Windows Server vs. Windows: What’s the difference?

We all know what Windows is — but what about the different types?

While Microsoft offers two products that appear similar, Microsoft 10 and Microsoft Server, the two serve different functions and offer different features. While one operating system is designed for everyday use with PCs and laptops, the other is suitable for managing multiple devices, services and files via a server. Read our guide to the differences between the two, and the pros and cons to both.

What is Windows Server?

Windows Server is a range of operating systems designed specifically for servers. Every Windows Server version that is released has a corresponding Windows version – the two operating systems share a code base.

It was launched in April 2003, although Windows did previously offer server-versions of its products – Windows NT was designed for both workstations and servers.

Due to the nature of the product, Windows Server is predominantly used within business environments. The product allows users to share files and services while also providing administrators with control of networks, data storage and applications.

Windows Server comes in three editions: 

  • Datacenter, as the name suggests, is ideal for data centers and cloud environments
  • Standard is designed for small-scale physical or minimally virtualized environments
  • Essential is perfect for small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices.

What are the similarities between Windows and Windows Server?

As Windows and Windows Server are released to correspond with each other, there are many similarities between the two – especially as they share the same code base.

When using either Windows or Windows Server, your desktop will appear the same. You will have the same taskbar, desktop icons and Start button. You can also perform a lot of the same functions on either operating system, as both will allow you to install many of the same software and programs.

Whether you are using a server-specific operating system or not, you should always use antivirus to protect your network.

Key differences: What Windows Server offers

On first inspection, the two systems appear very similar. However, there are far more differences than similarities between the two offerings, from specific Windows Server software to the price points. Let’s take a look:

More powerful

The enterprise-level product offers more powerful hardware to support a larger network. While Windows 10 Pro allows users to install 2TB of RAM – which most people wouldn’t come close to using on their personal device – Windows Server provides up to 24TB of RAM.

Windows Server hardware can also handle more cores and processors – it has 64 CPU sockets compared to Windows 10’s two. 

Does not require GUI

To operate Windows 10, you will need a graphical user interface (GUI) – an interface on your device that enables you to navigate the operating system. This is not the case for Windows Server.

While the server operating system does not require a GUI to be utilized, it is always an option. You can install the product in two forms – Server Core or Desktop Experience. Windows Server gives you the option to install only the server roles that you need. This offers flexibility to the user, allowing you to manage your operations in whichever way is more suitable to you, and reduces the Windows Server footprint.

If you opt to run Windows Server without a GUI, you can manage your system remotely from the command line using Windows PowerShell. Additionally, you could use a GUI tool, such as RSAT or Windows Admin Center.

Offers server-specific tools

As the operating system is designed for servers, Windows Server features server-specific tools and software that you cannot find on Windows 10. Software such as the aforementioned Windows PowerShell and Windows Command Prompt are pre-installed into the operating system to enable you to manage your operations remotely.

Additionally, Windows Server can support a range of business-friendly software that is designed specifically for servers, such as Active Directory and DHCP.

While some of these tools can be used on Windows 10, they may require third-party software. On the other hand, Windows Server lacks some of the more ‘fun’ features present in Windows 10. As the system is designed for business use, it doesn’t include consumer tools like Edge, the Microsoft Store or Cortana.

Higher connection limit

Windows 10 has a connection limit of 20 devices. This is not a problem if you use the operating system for commercial use at home or within a small business. However, if you’re planning on using Windows 10 on a larger scale, this could become a hindrance.

Windows Server offers virtually unlimited connections, ideal for any business size.

More expensive

As Windows Server is predominantly used for enterprise purposes, the operating system is significantly more expensive than Windows 10. It ranges in price depending on the edition you select.

In 2019, Windows Server was priced as follows:







Windows 10 was priced as follows:

Windows 10 Home


Windows 10 Pro


Windows 10 Pro for Workstations


Should I get Server or desktop?

Selecting between Windows Server and Windows 10 will depend entirely on your network. Consider how you will use the operating system – is it for personal or business use? How large is your business, and how many devices need to be connected?

A datacenter, for example, will require server operating systems. However, if you want an operating system for commercial use for your at-home devices, Windows Server is not the best option. You’d be paying for surplus software and tools that you probably would never use.

If you run a business and want to cover a large network, Windows Server is the right choice. Windows 10 lacks the power required within a professional environment – even if you accessed the server-specific software you required, you would still struggle with the RAM and CPU sockets. The Windows Server range allows you to select and pay for the services you need. So, even if you’re an SME setting up your first server, there are still suitable options that won’t break the bank, such as the Essentials edition. 

Protect your servers

When running a business, you must ensure the security of your network – servers included. Avast Business Antivirus Pro can keep your infrastructure secure. Using encrypted code to protect against malware and viruses, Avast offers reliable, next-gen defense.

Updated on April 22, 2022 with new updates and information

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