CAD and 3D programs that do this and I think Photoshop may as well, IIRC)
  • Some software would refuse to install as there are special server versions which cost a lot more, but are otherwise identical (eg. Acronis stuff)
  • Anti-Virus programs for server OSs are a lot more expensive as well and the desktop versions refuse to install. ( There are some exceptions, such as Microsoft's security essentials )
  • Photoshop Elements 8 works fine for me on Server 2008 R2.
    – kinokijuf
    Feb 15, 2013 at 21:05

I would not recommend this for your primary computer. Many desktop applications will not function fully under a server OS (our own application which works heavily with audio/video will not). Similar applications like Skype or other video chat software could have issues.

Also the security model of a server OS is much stricter and can get annoying very fast. It's not made for day-to-day use by a person; it's made for background services.

  • 2
    +1 for mentioning the stricter security model. I had the same experience. I tried it for about two weeks before going back to Vista (and later upgraded to w7).
    – Nifle
    Sep 21, 2010 at 9:22
  • 3
    Unlike >5 years ago, these days it is so easy to have a VM running to give easy access to Server editions. The argument for server edition on the desktop has disappeared.
    – Richard
    Sep 21, 2010 at 10:16
  • @Nifle it is very easy to switch the security model to the desktop one.
    – kinokijuf
    Feb 15, 2013 at 21:06
  • @kinokijuf - I didn't even know you could switch the security model.
    – Nifle
    Feb 16, 2013 at 8:22

I have been considering this too (as a SharePoint developer, I need a server OS to use). After weighing up the options with my needs, I am going to use Windows 7 and VMWare server to host Windows Server 2008 R2. Possible compatibility issues with some desktop applications may make common applications troublesome. Plus when I am not developing, I can switch off the VM and use the laptop with more resources

A month down the track, I am still happy I made this choice. I have been able to leverage snapshots so I can get installs correct, rollback etc. I can also delegate resources appropriately for load testing (e.g. throttle the DB server and test which parts of SharePoint are affected most, and to test SharePoints behaviour when AD goes down).

One complication I have gone through is configuring servers/SP/DB/AD to perform well, especially because they are sitting on a laptop. Things like varying power (due to power managment on my laptop) effect things like the clock on my servers. I have learnt a lot about what is required to keep a server stable!

I have found VMWare is very supportive of laptop hibernation. I can close the lid on my laptop, and open it (resumes fast) and the VM's are back up and running straight away!

  • 4
    For what it's worth, SharePoint 2010 installs on Windows 7. Though I'd still never junk up my main system with a SharePoint install. I still prefer VM.
    – Josh
    Sep 21, 2010 at 3:34
  • Yeah, it will install. I use VM's for 2 main reasons: it more accurately replicates production environments, and I can snapshot my VM to restore to versions, and migrate to UAT environments more easily.
    – Russell
    Sep 21, 2010 at 5:31

I did try this out when 2008R2 came out. My problem was that some hardware I needed (IrDA) isn't supported on servers. Also, anti-virus programs ask for enterprise versions when they detect server OS. There will be some effort needed to make OS desktop friendly (enabling audio service, security etc), but in the end it is usable.

I never had any problems with any applications (except anti-viruses) refusing to work on server OS, after correct installation of Direct X and audio/video drivers (but I only used it for a couple of months).


AS with the thousand and one questions like this around the Interweb, which OS is suitable is not a question of OS features and options, but a question of what you want to do with your computer. Answer that question first, and in most cases, the OS question is answered as well.


The only argument I could see for running a server os as your desktop was when windows 2003 came out it was a more modern kernel compared to xp.

Windows 2008 R2 on the other hand is really just the server version of windows 7. So you might as well just install windows 7.

Also if you are having instability issues I would recommend getting to the root cause of that before doing anything. Swapping OS might make no difference if it is a hardware issue.


Depends is your 08r2 enterprise edition? if it is then you're better off going that way and hosting an unlimited number of VMs on MS hyper-V ... otherwise Win7 x64 with vmware would be a better way of going ... perhaps a little less expensive. Its a little easier to get a solid and low price anti-virus package for win7 than it is for 08r2. Good luck


Everyone has Given you the cons of using a server OS as your main System. Here is a a Pro, which no one has given you. The support policies for an OS are much better. You will get patches and updates for a longer period. Other positives, are that it requires fewer resources, since the graphics aren't that resource intensive.

But as everyone else has said, Server OS's will often have lot of incompatibilities when you try various Softwares, especially games & Video-audio software.

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