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Servers Vs. Desktop PCs

Servers Vs. Desktop PCs

If you ever shop for computer parts, you might see things for desktop PCs and servers lumped together.

This isn’t always the case, but it’s easy enough to see these different parts come up in a single search.

Why is that? Are both types of computers using the exact same hardware? Can you mix and match between them? What’s the real difference between a desktop PC and a server in the first place?

You’ll find all of these answers below.

What Is a Server?

A server is a type of computer, but it is not made for individual or personal use. Instead, it’s made to interface with a number of other digital devices. Often, servers handle processing tasks for connected devices.

While that’s a bit technical, the easiest way to understand servers is through an example.

Perhaps the easiest example to understand is a web server. Any time you load a website on your phone (or any other device), you connect to a web server. The web server is the powerful device located somewhere across the internet, and this server is what stores the information for the website and interacts with your device when you use the site.

This highlights the key features of a server. Servers typically require designs in efficiency and redundancy. If you run a website that sees millions of viewers a day, then your server has to be extremely powerful to keep up with traffic and demand. At the same time, any savings you can find in power consumption are multiplied by the sheer volume of work done by your server.

Most of all, if the server goes down, people can’t access the website, and that’s usually a bad thing. So, servers emphasize redundancy wherever they can. In many cases, a technician can replace failed parts without taking the server offline — the redundant parts keep everything running until the repair work is finished.

What Is a Desktop PC?

As for a desktop PC, it’s a personal computer that could conceivably sit on top of a desk. This is different from other personal devices in that a desktop PC typically needs to attach a few other devices in order to work. Those devices include a mouse, keyboard, speakers, and monitor.

Otherwise, this is the kind of computer you use in your daily life. It’s made to work with one user at a time, and while modern PCs can multitask, your desktop PC usually prioritizes the single thing you’re working on at the time. That’s the real focus of the Desktop PC.

Major Differences

Uses

The use cases are the reasons for all of the other differences between these types of computers. As mentioned before, desktop PCs are designed for one user at a time to interface directly with the computer. Whether you’re watching a movie or writing a term paper, you work with the computer at the same desk.

Servers are made for users or devices to access them through networking. Servers perform all kinds of different tasks, but generally speaking, you’re not sitting at the same desk with the server when you use it. That’s the primary difference.

Hardware

Because of the different uses, servers and desktop PCs use different hardware. Even though they have the same components, server hardware tends to be more expensive. It’s more reliable and often built with redundancy. Server hardware also uses less energy and takes up less physical space. All of this is so you can pack as much computer power as possible into a small area while minimizing electricity costs and maximizing reliability and uptime.

As for PCs, they tend to focus more on single applications. Because of that, you might see higher raw speeds on a PC when compared to a server, but the PC typically has many, many fewer cores (or even fewer processors) and a lot less RAM.

Software

Lastly, the operating systems for these two types of devices are completely different. If you have used a PC, you know that the operating system is designed to put a bunch of different functions at your fingertips. At the same time, the operating systems typically need you to restart them every now and then, and they have power-saving features that more or less shut the computer down when it isn’t in use.

Server operating systems are completely different. For one, they usually aren't all that intuitive or easy to use when you’re directly accessing the computer. Instead, it’s more common to access server operating systems through remote connections. Also, servers aim to minimize restarts and downtime, and the operating systems take that into consideration in their design.

If you want to simplify the differences between servers and desktops, here’s a succinct attempt. PCs try to focus on the task you choose, making things as intuitive and easy as possible. Meanwhile, servers try to do as many things as possible at the same time with as many users as possible, all while maintaining those levels of use for as long as possible.

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