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not much of a windows person but someone saw me turn on a computer once so now I'm the expert.

Here's my question. Can a Windows 2008R2 Enterprise box be used as a workstation -also-? I know conceptually it's a bad idea, but are there technical or performance reasons that it won't work?

Apps would be things like Thunderbird, Firefox, Quickbooks Pro, Illustrator, MS Office, Adobe Contribute, a Filemaker Pro client, plus a couple of other minor things that escape my mind right now.

The 'server' activities on the box are lightly loaded. AD domain server, some file serving, and term services mostly.

Thanks!

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3 Answers 3

It can. There's nothing stopping you - technically.

But in doing so you open yourself up to malware and random issues from things you've downloaded and installed. Problem is, when you have those issues and it's a Domain Controller, you're whole office gets to suffer if and when it goes down or you have to troubleshoot.

Also, any attack software that gets in there potentially exposes your whole office, and any intellectual property stored there, to the world.

Best to leave servers to do what they do best, serve.

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1  
Indeed, using this box as a desktop workstation would be a very bad idea. Today's malware threats do not necessarily require users to download or install anything. All it takes is a vulnerability in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Flash, Adobe Reader, etc, and your domain controller is compromised –  Skyhawk Sep 24 '10 at 21:37
    
Servers should never browse the web. Matt nailed it. –  Kara Marfia Sep 25 '10 at 4:33

There is nothing wrong with using a server OS as a desktop aside from the huge waste of money it would be for 99.99% of users and especially huge waste of money it would be using an enterprise license. By default, servers are optimized for background tasks, but can be optimized for foreground tasks.

The big problem is when you try to use a server OS as a desktop while it runs as a server for something else. For example, letting someone use a domain controller, exchange server, SQL server or other production server as a desktop. This is just horribly unwise. The security risks are, in my opinion far too great. Risks presented by simply visiting a web site (just a few days ago, you could go to twitter's web site and not even click on anything and be infected. Would you really want to rebuild your entire domain because it was "too expensive" to just buy a $300 desktop?

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Running Windows 2008R2 as a desktop OS is fine. The only real problem is that you may find some programs that refuse to run on a Server OS. Not for any technical reason, just because they want to license ‘server’ versions to businesses at much higher cost.

I really wouldn't run a serving domain controller as a workstation though. Far too much risk you'll install something that screws up the OS. Even if it's not a deliberate malware infection, you're still then without a domain controller for all your other machines whilst you re-install.

If you really want to re-use it as a desktop, how about using a virtual machine to do your work in? Then at least messing up the desktop OS won't take down the DC.

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Thank you for the answers. I understand about the malware etc risks; this was intended mostly as a thought exercise. The answer appears to be that out of the box Server hasn't had anything removed that would be required for desktop use like you can do with the lunices. –  user52874 Sep 26 '10 at 1:32
    
This does bring up another question. If the one of the uses of the Server2008 box is a terminal server, what happens if the user (in a terminal session on their wyse, for example) visits twitter or one of the more dubious locations, or opens their uPS delivery problem email, or whatever. Does the infection infect just their session? or does it propagate? –  user52874 Sep 26 '10 at 1:36
    
Yes, it's just the same situation as letting users physically log in to the machine. If they're limited users the damage will be limited to that account; if they're administrators you've got problems. It is not recommended to use a domain controller as a terminal server. –  bobince Oct 1 '10 at 12:35

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