What Is the Difference Between a Server & Desktop PC?

Written by louise jones
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What Is the Difference Between a Server & Desktop PC?
Servers control and provide data to websites and networks. (rackmount server farm datacenter image by Adryn from Fotolia.com)

A desktop PC is a personal computer designed to fit neatly on (or under) a desk. A server is used to control access to a network or to provide files that can be accessed by users of a network or via the Internet.

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A server is likely to be storing a much larger amount of data than a desktop PC and therefore tends to be physically larger, as well as in terms of memory and speed. A desktop may hold the files of two or three users, but a server will often hold the files of a whole company. These files would be accessed by users of the network, edited and re-saved.


Servers need to perform different tasks to desktop PCs. These may include controlling network users when they log on by storing password details, dealing with documents sent to print from various machines to various printers, handling e-mails, or allowing or disallowing access to files stored on them. This means that they will have different operating systems and different software to that found on desktop PCs.

Server Appliances

The term server can be used to mean any computer used to provide a file, or application, to another, so a desktop could be deemed to be a server under certain circumstances. However, some servers are built specifically for the job, and are intended to provide turnkey packages including the hardware ad software needed to function as a network server. These are called server appliances and are popular choices for medium sized networks due to their ease of use.

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